Researchers have shed new light on how depression worsens the outlook in heart disease.
Mounting evidence suggests a link between depression and heart attacks. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine now have a new clue as to why your state of mind may affect the health of your heart. They followed a subset of participants in the Enhancing Recovery in Coronary Heart Disease trial, which looks at the outcome of a large number of heart attack patients admitted to coronary care between 1996 to 2000.
Of the group, 300 patients had been diagnosed with depression and their electrocardiograms were compared to those of 366 patients who were not depressed. Depression was clearly linked to lower heart rate variability (HRV), which is a strong predictor of death following a heart attack.
HRV measures the nervous functioning - electrical wiring, if you like - of the heart. It influences blood vessel size, blood pressure and the heart's ability to contract. A healthy heart is one with a high HRV. The fact that depression lowers HRV points to an important mind-body mechanism. Clearly, it may be essential to treat depression as well as heart problems following a heart attack, if the patient is to have the best possible chance of survival.