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Major Depression Associated with Coronary Heart Disease

Review on December 03, 2009

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The onset of coronary heart disease is increased in patients who have depression. Unhealthy as well as healthy patients of depression are at risk for coronary heart disease. To further look into the effects of depression on the heart, this study was conducted. It served to test whether or not middle aged women (currently menstruating or who have already gone through menopause) with a history of reoccurring major depression, would show traces of atherosclerosis.

In this particular study, 210 healthy, middle-aged women participated in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN). The participants who had reoccurring boughts of major depression because of hormones were at double the danger of plaque buildup than the participants that only had a single episode of depression or no history at all. This development hinted that multiple episodes of depression was related to an early risk of atherosclerosis.

Participating in this test were 152 white and 58 African American women who may or may not have already gone through menopause. All SWAN participants underwent annual follow-ups. During these check-ups, physiologic and psychological measurements were taken. Blood samples were also taken and the woman's menstrual cycle was calculated. If the woman had already gone through menopause, specific adjustments were also made.

Results:

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Out of the 210 participants, 103 women were reported to have coronary calcification and 144 aorta calcification. Coronary calcification happens when the interior lining of the arteries develops plaque. This occurs because of excessive amounts of consumed cholesterol and fat or if waste materials calcify in the arteries. Smoking high blood pressure and diabetes also affects calcification. It restricts blood flow and increases the risk of chronic chest pain, heart attacks and possible heart failure.

The participants that had recurrent major depression were significantly more likely to show evidence of coronary calcification compared with women who only had one experience with depression or none at all.

Adjustments were made for menopause, use of hormones and waist-hip ratio.

One can notice serious health problems only after years and even decades of plaque buildup. Since women after menopause are at a greater risk to develop coronary heart disease, it is strongly advised they schedule meetings with their physicians to catch early warning signs.