Depression May Be Tougher on Women's Hearts Than Men's

By   |  March 13, 2024

By Carole Tanzer Miller HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2024 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

WEDNESDAY, March 13, 2024 (HealthDay News) — Researchers are zeroing in on the reasons why women who battle depression may be more likely than men to develop heart disease.

A study published March 12 in the journal JACC: Asia underscores the need to tailor prevention and management strategies according to sex-specific factors, researchers said.

This "may help in the development of targeted prevention and treatment strategies" for the heart health risks faced by depressed patients, said corresponding author Dr. Hidehiro Kaneko, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Tokyo in Japan. 

Depression in the third-leading cause of disease worldwide. It has been linked to an increased risk of heart problems including heart attack, angina, stroke and death.

Women who are depressed are at a greater risk of heart problems than their male peers with depression, but the reasons have not been understood.

For this study, Kaneko's team evaluated data from nearly 4.2 million people who were listed in a Japanese health claims database between 2005 and 2022. Of those, nearly 2.4 million were men.

Researchers looked at participants' weight, blood pressure and fasting laboratory test results at their initial exam. Those with depression had previously received that diagnosis.

Researchers found that women with depression were more likely than men to have one of the heart problems investigated — heart attack, stroke, angina, heart failure and atrial fibrillation. 

Researchers suspect women may experience more severe and persistent depression symptoms than men. Those symptoms may accompany critical periods of hormonal changes, such as pregnancy or menopause.

When women are depressed, researchers said, they are more likely to develop traditional risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. 

Genetics and hormonal differences may also contribute to women's heart disease risk.

"Our study found that the impact of sex differences on the association between depression and cardiovascular outcomes was consistent," Kaneko said in a news release from the journal's publisher. 

"Healthcare professionals must recognize the important role of depression in the development of [heart disease] and emphasize the importance of a comprehensive, patient-centered approach to its prevention and management," he added.

Researchers noted they were unable to establish direct cause-and-effect relationship between depression and heart disease and did not know the severity or duration of depression symptoms.

More information

Johns Hopkins Medicine has more about depression and heart disease.

SOURCE: American College of Cardiology, news release, March 12, 2024