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Month: January 2017

Hard on the Heart: Disease of Depression

Hard on Disease of Depression-02While medical experts have long known of the correlation between psychological and physical health, mental illness was not considered a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease—until a recent series of research confirmed that depression may serve as one of the most significant causes of heart problems.

Approximately 350 million people suffer from depression globally, according to data from the World Health Organization. According to new research, the risk of fatal heart disease in men due to depression is almost the same as the risk from elevated cholesterol levels, obesity, and smoking.  The findings further pointed to a greater need for heart health screenings among patients with depression, in addition to mental health checks for patients with cardiovascular disease.

The causality is twofold, as patients with pre-existing heart disease conditions are more likely to become depressed due to their poor health and otherwise healthy people diagnosed with depression are likewise significantly more apt to develop heart disease, compared to the general population. Viewed across the population, depression accounts for roughly 15% of cardiovascular deaths—comparable to the other known risk factors.

A professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Ahmed Tawakol, has conducted extensive research surrounding the connection between stress and heart health, stating that only over the past few decades “has mounting evidence suggested that stress and depression may be more than simple markers of heart disease; they might be important causes.”

While it remains unclear exactly how depression impacts heart health, it is likely that stress hormones play a critical role. Yet leading a healthy lifestyle—including diet, physical activity, managing stress, being smoke-free—is known to be effective in preventing and treating both depression and heart conditions.

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The Link Between Stress & Strokes

LINK BETWEEN STRESS & STROKES-02A new study utilizing brain scans demonstrates the link between stress and heart attacks or strokes, confirming that people who have increased activity in their amygdala—often termed the ‘fear center’ of the brain—are at higher risks for cardiovascular disease. While stress can activate the amygdala, leading to extra immune cell production by the bone marrow, the arteries may become inflamed, leading to cardiovascular disease.

The study tracked the health of 293 adults for two to five years, during which 22 patients experienced a cardiovascular disease event, such as a stroke, heart attack, or coronary heart failure. Researchers found that those people with more active amygdalas were more likely to have a critically serious heart event over the next few years; additionally, they had more inflammation in their arteries, which ultimately leads to heart disease, and bone marrow activity that may be linked with blood clots. Read more

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Obesity & Developmental Delays

OBESITY & DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS-02A study conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health has found that children of obese parents are at higher risk for developmental delays, including less advanced motor skills and lower overall measures of social competence. The research, published in the journal Pediatrics, cited evidence that indicates approximately 1 in every 5 pregnant women in the United States qualifies as overweight or obese.

The investigators specifically found that children of obese mothers were more likely to fail tests of fine motor skills: the ability to control movement of small muscles, such as those in the fingers and hands. Children of obese fathers were more likely to fail measures of social competence, and those born to extremely obese couples also were more likely to fail tests of problem solving ability.

“The previous U.S. studies in this area have focused on the mothers’ pre- and post-pregnancy weight,” said the study’s primary author, Edwina Yeung, Ph.D., an investigator in NICHD’s Division of Intramural Population Health Research. “Our study is one of the few that also includes information about fathers, and our results suggest that dad’s weight also has significant influence on child development.” Read more

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January’s Cardio Crisis

CARDIO CRISIS IN JANUARY-02Recent research has concluded that cardiovascular deaths, specifically heart attacks and strokes, are statistically more common in January.

New evidence has led scientists to believe that a number of factors have collectively caused this phenomenon, through the analysis of millions of death certificates. Similar patterns of cardiac mortality in the winter months, specifically January, have occurred throughout various global geographic locations: not solely relegated to the United States.

Air pollution, which has a seasonal rhythm due to the nitrogen dioxide levels—a primary pollutant in causing premature deaths—are at their highest levels in January, particularly in large urban cities. Short-term exposure to pollutants like petrol fumes and diesel is also associated with increased mortality rates of heart attacks and strokes; when pollutants enter the bloodstream via the lungs, they can ultimately lead to artery blood clots: a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Read more

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Dangerous Correlations: Cardio Disease & Depression/Anxiety

Psychiatric disorders and symptoms like depression and anxiety are not only pervasive and persistent, but they also have gravely negative impacts on functioning, quality of life, and the cardiovascular health—the latter of which has recently been studied, including the physiologic and health behavior mechanisms that mediate the relationship.

Studies indicate that patients with heart disease show very high rates of depressive and anxiety disorders: the prevalence rates are significantly higher than those in the general population. Research further demonstrates that depression and anxiety are not merely rapid or transient responses to severe cardiac symptoms or events, but rather continuous and consistent. For most cardiac patients, anxiety remains a common problem. Read more

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