Depression Linked to Risk of Heart Failure Death

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(iVillage Total Health) - People who are battling depression and heart failure may be at a greater risk of death or hospitalization for cardiovascular conditions, according to a new study.

Heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer efficiently pump blood to the rest of the body. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, swelling of the feet or legs and decreased tolerance for exercise.

According to the American Heart Association, there are about 5 million heart failure patients in the United States, and 550,000 new cases of heart failure are diagnosed every year. Of newly diagnosed patients under the age of 65, about 80 percent of the men and 70 percent of the women will die within eight years. In people diagnosed with heart failure, sudden cardiac death occurs at six to nine times the rate of the general population.

In a study published in the February 27 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers looked at the relationship between heart failure and depression, a mental health condition characterized by profound sadness and lack of interest in activities once considered pleasurable.

For the study, researchers from Duke University Medical Center looked at 204 outpatients diagnosed with heart failure. These patients had ventricular ejection fractions (EF) of 40 percent or less. The EF is a measure physicians use to determine how well the heart is pumping blood. A rate of 55 to 75 percent is normal. Rates below 55 percent may be an indication of weakened heart function. The study participants were evaluated at the beginning of the study for EF rates and symptoms of depression and were followed for an average of three years.

The researchers found participants with symptoms of depression were associated with risk of death or hospitalization and people with clinically significant symptoms of depression were 1.5 times more likely to die or be hospitalized with cardiac problems. The researchers also found that participants who took antidepressant medications may be 1.75 times more likely to die or be hospitalized. The study suggested these individuals should be monitored more closely.

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