Depression is as bad for your heart as obesity and high cholesterol. This news, startling to some, comes from a report by researchers from the Helmholtz Zentrum München, the Technical University of Munich (TUM), and the German Center for Cardiovascular Disease (DZHK), recently published in the journal Atherosclerosis.
We have long known that many types of depression affect the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. This new research adds further evidence to that claim. For example, lead investigator Karl-Heinz Ladwig states that: “Meanwhile there is little doubt that depression is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.” In his new research, Ladwig and company attempted to ascertain the relationships among depression and other known risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol.
To investigate this question, Ladwig and his team analyzed data from 3,428 male patients between the ages of 45 and 74 years and followed them over a period of ten years. For the analysis, scientists looked at the impact of depression and compared that impact with the other four major risk factors and found that:
“Our investigation shows that the risk of a fatal cardiovascular disease due to depression is almost as great as that due to elevated cholesterol levels or obesity.”
The Scope of the Problem
The Depression explosion has reached epidemic proportions, making it the most common psychiatric disorder in the world. Nearly one in four individuals will experience depression at least once in their lives. Sad and blue feelings are a normal part of grief or stress. However, when such feelings persist over a long period of time and become distressing or disabling, a clinical diagnosis of Major Depressive Episode (MDE, Depression) is warranted.
Depression causes profound mental anguish. It also attacks core biological processes that regulate sleep, appetite, metabolic activity, hormones, glucose control, neurotransmitters, and immunity (collectively known as psycho-neuro-immunology – PNI). These PNI disturbances contribute not only to depression but also to many of contemporary society’s most common conditions: heart disease, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s, premature aging, and a doubling of death rates in patients with Depression at any age, independent of suicide, smoking, or physical illness. Indeed, it is these PNI perturbations that make Depression as hard on your heart as obesity. It is also for such reasons that the World Health Organization has ranked Depression as one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide.
For more on the scope of the problem, please watch Dr. Dave’s video below.
Symptoms of Depression
If you have any of the following depression symptoms, especially if they persist more than two weeks, there is a good possibility that you are suffering from depression:
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy
- Significant weight gain or loss due to changes in appetite
- Feeling tired all the time, or feeling that moving is too much of an effort
- Inability to sleep, or sleeping too much
- Restlessness, inability to remain still
- Unfounded feelings of guilt or lack of worth
- Problems focusing, remembering things, or making decisions
- Thoughts of death and suicide
As can be seen from the above list of symptoms, depression represents a wide range of clinical entities characterized by loss of interest and enjoyment in previously pleasurable experiences, low mood, sleep and appetite disturbances, and “brain-fog.”
Depression Has Many Causes
Despite greater awareness, and even though it is the most common psychiatric disorder in the world, depression continues to represent a major healthcare burden for both patients and clinicians. A big reason for this is that depression is not a single entity. Rather, it is a description of several distinct but overlapping medical conditions, each with its own unique symptoms and biological imbalances. For example, based on the current system of classification (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – DSM), persons suffering from depression may have very different clusters of symptoms.
Indeed, there are over 200 different combinations of symptoms that can yield the diagnosis of depression. Even so, the tendency in most clinical settings is to treat all of these unique presentations the same way: with the cheapest generic antidepressant medication insurance will pay for. This is the very opposite of the personalized treatment we emphasize here at Health Remedies. We try to tailor our interventions based on your specific pattern of symptoms, co-existing medical conditions, early life experiences, particularly early life adversity (ELA), individual genetic make-up, and measurable PNI imbalances.
For instance, you can meet criteria for depression and not be able to sleep or sleep all the time, not be able to eat or eat all the time, not be able to sit still or not be able to move. Common sense and medical research suggest strongly that these vastly different symptom patterns represent vastly different disorders.
It is for this reason we recommend, when practical and affordable, that before initiating treatment for depression you have your unique biochemical mediators measured. The tests we most often use to do this are listed below:
Although we would rather not guess, sometimes for various reasons we have to treat you without this important data. In such cases, we follow a few symptom-based approaches:
For Type 1 Depression – “Wired for Sound” (can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t sit still, high anxiety) we are likely to recommend maximum serotonin (Serocor) and GABA (GABA Boost) support, and Cortisol Reducer to treat elevated cortisol levels.
For Type 2 Depression – “Wired and Tired” (depression with nearly equal parts fatigue, “brain fog,” and prominent fretfulness, anxiety, and insomnia) we use a supplement that gives balanced support of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine (Brain Balance) and GABA Boost.
For Type 3 Depression – “Just Plain Tired” (fatigue, pain, increased sleep, increased appetite, lethargy, “brain fog”) we use maximum support of dopamine and norepinephrine (DOPAMaxx)
For further discussion of the subtypes of depression, please see Dr. Dave’s webpage at Integrative Psychiatry.
In addition, we often recommend certain supplements to help treat your symptoms and protect your brain, regardless of which symptom-based subtype of depression afflicts you:
These foundational brain supplements also have the best scientific data support for use with an existing anti-depressant medication.
Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health. (2017, January 13). Depression as hard on the heart as obesity and cholesterol. ScienceDaily – www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170113085931.htm