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8 September 2005
Depression Hastens Heart Disease

A key protein that causes inflammation has been found at very high levels in depressed people suffering heart failure. The protein (TNF-alpha) is a chemical messenger that is most apparent when the body is injured or has an infection. Inflammation can result from the proteins efforts to repair an injured or infected area of the body and in the case of heart failure, the inflammation makes it extremely difficult for the heart to pump blood.

"People with heart failure typically have much higher TNF-alpha levels than people without the disease," said Ohio State's Amy Ferketich, the study's lead author. "But depression seems to make levels [of the protein] even higher, which is bad for patients. Depression clearly raises the levels…, which plays a role in increasing inflammation," she added. "What we don't know for sure is if depression causes the inflammation which may lead to heart failure or if heart failure causes depression which accelerates inflammation."

In Ferketich's study, cited in the American Heart Journal, the TNF-alpha protein was found to be markedly higher in patients who reported feeling depressed on a regular basis. "That suggests that something about depression may trigger the production of TNF-alpha."

A previous study at Duke University found that patients with major depression were twice as likely to die or to be re-admitted to the hospital a second time within 12 months. "Patients with heart disease are prone to developing depression," Ferketich said. "Physicians need to pay more attention to this. But research still needs to be done to find out if treating patients with anti-depressants would help to actually slow the progression of heart disease."

Based on a media release from Ohio State University

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