The study found when depression is treated effectively, patients can dramatically lower their risk of heart damage. (iStockphoto)
Taking steps to recover from depression and boost vitamin D levels may improve heart health, according to new research.
The findings were contained in two studies presented at the American College of Cardiology conference in Chicago on Saturday (local time).
The first focused on depression, a known risk factor for heart attack, stroke and even death.
Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Centre Heart Institute in Salt Lake City studied a registry of more than 7,500 people, and found when depressed patients got effective treatment, they could lower their risk of heart damage to the same level as a person who never suffered from depression.
“Our study shows that prompt, effective treatment of depression appears to improve the risk of poor heart health,” said Heidi May, a cardiovascular epidemiologist with the Intermountain Medical Centre Heart Institute.
However, those who remained depressed had higher rates of heart problems, at a rate of about 6 per cent, compared to around 4 per cent of people without depression.
“The key conclusion of our study is: If depression isn’t treated, the risk of cardiovascular complications increases significantly,” Ms May said.
Vitamin D levels indicative of health outcomes
A second study, also led by Ms May, focused on two measures of vitamin D, which when too low can predict the likelihood of heart attack, stroke, heart failure or death.
Some 4,200 people aged 52 to 76 were studied. Most already had coronary artery disease (70 per cent) and one quarter were diabetic.
For doctors who treat these patients, the most important measures of vitamin D are known as total vitamin D and bioavailable vitamin D.
“Our study found that low levels of both total vitamin D and bioavailable vitamin D appear to be associated with poor cardiovascular outcomes,” said Ms May.
“And evaluating usable vitamin D could mean the difference on the amount of vitamin D prescribed, if it’s prescribed at all.”
Ms May added that more research was needed to examine a wider variety of patients of different races, since different groups are known to be affected differently by vitamin D.