For older people, having recurrent episodes of depression greatly increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease (clogged arteries) or having a stroke.
Researchers looked at the rate of coronary heart disease or stroke over 10 years in approximately 7,300 people with an average age of 74 who didn’t have a history of heart disease or stroke. All participants were evaluated for depressive symptoms at the beginning of the study and then two, four, and seven years later. People were considered to have a high level of depressive symptoms if they scored 16 or higher on a depression scale that ranged from 0 to 60. The study was published in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of The American Geriatrics Society
The more times a person was found to have a high level of depressive symptoms, the greater his or her risk of developing heart disease or stroke. This risk increased by 15 percent for people who had such symptoms at one study evaluation, by 32 percent for those who had symptoms at two evaluations, 52 percent for those with symptoms at three evaluations, and 75 percent for those with symptoms at all four evaluations.
If you develop symptoms of depression, it is important to promptly seek treatment. Don’t put off getting help even if your symptoms seem to improve on their own.
Jeff Bauer is a healthcare journalist with expertise in psychiatry. He has served as editor of Current Psychiatry, a leading peer-reviewed clinical journal for psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners, and as educational content director for the U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress, the nation’s leading independent mental health continuing education conference.