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Atherosclerosis linked to depression in older persons

The JAMA Network Journals

CHICAGO - Older patients with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), are more likely to have symptoms of depression, according to an article in the April issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to the article, studies suggest a relationship between vascular factors (like hardening of the arteries or calcium deposits in the blood vessels) and late-life depression. A theory has been put forward that atherosclerosis may have an effect on the brain leading to depression later in life.

Henning Tiemeier, M.D., Ph.D., of Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues investigated the relationship between atherosclerosis at different locations in the body and depression in 4,019 men and women 60 years or older.

The researchers found that severe atherosclerosis was associated with a higher prevalence of depressive disorders. They also found that patients with severe coronary calcifications (calcium deposits in the heart) were almost four times as likely to have depressive symptoms, and patients with calcifications in the aorta (the main artery bringing blood into the heart) were twice as likely to have depressive symptoms.

"In this population-based study, we found that subjects with atherosclerosis were more likely to be depressed," the authors write. "A combined measure of extracoronary [not in the heart itself] atherosclerosis was related to depressive disorders, although at some of the different locations the association was only moderate and nonsignificant. A strong relationship was observed only between severe coronary and aortic calcifications and depressive disorders."

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(Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2004;61:369-376. Available post-embargo at archgenpsychiatry.com)

Editor's Note: The Rotterdam Study is supported by the Research Institute for Diseases in the Elderly, funded by the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sports, The Hague, and through the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), The Hague. Dr. Breteler was supported by a fellowship of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam. This work has been supported by an unrestricted grant from the Numico Research BV, Wageningen, the Netherlands.

For more information, contact JAMA/Archives Media Relations at 312/464-JAMA (5262) or e-mail mediarelations@jama-archives.org .

To contact corresponding author Monique M. B. Breteler, M.D., Ph.D., e-mail m.breteler@erasmusmc.nl.

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