The hypothesis that people who are genetically predisposed to heart disease or high blood pressure are also more prone to depression is one that is gaining wider recognition.
In March 2018, the National Institutes of Health published a US study which found that people with higher genetic factors linked to heart disease and high blood pressure are also more likely to suffer from depression, suggesting that a dual risk for heart disease and a disabling depression is more common than previously thought.
Previous studies have suggested that being genetically predisposed to heart disease could increase the risk of depression by 39%. In the study, which included more than 3,500 participants from the United States, 17% of participants had three or more genetic risk factors associated with heart disease (GTIs); of those people, 20% showed evidence of depression.
The variability between the people in the study was interesting and encouraging. The participants were almost equally represented by white and black participants. They ranged in age from 30-77 years old, all having higher levels of education. There was also evidence that depression is especially common among people with the most genes linked to heart disease.
The findings are interesting because it means that people genetically predisposed to high blood pressure may be more susceptible to depression. But it also means that some people without any genetic risk factors for heart disease could benefit from a specific type of treatment (for example, aspirin), and it means that there is still much we don’t know about the relationship between depression and blood pressure.
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