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As Valentine’s Day approaches the thoughts of celebration and romance began.  This particular holiday reinforces the ancient wisdom that connects our heart and our mind through our emotions.

For many years modern medicine has concentrated solely upon the quantifiable risk factors; blood pressure, smoking, weight and cholesterol to name a few.  But on this day, when the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women initiative is launched, it is time to look at the heart of a woman.  It is something so much more than the sum of quantifiable risk factors.  It is strong, vibrant, forgiving and resilient; it is something very much alive with emotion.

Two recent studies add to the growing evidence of the effect of emotion upon our cardiovascular health.  The first study examined measures of depression from the Whitehall II cohort study, an investigation of cardiovascular disease in English civil servants, for over 20 years.  The participants were an average of 44 years old at baseline and the study examined over 10,000 people.  Unlike many psychological studies, this study looked at very hard endpoints; heart attack and death from heart attack.  They found a dose-response relationship between depression and heart attacks and deaths from heart attacks.  That dose-response relationship “provides evidence supporting a causal relationship between depression and coronary heart disease.”

The second study looked at the effect of treating depression on cardiovascular events in patients 60 or older.  All of these patients had major depression were significant depressive symptoms.  They were treated with psychotherapy and medication, where indicated.  In those without cardiovascular disease at baseline, which was over 70% of the 235 patients examined, treatment for depressive symptoms reduced the risk of cardiovascular events.  For those patients without heart disease who received treatment for their depression, their risk of having a cardiovascular event was cut by almost 50%.

According to Dr. Williams, M.D., of Duke University the findings of such studies as these help support the idea that depression could be a causal factor in the development of cardiovascular disease.  These studies also give credence to the premise that treating such conditions can help prevent cardiovascular events.

So this Valentine’s Day, fill that prescription for little romance and love; it’s just good medicine -and doctor’s orders!


Brunner, E. J., Shipley, M. J., Britton, A. R., Stansfeld, S. A., Heuschmann, P. U., Rudd, A., et al. (2014). Depressive disorder, coronary heart disease, and stroke: dose–response and reverse causation effects in the Whitehall II cohort study . European Journal of Preventive Cardiology , doi: 10.1177/2047487314520785 .

Stewart, J. C., Perkins, A. J., & Callahan, C. M. (2014 ). Effect of Collaborative Care for Depression on Risk of Cardiovascular Events: Data From the IMPACT Randomized Controlled Trial. Psychosomatic Medicine , 76(1): 29-37 .


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