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Depression & Odds of Heart Attack in Younger Women

And compared with older women and men, they are more likely to become depressed, researchers say
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Young and middle-aged women with depression are more than twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or die from heart disease as their mentally healthy peers, new research suggests.

The study also found that women younger than 55 are more likely than men or older women to become depressed.

Exactly what accounts for this relationship between mood disorder and heart disease in younger women isn't clear, said study lead author Dr. Amit Shah, an assistant professor of epidemiology with the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta.

"These kinds of relationships are very complicated, and we're still investigating to better understand the reason," he said.

Still, the results fit into the "bigger picture," Shah added.

"We have known for some time that heart disease is actually the number one killer in women, and that heart disease does start at an early age," he said. "And it could be that younger women have neurobiological differences or hormonal differences that make them respond to acute mental stress differently than men or older women."

This could mean that when they have depression, they also have an elevated risk for heart disease, Shah said.

An association between depression and greater risk of death from heart disease was not seen among women over 55 or among men as a whole, the researchers noted.

A woman's lifetime risk for developing heart disease is upwards of 50 percent, according to background information in the study, published online June 18 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

To explore the link between depression and heart risk, the team followed more than 3,200 men and women diagnosed with heart disease or suspected of having it between 2003 and 2010. Patients' average age was nearly 63, and one-third were women.

All of the study participants were scheduled for an arterial X-ray (a coronary angiography) to assess the presence of arterial disease.

After three years of follow-up, the investigators determined that women aged 55 and younger were the most likely to have struggled with moderate or severe depression.

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