Depression severity can strongly predict CVD risk

Researchers have established a strong connection between depression and heart disease or stroke, with more severe cases of the mood disorder tied to increasingly greater odds of adverse CV events.

The work, spearheaded by Yosef M. Khan, MD, PhD, MPH, and presented at the American Heart Association’s 2019 Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia, examined the link between depression and nonfatal CVDs like heart failure, coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack and stroke in adults aged 20 and up in the U.S. They used data from depression questionnaires included in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys to identify more than 11,000 people who’d been diagnosed with depression.

Of those 11,000 individuals—who represent some 231 million adults in the general U.S. population—1,200 people, or 20 million in the general population, said they’d been previously diagnosed with heart disease or stroke.

Khan et al. reported that the odds of experiencing non-fatal CVD or stroke increased by 24% with each additional level increase of depression (mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe). The link between depression and heart disease existed regardless of other factors, including age, income, education and sex. 

“The implications of such an increase are vast,” Khan said in a release. “By understanding the relationship and degree of impact we can properly identify, prevent, treat and create policies and strategies to help decrease cardiovascular diseases and improve lives by tackling mental health and heart disease together.”