Still, Carney thinks it's important for patients to know that depression is a risk factor for developing heart disease. What's more, the potential benefits of recognizing and treating depression, such as improved quality of life, are well known and sufficient reason to get treatment, he noted. "Hopefully, an added bonus will be to reduce the risk of developing or suffering from heart disease," he said.
Stewart is planning other studies examining the relationships between depression and hostility, and various measures of cardiovascular risk. He also plans to investigate whether positive emotions -- happiness, for example -- and related factors, such as optimism, are associated with reduced cardiovascular risk and therefore protective against heart disease.
"Ultimately, we plan to use the data from this study and similar investigations to develop a psychological treatment for adults at risk for cardiovascular disease," Stewart said. "We hope that our treatment, when combined with standard treatments, will help to prevent the development of cardiovascular disease."
For more on depression and related health risks, visit the National Institute of Mental Health.
SOURCES: Jesse C. Stewart, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of psychology, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis; Robert M. Carney, Ph.D., professor, psychiatry, and director, Behavioral Medicine Center, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis; American Academy of Family Physicians; February 2007 Archives of General Psychiatry; February 2007 Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine