Anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion tied to higher risk of heart at­tack, stroke

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Front Page - By Lisa Ra­pa­port

ADULTS with mood dis­or­ders like anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion may be more likely to have a heart at­tack or stroke than peo­ple with­out men­tal ill­ness, a new study sug­gests. Re­searchers en­rolled 221,677 peo­ple age 45 and older with­out any his­tory of heart at­tack or stroke and tracked them for an av­er­age of nearly five years. More than 90 per cent of par­tic­i­pants were ages 45 to 79. In this age group, com­pared to men with­out men­tal health is­sues at the start, men with mod­er­ate psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress were 28 per cent more likely to have a heart at­tack dur­ing the study and 20 per cent more likely to have a stroke.

Men in this age group with high lev­els of dis­tress were 60 per cent more likely to have a heart at­tack and 44 per cent more likely to have a stroke. Women ages 45 to 79 with mod­er­ate psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems were 12 per cent more likely to have a heart at­tack and 28 per cent more likely to have a stroke than women with­out any men­tal dis­tress. Women with high psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress were 24 per cent more likely to have a heart at­tack and 68 per cent more likely to have a stroke.

“The stronger as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress and heart at­tack in men com­pared to women could be due to women be­ing more likely than men to seek pri­mary care for men­tal and phys­i­cal health prob­lems, thus partly negat­ing the pos­si­ble phys­i­cal ef­fects of men­tal health prob­lems,” said lead study au­thor Caro­line Jack­son of the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh in the UK.

“Al­ter­na­tively, it could re­flect the known hor­monal pro­tec­tion against heart dis­ease in women since the study pop­u­la­tion in­cluded a large num­ber of younger women,” Jack­son said by email. “We did how­ever find a strong as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress and stroke in women, per­haps sug­gest­ing dif­fer­ent mech­a­nisms ex­ist be­tween psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress and dif­fer­ent types of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease in women.”

Over­all, the study par­tic­i­pants suf­fered 4,573 heart at­tacks and 2,421 strokes. The study wasn’t de­signed to prove whether or how de­pres­sion or anx­i­ety might di­rectly cause heart at­tacks or strokes, re­searchers note in Cir­cu­la­tion: Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Qual­ity Out­comes.

An­other lim­i­ta­tion is that re­searchers as­sessed psy­cho­log­i­cal fac­tors at a sin­gle point in time, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble to know if wors­en­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar health con­trib­uted to mood dis­or­ders or if men­tal ill­ness caused heart prob­lems. How­ever, it’s pos­si­ble that life­style fac­tors like poor eat­ing and ex­er­cise habits, smok­ing, or in­ac­tiv­ity might in­de­pen­dently in­flu­ence both the risk of men­tal health prob­lems and heart is­sues, the study au­thors note.

“It is also pos­si­ble that symp­toms of de­pres­sion or anx­i­ety di­rectly af­fect the body’s phys­i­ol­ogy through mech­a­nisms such as hor­monal path­ways, in­flam­ma­tory pro­cesses in ar­ter­ies and in­creased risk of blood clot­ting,” Jack­son said. “It is vi­tal that fur­ther re­search seeks to iden­tify the un­der­ly­ing mech­a­nisms so that we can bet­ter un­der­stand the link be­tween men­tal health and sub­se­quent phys­i­cal health and in­form in­ter­ven­tion strate­gies.”

Re­searchers as­sessed psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress us­ing a stan­dard set of ques­tions de­signed to re­veal symp­toms of mood dis­or­ders. The ques­tions asked, for ex­am­ple, how of­ten peo­ple felt tired for no rea­son, how of­ten they felt rest­less or fid­gety, and how fre­quently they felt so sad that noth­ing could cheer them up. Over­all, about 16 per cent of the study par­tic­i­pants had mod­er­ate psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress and roughly seven per cent had high or very high lev­els of men­tal dis­tress. – Reuters

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