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Wednesday, Oct. 4
The Indiana Daily Student

academics & research

Scientists link depression and heart disease, stroke

Treatment of depression prior to any apparent signs of cardiovascular disease can decrease the risk of future cardiovascular problems and strokes by almost half, Jesse C. Stewart discovered.

Stewart is the first to confirm this as an effective treatment through his research at the School of Science at IUPUI.

“Previous studies we and others have conducted indicate that depression is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” Stewart said in a press release by Health Canal.
However, those other studies have worked with treating depression in patients already
struggling with cardiovascular disease.

Researchers for Stewart’s assignment worked with 235 older, clinically depressed patients as their research group. The patients were randomly assigned to care programs involving antidepressants and psychotherapy.

Out of the 168 patients who had no traces of cardiovascular disease prior to the commencement of the study, researchers found that those who received treatment for their depression left the study with a 48 percent less chance of future heart disease issues.

The 67 patients who did enter the study with preexisting cardiovascular problems did not show any lowered risk of heart attack or stroke as a result of treatment.

These findings suggest patients need to get treated for clinical depression as soon as possible to reap the benefits of better health in the future.

“In the near future, depression treatment may play an important role in reducing disability and death due to cardiovascular disease,” Stewart said.

Stewart decided to explore whether or not treatment of depression prior to the onset of heart disease would decrease the number of patients who suffer from heart attacks and strokes.

“Our results suggest that the answer is yes,” Stewart said.

His research was supported by the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Stewart is an associate professor of psychology at IUPUI and an affiliated scientist of the IU Center for Aging Research.

Aside from his work with psychology and its connections with heart disease, Stewart’s research interests include “eHealth,” or internet interventions for depressive and insomnia disorders, as well as psychosocial factors’ influences on subjects of diabetes, obesity and insomnia, among several other health issues.

Depression affects 6.5 million Americans who are 65 or older, according to the
National Alliance on Mental Health. Its treatment — as well as the use of blood pressure and cholesterol medications and ceasing smoking  — is integral to fighting heart disease and stroke.

Stewart plans to conduct a larger study to confirm the findings of his research.

Biostatistician Anthony Perkins of the IU Center for Aging Research; geriatrician Christopher Callahan, the founding director of the Center; and Yvonne Pettinga, a professor in Aging Research at the IU School of Medicine will assist him.

— Anicka Slachta

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