A healthy mind reflects a healthy body, and vice-versa. As always, the sayings of old are applicable even today. A new research study has found that depression can dramatically increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and also, death from a heart attack. The study was conducted by researchers at Loyola University Health System in Maywood.
The researchers have found that depressed patients have higher levels of inflammatory substances in their blood.
Inflammation is the process by which the body responds to infections, injuries or stress.
The researchers found that the increased inflammation is caused by the nervous system's reaction to the daily stress of daily life and the stress caused by illnesses such as depression, which sets off a series of physiological and biochemical changes in the body that can over time damage the cardiovascular system.
"It's an insidious pathological change," said Dr. Angelos Halaris, lead researcher, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences and assistant dean for translational research at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
"The changes caused by the inflammation are like a slow-growing cancer that goes undetected because they cause no symptoms, " Halaris added.
In the study, the researchers found the inflammation, which the researchers identify by means of pro-inflammatory biomarkers in the blood, increases the risk of heart disease by changing the structure of the inner lining of blood vessels.
Also, stress activates platelets, components of blood that are primarily responsible for clotting.
The platelets, which have a tendency to group together and form clots, find their way to the endothelium, the delicate, thin layer of cells that line the interior walls of blood vessels.
he clots get lodged on the endothelium and in small clumps in the lining of the arteries. As the clots pile up, they form plaque, the study finds.
Over time the growing plaque causes a condition called atherosclerosis, a narrowing or hardening of the arteries that eventually could cut off the flow of blood and cause a heart attack, stroke and death.
The study was recently published in the World Journal of Biological Psychiatry.