New research shows older women with depression may have an increased risk of heart disease and death. Researchers in New York studied more than 93,600 older women who participated in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study (WHI-OS). The WHI-OS is a long-term program designed to determine how biological and lifestyle factors influence the risk of heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and other health conditions. For this study, participants were evaluated for depression and cardiovascular disease and were followed for about four years.
Researchers found nearly 16 percent of women reported experiencing symptoms of depression. They say depression was significantly linked to cardiovascular disease risk. Women with depression were 12 percent more likely to have hypertension and 60 percent more likely to have a history of stroke. Women with depression were also 50 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and about 30 percent more likely to die from another cause.
From the study it was concluded that a large proportion of older women report levels of depressive symptoms that are significantly related to increased risk of CVD [cardiovascular disease] death and all-cause mortality, even after controlling for established CVD risk factors. However whether an early recognition and treatment of subclinical depression will lower CVD risk remains to be determined in clinical trials.