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Depression hard on the heart study finds: 5 ways to lower your risk

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
depression and heart health

It isn’t just obesity and high cholesterol that ups heart risks, finds a new study. Depression can also affect heart health, especially for men.


Researchers from the Helmholtz Zentrum München, together with colleagues from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the German Center for Cardiovascular Disease (DZHK) report depression is just as dangerous as other heart risks that are well documented.

The finding might put anyone with a combination of factors that can lead to heart disease on high alert. It makes it even more important to eat healthy, stay active and get happier.

Researchers were looking at how big a role individual risk factors play in heart disease such as smoking, cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity. What they found is depression is almost as risky as obesity and cholesterol.

How to beat depression

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See: Meditation good for the heart

  1. Maybe you've already been diagnosed with depression and know you have heart risks mentioned. If you have been treated without success, open up a conversation with your doctor. Not all medications and treatments work for everyone. Don’t give up. Investigators for this study found 15 percent of deaths from heart related illness linked to depression. You'll also want to work on keeping your weight normal, controlling blood pressure and focusing on a healthy diet.
  2. Force yourself to connect with others. Symptoms of depression make it difficult to socialize. Look for a volunteer opportunity in your area. Start slowly. Volunteering has many benefits including helping people beat depression.
  3. Adopt a pet. Studies find that pet owners are healthier and happier than those who don’t own pets. There are many organizations that offer low cost veterinary care, so don’t let cost stand in the way.
  4. Get out for a walk in a natural area. Try to do it on a regular basis. You'll lose weight and get an emotional lift too.

Takeaways from the study

Karl-Heinz Ladwig at the Institute of Epidemiology II at the Helmholtz Zentrum München suggests routine screening by clinicians for anyone at high risk; with other contributors for heart disease.

It was previously known that depression was a risk factor for heart disease. The new study highlights that risk is close to the same as obesity and high cholesterol.

The finding, though observational, took place over ten years and included data from 3,428 male patients between the ages of 45 and 74 years.

Journal Citation:
Ladwig, KH. et al. (2016): Room for depressed and exhausted mood as a risk predictor for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality beyond the contribution of the classical somatic risk factors in men. Atherosclerosis, doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2016.12.003