University of Pittsburgh medical researchers recently published a study in the Psychosomatic Medicine Journal. It tested the theory that women with major depression would have a more significant progression of hardening of their coronary (heart) arteries, known as calcification when compared to women with only one episode of major depression.
Depressive symptoms and major depression are well known risk factors for clinical coronary heart disease (CHD) among healthy individuals and CHD patients.
It is not clear as to whether or not depression is related to the progression of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) prior to the beginning of CHD symptoms.
Healthy middle-aged women, a total of 149 who reported no heart disease, stroke, or diabetes were enrolled simultaneously in two ancillary studies of the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation at the Pittsburgh site: the Mental Health Study and the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation Heart Study.
These women were administered psychiatric interviews annually and CAC computed tomography measures on two occasions approximately 2 years apart.
The results found that women who had recurrent major depression had greater progression of CAC (logged difference scores) than did women with a single or no episodes.
The other significant covariates were body mass index, systolic blood pressure, initial CAC, and time between scans. Stratified analyses showed that the effect was obtained in those women who had any CAC on the first examination.
The researchers concluded that recurrent major depression may be a risk factor for progression of atherosclerosis, especially in those who have at least some initial calcification. Women with a history of depression may be candidates for aggressive cardiovascular risk factor prevention therapy.