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Depression increases risk for heart disease more than genetics or environment
Date:3/4/2009

A history of major depression increases the risk of heart disease over and above any genetic risks common to depression and heart disease, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the VA. The findings are reported this week at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society this week in Chicago.

The researchers analyzed data gathered from more than 1,200 male twins who served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. The men were surveyed on a variety of health issues in 1992, including depression, and were assessed again in 2005.

In the study, investigators looked at the onset of heart disease in depressed study participants between 1993 and 2005. Men with depression in 1992 were twice as likely to develop heart disease in the ensuing years, compared to men with no history of depression.

"Based on our findings, we can say that after adjusting for other risk factors, depression remains a significant predictor of heart disease," says first author Jeffrey F. Scherrer, Ph.D., research assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine and the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "In this study, we have demonstrated that exposure to depression is contributing to heart disease only in twins who have high genetic risk and who actually develop clinical depression. In twins with high genetic risk common to depression and heart disease, but who never develop depression itself, there was no increased risk for heart disease. The findings strongly suggest that depression itself independently contributes to risk for heart disease."

The investigators were looking for evidence of what they call incident heart disease, an event such as a heart attack, heart surgery, stent placement or medical treatment for angina. Those who had evidence of heart disease prior to the original survey in 1992 were excluded from this study.

Because twins were studi
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Contact: Jim Dryden
jdryden@wustl.edu
314-286-0110
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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