Sadness is something we all experience from time to time. It could be due to more acute circumstances, like a recent breakup, or even have a slow burn effect, slowly chipping away at your well-being. If left to propagate, this sadness may turn into its more clinical form called depression, leading to symptoms that may affect your physical and mental health in day to day life. Researchers believe that depression has a more biological root, and may even be responsible for certain heart disease risk factors.
Researchers from Rice University examined how depression is linked to a higher incidence of obesity and metabolic syndrome, both of which are risk factors for heart disease development. What was more interesting is that researchers found biomarkers in blood tests of depressed individuals with heart disease risk factors associated with increased inflammation in the body.
The study in question looked at 1,085 participants for their mental and physical health, 56 percent of which were female. To make the data more accurate, the researchers adjusted for socio-demographic and health behaviors. The participants who had mild depressive symptoms such as trouble sleeping and a lack of energy but were not necessarily clinically diagnosable were 36 percent more likely to be obese than those who did not display depressive symptoms. It was also found that people considered to have moderate symptoms of depression were, therefore, more likely to meet the criteria for a diagnosis of clinical depression, were 49 percent more likely to be obese and 57 percent more likely to have a metabolic syndrome when compared to people with no depressive symptoms at all.
“We thought that individuals who are depressed might be more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as drinking alcohol, smoking and not exercising, which can lead to risk factors for heart disease. However, this was not necessarily the case,” said Diana Chirinos, a researcher on the study.
She goes on to say that “after testing the blood of patients in the study, we discovered that depression creates an immune system response. C-reactive protein, an immune marker that signals inflammation in the body, was found in the blood of study participants who displayed symptoms of depression and risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity and metabolic syndrome.”
An interesting correlation to say the least. The researchers believe that this discovery will facilitate greater attention to mental issues when treating heart disease risk factor conditions such as metabolic syndrome. They also express expanding their research to cancer patients, as both populations are at a high risk for cardiovascular issues.