by Dr. John Martin Kennedy, MD, FACC
The “blues” describe a music genre that originated in the late 1700s and included songs typically composed of melancholy lyrics often performed by artists in depressed moods. This powerful and soulful music reflected the struggles and conflicts of people living in troubled times. Relationship woes, financial difficulty, racial tension, and lost loved ones were common themes. Today, much of the popularity and success of the well known ‘Rhythm and Blues,’ a.k.a. ‘R and B,’ can be directly attributed to these early roots.
It turns out, the relationship between heart rhythm and the blues, or depression, may have a literal significance–especially as they relate to women and cardiovascular health.
Heart Cold Facts–Depression and Heart Disease
In a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers showed that women with depression were at increased risk for developing cardiovascular events. The study included over 63,000 women from the Nurses’ Health study without prior history of heart disease or stroke. They were followed over 8 years and results showed that those with depressive symptoms had a higher likelihood of heart attack and Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) compared to those without depressive symptoms.
Similarly, a study from the Women’s Health Initiative also found that depressive symptoms were associated with higher risk of fatal cardiovascular events over a 4 year follow up period. In addition, two meta-analyses where multiple studies were combined showed that depression conferred a 1.6-fold increase in coronary heart disease.
Linking the Heart Rhythm to the Blues
Depression is known to be a marker for poor prognosis after a heart attack and the data discussed above suggests that it may also be an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease, similar to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Some of the proposed mechanisms linking heart disease and depression include:
- increased inflammation
- thick, sticky blood
- increased adrenaline
- decreased heart rate variability
Good News for the Blues
The “Sad Heart” study found that heart failure patients given the antidepressant medication had 23 percent fewer cardiovascular events than a control group. And although the results were not statistically significant, researchers are continuing to study treatment for depression for patients with heart failure.
Exercise may also be a lifesaver for depressed heart patients. According to the results of a national study led by Duke University, heart attack patients who are depressed or without social support are more than twice as likely to die of a second heart attack if they do not exercise.
Two other common interventions for depression–psychotherapy and counseling–significantly improve depression and improve quality of life for heart patients. However, they have not been shown to reduce mortality from heart disease.
Data suggests that heart disease and depression are linked. So whether you have heart disease or not and are feeling depressed whether you have known or undiagnosed heart disease, seek medical advice. And when listening to music when feeling down, skip the blues and pick some upbeat music that makes you want to dance–it will be therapeutic in more ways than one.
About the Guest Author
Dr. John M. Kennedy is the co-author of The 15 Minute Heart Cure: The Natural Way to Release Stress and Heal Your Heart in Just Minutes a Day. He works as the Director of Preventive Cardiology and Wellness at Marina Del Rey Hospital, Marina del Rey, California.
He is on the Board of Directors for the American Heart Association and speaks regularly on their behalf. Dr. Kennedy is a board certified cardiologist and has published articles in peer reviewed journals such as The American Heart Journal, Journal of American College of Cardiology and Circulation.
He is an Associate Clinical Professor at Harbor – UCLA and is a Lifechanger expert on NBC’S EXTRATV and has been featured on numerous national television and radio broadcasts.
His special interest, which is highlighted in his book, is stress and how it adversely affects our delicate cardiovascular system. Working as an invasive cardiologist, he has seen countless examples of how stress can trigger cardiac events. These powerful, emotionally charged experiences inspired him to develop the BREATHE technique—a simple stress relieving tool designed to help people relax and protect their heart.
Learn more at his sites:
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