Dr. Glyn Lewis, a professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the University of Bristol in England and author of an accompanying journal editorial, said evidence linking stress to heart disease continues to mount.
"If we can reduce the psychological impact, then this should reduce the biological response," he said. But how to accomplish that remains a puzzle.
A type of psychological treatment called cognitive behavioral therapy is designed to help people change the way they respond to potentially stressful events, Lewis said. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches patients to change their thinking about situations and to react less emotionally.
"This might help people with [clinical] depression, but there is no evidence that this might help the much larger numbers of people who have low-level symptoms that are below the diagnostic threshold for depression," he said.
While antidepressants might improve depression, previous studies have linked their use to greater risk of heart disease, according to background research in the study. About 7.5 percent of United Kingdom residents have depression and anxiety disorders, Lewis said.
Changing this stress-disease dynamic might also involve keeping common risk factors for cardiovascular disease in check, another expert said.
Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, said many studies have demonstrated an association between depression and anxiety and cardiovascular events, cardiovascular deaths and all-cause mortality.
But so far, no evidence has shown that treating depression or anxiety reduces the risk of heart disease, Fonarow said.
Many different mechanisms may connect psychological distress to cardiovascular disease, including increased sympathetic
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