Talk therapies may reduce future risk of heart disease, study suggests

Treating depression through talk therapy may help reduce the risk of heart disease, a new study suggests.

There are several different talking therapies, including guided self-help, where a therapist coaches patients through a self-help course, and counseling for depression.

Another example is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – based on the idea that thoughts, feelings, what we do and how our bodies feel physically are connected -, said the NHS.

The new research found that using these therapies to effectively treat depression in adults over 45 may be associated with reduced rates of future heart disease.

In the first-of-its-kind study, researchers looked at whether psychological therapies, such as CBT, used to treat depression, could play a role in further reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease – including stroke and heart disease delay in life.

Previous studies have shown that people with depression are about 72% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease in their lifetime than those without depression.

Lead author, University College London PhD candidate Celine El Baou said: “This study is the first to establish a link between psychological therapy outcomes and future risk of cardiovascular disease.

“The findings are important because they suggest that the benefits of psychological therapy may extend beyond long-term mental health and physical health outcomes.”

“They highlight the importance of increasing access to psychological therapy for underrepresented groups, such as ethnic minority groups who may be at greater risk of cardiovascular disease.”

In the new study, researchers analyzed data from 636,955 people aged over 45 who accessed treatment through England’s national service Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), between 2012 and 2020.

This will soon be called NHS Talking Therapies for anxiety and depression.

The free service offers CBT, counseling and guided self-help, with sessions offered one-on-one or in online groups.

A questionnaire, which considers factors such as lack of interest in doing things, sleep problems and feelings of low mood, was used to measure depressive symptoms.

Researchers then linked the IAPT results (depression scores) to patients’ health records to look for a new incidence of cardiovascular events.

They found that people with depressive symptoms after psychological treatment were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease three years later, compared to those who did not.

The study also suggests that reliable improvement from depression (compared to no reliable improvement) was associated with a 12% reduction in future cardiovascular disease at any given time.

Similar results were observed for coronary heart disease, stroke and death.

The association was stronger among people under 60 years of age, who had a 15% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and a 22% reduced risk of death from all causes respectively.

Meanwhile, people over the age of 60 had a 5% reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 14% reduced risk of death from all other causes, researchers found.

The researchers point out that their study has several limitations, including that they did not have much information on lifestyle, such as exercise or smoking habits.

They suggest another explanation for the findings is that those who responded to psychological therapy had lifestyle behaviors that were more protective of cardiovascular disease in the first place.

The dataset used in the study, published in the European Health Journal, was funded by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study shows that successful treatment of depression using psychological therapies is associated with a lower risk of heart and circulatory disease, including strokes heart and strokes.

“Being observational, it provides further evidence that brain and heart health are connected, and that treating depression may have significant benefits other than improving mental health.”

Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine and honorary consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, said the study highlights the “important link between depression and cardiovascular disease”.

He added: “Although this link is already known, patients with cardiovascular disease are often not formally assessed for depression, and the risk of heart disease in people with depression is often overlooked.

“The study does not prove that treating depression using talk therapies reduces the risk of later heart disease, although it suggests that it might.

“Although establishing such a link would require a randomized clinical trial in which depressed people are randomized to receive treatment or not, such a study is unlikely to be ethical.

“We need to think about how to improve the detection and treatment of depression, not only because it is important in itself but because it may reduce the burden of heart disease as well as other treatments for heart disease.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *