Depression is an independent risk factor for heart disease, but little research has been done to determine whether treatment
of depression impacts the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases. Researchers from Indiana University-Purdue University, in Indianapolis, decided to evaluate whether depression treatment delivered before the start of clinical cardiovascular disease could reduce the risk of an event like heart attack or stroke.

Researchers found that patients with depression who received specific depression treatment—with medications and/or psychotherapy—almost halved their risk of suffering a cardiovascular disease event compared with patients who received usual care from their primary care providers. Lead study author Jesse C. Stewart, PhD, associate professor of psychology at IUPUI, said in a university news release, “In the near future,
depression treatment may play an important role in reducing disability and death due to cardiovascular disease.”

“Lifestyle changes—such as stopping smoking—and blood pressure and cholesterol medications are important approaches to decreasing risk of heart attacks and strokes. Our findings, if confirmed in a larger clinical trial, could provide an important new approach—depression treatment—to preventing cardiovascular events,” said Stewart.

The study appeared in Psychosomatic Medicine (2014; 76; 29-37).

Editor’s note: Research has also shown that exercise not only lowers the risk of heart disease but can also ameliorate symptoms of depression. For more on exercise and depression, see the June CEC feature “Train Yourself Happy,” by Shirley Archer, JD, MA.