This data was recently presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2018 scientific sessions on Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health, held in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) occurs when the upper chambers of the heart spasm, which therefore prevents them from moving blood into the heart’s lower chambers. When blood collects in the heart’s upper chamber it can clot, which may lead to stroke.
The causes of depression are not well understood, but scientists believe that psychosocial, environmental, behavioural, and genetic factors all play a role.
Depression makes A-fib ’30 per cent’ likelier
In the recent study, researchers from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles analysed data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) project.
More than 6,600 U.S. citizens from a variety of ethnic groups took part in the MESA, and they were followed for 13 years. The participants were aged 62, on average, and they were free from heart disease at the start of the study.
Those who took antidepressants and who had the highest scores on a clinical screening test for depression were found to be at more than 30 per cent increased risk for A-fib, compared with participants with low scores for depression and who did not take antidepressants.
The study was unable to pinpoint exactly how heart function may be disrupted by depression. But, the researchers hypothesize that inflammation and increased levels of some hormones could prevent the heart from being able to maintain a regular rhythm.
Lead investigator Dr Parveen Garg explains, “Our findings identify a large portion of Americans who may be at an increased risk for developing atrial fibrillation and who may benefit from more targeted efforts to prevent this arrhythmia.”
“If our findings are affirmed in future studies, especially those that formally assess for clinical depression, then we will need to see if treating depression may, in fact, lower the risk for atrial fibrillation,” said Dr Garg.
Data supports the heart-mental health link
Dr Garg and colleagues suggest that their findings bolster the conclusions of previous studies that have demonstrated a close link between mental health and heart health.
They recommend that both clinicians and patients who are affected by these illnesses should be made aware that evidence shows that people with depression are at increased risk of heart disease in general.
For instance, in 2016 a study that found that treating participants with depression resulted in a reduced risk of heart disease in that group.
And, last year, we looked at a study that suggested that people with both depression and a type of heart disease called coronary heart disease (CAD) are at increased risk of premature death.
The authors of that study found that being diagnosed with depression at any point after being diagnosed with CAD doubles the risk of premature death.
Source: Medical News Today