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Posted Mar 11 2009 3:02pm

Study links severe depression, heart disease in women


March 10, 2009

Severe depression may silently break a seemingly healthy woman’s heart.

Doctors have long known that depression is common after a heart attack or stroke, and worsens those people’s outcomes. Yesterday, Columbia University researchers reported new evidence that depression can lead to heart disease in the first place.

The scientists tracked 63,000 women from the long-running Nurses’ Health Study between 1992 and 2004. None had signs of heart disease when the study began, but nearly 8 percent had evidence of serious depression.

The depressed women were more than twice as likely to experience sudden cardiac death - death typically caused by an irregular heartbeat, concluded the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. They also had a smaller increased risk of death from other forms of heart disease.

The big surprise: Sudden cardiac death seemed more closely linked with antidepressant use than with the depression symptoms the women reported.

That might simply mean women who used antidepressants were the most seriously depressed, cautioned lead researcher Dr. William Whang. But he said it merited more research.

Studies of the newer antidepressants most often used today haven’t signaled a risk of irregular heartbeat, and some have suggested protection, noted Dr. Redford Williams of Duke University, a specialist in how psychosocial factors affect health.

Copyright © 2009, Newsday Inc.

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