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May 2024
Volume 24 Issue 3
COMPLIMENTARY

May 2023 | Health | 0 comments

Talk therapies play a significant role in the treatment of depression, but the benefits may extend past the treatment of mental illness. 

Health | 0 comments

May 2023

T​here is a relationship between depression and cardiovascular disease that researchers are still seeking to understand. 

A​ study found that people with depression who saw depression improvement after psychotherapy also had a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease.

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, and it can harm other areas of health. Researchers are still working to understand the relationship between cardiovascular disease and depression and how the treatment of depression impacts cardiovascular disease outcomes. 

A recent​ study published in the European Heart Journal examined how the treatment of depression via psychotherapies impacted cardiovascular disease outcomes. 

The researchers found that participants with improved depression after psychotherapy treatment also saw a lower risk for new cardiovascular diseases, coronary heart disease, stroke, and all-cause mortality. 

Depression is a common mental illness that impacts people all over the world. It can be debilitating and difficult to manage. There is often a complex relationship between depression and other health problems. For example, people with certain chronic illnesses may be at an increased risk for depression. And vice versa, people with depression can be at a higher risk for other health problems like pain and type 2 diabetes. Prompt treatment for depression is critical for the well-being of individuals, both mentally and physically. 

Psychotherapies are one common component of treatment for depression. A common term for psychotherapy is talk therapy. There are different types of psychotherapy, but they can focus on discussing concerns, identifying harmful thought patterns, and managing behaviors and emotions. 

Dr. Sarah-Nicole Bostan, clinical health psychologist and director of behavior change strategy at Signos, who was not involved with the study, explained to how talk therapy is used to treat depression.

“Psychotherapy is often recommended as a first-line approach in the treatment of depression due to its known effectiveness and minimal to no side effects, beyond occasional discomfort in therapy. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) including behavioral activation is one of the most effective types of evidence-based treatments for depression in which patients learn more helpful ways of not only seeing themselves but also learn to practice new behaviors and routines to help get them unstuck.”
— Dr. Sarah-Nicole Bostan

“Effectiveness of therapy can be measured throughout the course of treatment through validated assessments, but at minimum should be assessed at the beginning and end of a course of treatment,” she said.

Researchers are still working to understand how psychotherapy may indirectly benefit other areas of health. 

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a broad category of health problems of the heart and blood vessels. Examples of cardiovascular diseases include heart attack, stroke, and heart failure

Researchers of this study wanted to understand the relationship between the effective treatment of depression and the risk for cardiovascular disease. 

Researchers included 636,955 participants in their analysis. All participants met specific threshold criteria for depression and had completed a course of psychotherapy. In addition, participants did not have cardiovascular disease before using the Improving Access to Psychological Therapy program. 

O​n average, researchers followed up with participants about three years later, looking at the incidence of cardiovascular events and death from any cause. 

Researchers found that those who showed improvement in depression after psychotherapy saw the highest amount of benefit. They found that “those whose depression symptoms improved after therapy were 12% less likely to experience a cardiovascular event than those who did not.” 

T​hey further found that improved depression after therapy was associated with a decreased risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and all-cause mortality. The analyzed reduced risk for cardiovascular disease was greater for people under the age of 60 than those over the age of 60. 

Study author Celine El Baou, Ph.D. student and Rare Dementia research assistant, explained the key findings of the study to MNT

“We found that people whose depression symptoms improve after a course of therapy are at a lower risk of cardiovascular disease a few years later, compared to those people who do not improve. There was little previous research on the topic of modifying cardiovascular risk after psychological therapy — and the relationship between depression and cardiovascular risk is complex, so we did not know what to expect before running the analyses.” Said Celine El Baou, study author.

– Jessica Norris

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