Depression in African-Americans Boosts Coronary Risks

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African-Americans who exhibit symptoms of major depression have two times the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.

Emily O'Brien, PhD, of Duke University, N.C., and colleagues examined data from 3,178 people, between the ages of 21 and 94, from Mississippi that were part of the Jackson Heart Study and who answered at least 16 out of 20 depression screening questions. Subjects with a history of heart disease or stroke were not included.

At the start of the study, 22% had depressive symptoms, such as perceived stress and life dissatisfaction. Annual telephone interview were conducted over a 10-year period to monitor for coronary heart disease or stroke events.

While 2.6% of those with no depressive symptoms has an increased risk of stroke, the figure was 3.7% for those with depression, the researchers reported in the journal Circulation: Quality and Outcomes. Also, 5.6% of participants with depressive symptoms had an increased risk of coronary heart disease, compared to 3.6% of those without such symptoms. Behavioral risk factors, antidepressant use and coping strategies were accounted for in the results.

“African Americans have higher rates of severe depression yet lower rates of treatment compared with white populations,” O’Brien said in a statement. “We need better communication between providers and patients to support early screening and shared-decision making to reduce the rate of depression in this population.”

Depression in African-Americans Boosts Coronary Risks
African-Americans who exhibit symptoms of major depression have twice the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.

African-Americans with major depressive symptoms — perceived stress, neuroticism, life dissatisfaction — had almost twice the increased risk of stroke and coronary heart disease, according to new research in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation: Quality and Outcomes.

While depression is recognized as a consequence of stroke and coronary heart disease, a common term for the buildup of plaque in the heart's arteries that could lead to heart attack, most studies have been conducted in white populations.

In this study, researchers used data from the Jackson Heart Study, a community-based study of African Americans in Jackson, Mississippi, that probed risk factors for heart disease. This analysis included 3,309 participants, ages 21 to 94, who completed at least 16 of 20 questions used to screen for depression. Those with a history of stroke or heart disease were excluded.

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