According to the World Health Organisation, 350 million people across the world are affected by depression . Lead researcher, Professor Karl-Heniz Ladwig, from the Technical University of Munich, said: “There is little doubt that depression is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.“The question now is, what is the relationship between depression and other risk factors like tobacco smoke, high cholesterol levels, obesity or hypertension?“How big a role does each factor play?”In order to find out, researchers led by Prof Ladwig, examined data the medical records of 3,428 male patients between the ages of 45 and 74. They looked at their health over a 10-year period. And, they compared the impact of depression on the heart, with the four major risk factors – smoking, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and obesity.
Prof Ladwig said: “Our investigation shows that the risk of a fatal cardiovascular disease due to depression is almost as great as that due to elevated cholesterol levels or obesity.”Their findings, published in the journal Atherosclerosis, show only high blood pressure and smoking are more dangerous, posing a greater risk to a man’s heart health.Looking at the population as a whole, Prof Ladwig said depression accounts for roughly 15 per cent of cardiovascular deaths.“That is comparable to the other risk factors, such as hypercholesterolemia, obesity and smoking,” he said.
These factors cause 8.4 to 21.4 per cent of all cardiovascular deaths.Prof Ladwig said he and his team invested a lot of time in their study, largely due to the fact it took a decade to gather all the results.But, it paid off, he said.“Our data shows that depression has a medium effect size within the range of major, non-congenital risk factors for cardiovascular diseases,” Prof Ladwig concluded.“In high risk patients, the diagnostic investigation of co-morbid depression should be standard.“This could be registered with simple means.”The study comes as another team of scientists at the University of Vermont found people who eat red hot chilli peppers are 13 per cent less likely to die early – particularly from heart attack or stroke.It’s thought the compound capsaicin is responsible for the protective nature of the fiery food, helping prevent obesity and ensuring good blood flow to the heart.