.

  • Written by Adrienne O'Neil, Principal Research Fellow & Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow, Deakin University
Research suggests depression is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. From shutterstock.com

The latest government statistics, released last week, show that from 2001-2016, the rate of cardiac events (heart attacks or unstable angina) fell by more than half among Australian women.

That’s largely because of greater education about risk factors for heart disease (smoking rates continue to fall), and medical advances in prevention and treatment.

One thing that might reduce rates of heart disease even further is to make sure women, in particular, are asked about their current mental health. This can be a pointer to a hidden risk of developing heart disease in the future.


Read more: We're not just living for longer – we're staying healthier for longer, too


Mental illness can directly affect heart health by placing extra pressure on the cardiovascular system. Depression has been linked to inflammation, which can clog a person’s arteries. Depression also increases the presence of stress hormones in the body, which dull the response of the heart and arteries to demands for increased blood flow.

Less direct effects on heart health include the impact of depression on a person’s health behaviours, such as diet and exercise, and their connections with other people.

We’ve shown Australian middle-aged women with depression have double the risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the following 18 years compared to women without depression.

Preventing heart disease

Cardiovascular diseases including stroke, coronary heart disease, and heart failure remain the number one killer of Australian women. In 2016, three in ten deaths were due to heart disease. Indigenous women are twice as likely as non-Indigenous women to die from this cause.

While we’re seeing significant reductions in the number of people getting heart disease overall, the latest report shows the opposite is true in young women. The rate of cardiovascular events like stroke is increasing in women aged 35 to 54.

Drinking alcohol, smoking, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, overweight/obesity, and a family history of heart disease are some of the important predictors of a person developing heart disease over the next five years.

So if someone is considered to have high risk of a cardiovascular event, this risk can be managed with the help of a medical professional.


Read more: Women have heart attacks too, but their symptoms are often dismissed as something else


April 1 saw the introduction of two new Medicare item numbers allowing eligible patients (those aged 45 and over, or 35 and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples) to be assessed for their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This is known as a heart health check.

Using the Australian Risk Calculator, the doctor collects information to assess a patient’s risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event in the next five years.

If a person is identified as being sufficiently at risk, they will be targeted with preventative measures such as assistance with lifestyle modifications, and/or interventions like blood pressure or cholesterol medications.

Women have some unique risk factors

While many of the common risk factors for heart disease are shared between women and men, young and middle aged women have some that men don’t.

Polycystic ovary syndrome and complications during and after pregnancy (such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia) are all important considerations.

We’re only beginning to understand how these factors affect a woman’s risk, but they are likely to be as important as traditional risk factors in the context of heart health checks.

Heart health checks are a good thing. They could be even more effective if they assessed mental health as a risk factor for heart disease. From shutterstock.com

Another common issue in young women that influences heart disease risk is poor mental health. Common mental disorders like depression are more common in women than men until age 75.

Both heart disease and depression are largely socially determined, especially for women and girls. Early life trauma, poverty, and gendered violence and discrimination can accumulate across a woman’s lifespan to shape her risk of heart disease and stroke.

Screening for mental health

We did some statistical modelling to see whether depression should be added to the risk equation that underpins the heart health checks.

For women who reported depression in this context, we were able to more accurately predict whether they’d go on to develop heart disease over the next ten years.

While more research is needed, asking about a woman’s mental health may help GPs better identify risk of heart disease in younger women.


Read more: Biology is partly to blame for high rates of mental illness in women – the rest is social


Large population-based studies show reducing the prevalence of depression could have major implications for the prevention of heart disease and stroke. One study found having a poor psychosocial profile (depression, stress, isolation and anxiety) contributes 32% of the risk for heart attacks across the population.

In other words, if these psychosocial issues were eliminated, the incidence of heart attacks would be reduced by one-third.

Given the burden of these psychosocial issues is greater for women than men, women may have even more to gain if depression was targeted as part of preventing heart disease.

How can we address depression as a risk factor?

The heart health checks represent a significant step in the government’s investment in preventive medicine and public health.

While time poor clinicians can’t be expected to capture an infinite number of risk factors in a short consultation, these sessions may present a good opportunity for GPs to ask their patients about their mental health in the context of their heart disease risk. Equally, this may be a good time for patients to flag any concerns about their mental health with their GP.


Read more: How Australians Die: cause #1 – heart diseases and stroke


There are few studies yet that definitively show treating depression will prevent a first heart attack or a recurrent event.

This is especially true for women, who are under-represented in this type of research. One study, where participants were given psychological therapy after a cardiac event like a heart attack, found the intervention benefited future heart health outcomes for “white men, but not other subgroups”.

We need more research to tell us if and how treating depression might prevent heart disease and stroke, especially for women. In the meantime, there are many free or subsidised options for the management of depression available either via your GP (psychologists and counsellors) or online.

Adrienne O'Neil receives funding from the National Heart Foundation (Future Leader Fellowship #101160).

Authors: Adrienne O'Neil, Principal Research Fellow & Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow, Deakin University

Read more http://theconversation.com/for-womens-sake-lets-screen-for-depression-as-part-of-the-new-heart-health-checks-118910

'Making up games is more important than you think': why Bluey is a font of parenting wisdom

Bluey is not just a TV success story - it also contains important parenting wisdom. IMDBBluey is a ground-breaking Australian children’s television series and the most downloaded show in ABC iV...

Koa Whittingham, Psychologist and Research Fellow, The University of Queensland - avatar Koa Whittingham, Psychologist and Research Fellow, The University of Queensland

Teeth 'time capsule' reveals that 2 million years ago, early humans breastfed for up to 6 years

The teeth in these _Australopithecus africanus_ skulls contain important evidence about the nutrition of these individuals as they grew up. Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Author providedHumans’ distant ...

Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Senior research fellow, Southern Cross University - avatar Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Senior research fellow, Southern Cross University

Four Corners’ forced labour exposé shows why you might be wearing slave-made clothes

Target, Cotton On, Jeanswest, Dangerfield, IKEA and H&M are among the brands in Australia sourcing cotton from Xinjiang. www.shutterstock.comWith China’s western-most province of Xinjiang be...

Yvette Selim, Interim Deputy Director, Anti-Slavery Australia, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Yvette Selim, Interim Deputy Director, Anti-Slavery Australia, University of Technology Sydney

Hand sanitisers in public won't wipe out the flu but they might help reduce its spread

It's quicker to use hand sanitiser than soap and water, which means people might be more likely to use it. ShutterstockThis year’s flu season is off to an early start, with 144,000 confirmed ca...

Trent Yarwood, Infectious Diseases Physician, Senior Lecturer, James Cook University and, The University of Queensland - avatar Trent Yarwood, Infectious Diseases Physician, Senior Lecturer, James Cook University and, The University of Queensland

Wind and solar cut rather than boost Australia's wholesale electricity prices

Power failure. It's gas, not wind, that's pushing up electricity prices. ShutterstockWholesale prices in the National Electricity Market have climbed significantly in recent years. The increase has co...

Zsuzsanna Csereklyei, Lecturer in Economics, RMIT University - avatar Zsuzsanna Csereklyei, Lecturer in Economics, RMIT University

Reading and writing assistance increases the chance of getting a Disability Support Pension

One in eight disability support claims rejected are because the applicant is unable to supply the requested information. ShutterstockThe 2019 Australian Conference of Economists is taking place in Mel...

Nary Hong, PhD candidate in Economics, UNSW - avatar Nary Hong, PhD candidate in Economics, UNSW

Meet the endangered Bunyip bird living in Australia's rice paddies

Endangered species are living happily in rice fields. Bitterns in Rice/Matt Herring, Author providedThe debate around the Murray-Darling Basin is often sharply polarised: irrigation is destroying the...

Matt Herring, PhD Candidate, Charles Darwin University - avatar Matt Herring, PhD Candidate, Charles Darwin University

Regional cities beware – fast rail might lead to disadvantaged dormitories, not booming economies

Many commuters already travel from regional cities to work in capital cities like Melbourne so what impacts will fast rail have? Alpha/Flickr, CC BY-NCGovernments are looking to fast rail services to ...

Todd Denham, PhD Candidate, School of Global, Urban & Social Studies, RMIT University - avatar Todd Denham, PhD Candidate, School of Global, Urban & Social Studies, RMIT University

Curious Kids: can people live in space?

People do live outside Earth – on the International Space Station! But humans have had to find a way to make the conditions there more like what we’re used to at home. Flickr/NASA's Marsh...

Jonti Horner, Professor (Astrophysics), University of Southern Queensland - avatar Jonti Horner, Professor (Astrophysics), University of Southern Queensland

Extremist mobs? How China's propaganda machine tried to control the message in the Hong Kong protests

When protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong, China's state media had several tactics for how to describe it: some outlets ignored it, while others railed against 'extremists'. Jerome Favre/AAPAs ...

Joyce Y.M. Nip, Senior lecturer, Department of Media and Communications; Department of Chinese Studies, University of Sydney - avatar Joyce Y.M. Nip, Senior lecturer, Department of Media and Communications; Department of Chinese Studies, University of Sydney

Top Beach Outfit Ideas Inspired by Fashion It Girls

Whether you are going on a beach vacation or just spending a lazy afternoon lying on the beach and listening to the waves crash the shore, the only thing that could make a carefree summer day even b...

Brigitte Evans - avatar Brigitte Evans

Southeast Asia was crowded with archaic human groups long before we turned up

The ancestral population of modern humans appears to have split as it moved across Asia. ShutterstockAround 55,000-50,000 years ago, a population of modern humans left Africa and started on the long t...

João Teixeira, Research associate, University of Adelaide - avatar João Teixeira, Research associate, University of Adelaide

Curious Kids: did the velociraptors have feathers?

Was velociraptor a feathered friend? Here's one artist's impression. ShutterstockCurious Kids is a series for children. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curious...

Caitlin Syme, PhD in Vertebrate Palaeontology, The University of Queensland - avatar Caitlin Syme, PhD in Vertebrate Palaeontology, The University of Queensland

Voice evidence in trials: can a criminal suspect be identified just by the sound of his voice?

Prosecutors should be required to consult forensic linguistic experts on cases involving voice evidence, rather than solely relying on 'ad hoc' experts. ShutterstockA few months ago, I received a call...

Ahmar Mahboob, Associate Professor of Linguistics, University of Sydney - avatar Ahmar Mahboob, Associate Professor of Linguistics, University of Sydney

1 in 10 patients are infected in hospital, and it's not always with what you think

Drips and other medical devices were potential sources of infection. But no-one expected to find hospital-acquired pneumonia and urinary tract infections. from www.shutterstock.comMost people expect h...

Philip Russo, Associate Professor, Director Cabrini Monash University Department of Nursing Research, Monash University - avatar Philip Russo, Associate Professor, Director Cabrini Monash University Department of Nursing Research, Monash University

It's a bad year for flu, but it's too early to call it the worst ever – 5 charts on the 2019 season so far

The impact of the flu on a population can be measured by looking at figures including cases, hospitalisations and deaths. From shutterstock.comFrom early this year it’s been apparent the 2019 Au...

Ian Barr, Deputy Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza - avatar Ian Barr, Deputy Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza

The long history of gender violence in Australia, and why it matters today

In 2015, the Australian federal government proclaimed that violence against women had become a national crisis. Despite widespread social and economic advances in the status of women since the 1970s, ...

Alana Piper, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Alana Piper, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Technology Sydney

Explainer: what Western civilisation owes to Islamic cultures

Sculpture of ninth-century Persian scholar Al-Khwarizmi in Khiva, Uzbekistan. Latin discovery of Al-Khwarizmi's work introduced the numerals 0-9, one of many ways in which Islamic cultures have contri...

Constant Mews, Director, Centre for Religious Studies, Monash University - avatar Constant Mews, Director, Centre for Religious Studies, Monash University

Making deer fair game for unlicensed hunting is the right step for New South Wales

The fate of deer carcasses is a crucial consideration in monitoring the success of future culling. Emma Spencer, Author providedThe New South Wales government last week revealed plans to ease shooting...

Thomas Newsome, Lecturer, University of Sydney - avatar Thomas Newsome, Lecturer, University of Sydney

How to choose a Weber Q Barbeque

There are several barbeque brands in the Aussie market today, and it can be quite challenging to find the right one for you. Weber Q is a reliable, barbeque brand that comes in a wide variety of products to choose from. This article investigates th...

News Company - avatar News Company

6 Reasons Why Fresh Content Benefits Your Brand and SEO

When it comes to content marketing, most guides focus on the part where your content needs to be relevant, well-written and well-formatted, all of which are true. However, while all of them speak about quality, most of them forget to mention just...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

LifeStyle

The Gas Fireplace VS the Wood Fireplace

It’s that time of year again when the weather has turned chilly, everybody is putting out their ...

How to Revolutionize Your Beauty Experience

Being concerned with beauty and cosmetics used to mean frequent visits to the salon and sitting in...

8 Cool Yet Romantic Things to do in Australia

Australia is a wonderful place for vacationing this summer and you can beat the heat as they have ...

How to Banish Dark Circles without the Need for Cucumber Slices

Dark circles can be downright annoying, especially when you are getting enough sleep. So, what cau...