As Valentine’s Day approaches, one prevailing argument for marriage may well be that studies show married people are less depressed than their single counterparts. Behind this string of scientific reasoning for matrimony is a proven fact: the prevalence of depression in patients with coronary artery disease (e.g., myocardial infarction and heart failure) is approximately five times that of the general population.
Major depression is a significant predictor of mortality after myocardial infarction. Its predictive ability on subsequent cardiovascular events, for example, myocardial infarction, arrhythmias, ischemia, or sudden cardiac death, is comparable to that of left ventricular dysfunction, previous myocardial infarction, and smoking. Even more alarming is the finding that depression is a significant risk factor for coronary artery disease in patients without a history of heart disease. In other words, the risk for a heart attack or other cardiac disease for depressed but otherwise healthy patients is similar to the risk for patients with established cardiovascular disease.
The current study was undertaken to determine whether rats with CMS-induced anhedonia (i.e., experimental depression) were more susceptible than control rats to experimentally induced cardiac arrhythmias. Both behavioral and cardiovascular changes were observed in rats exposed to CMS. This stress appears to produce a reduced threshold for ventricular arrhythmias that may signal an increased risk of detrimental cardiovascular outcomes (e.g., myocardial infarction, heart failure, and sudden cardiac death).
The researchers believe that further research should focus on determining the central nervous system mechanisms that are driving the changes in sympathetic tone and susceptibility to cardiac arrhythmias in the CMS model. The use of controlled experimental methods may shed light on the mechanisms that underlie the increased risk for coronary artery disease in individuals with mood disorders, and may aid in the development of beneficial treatments for these patients.
Source: February 2004 edition of the American Journal of Physiology--Heart and Circulatory Physiology.
The American Physiological Society (APS) was founded in 1887 to foster basic and applied science, much of it relating to human health. The Bethesda, MD-based Society has more than 10,000 members and publishes 3,800 articles in its 14 peer-reviewed journals every year.
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