According to a new study, cardiovascular risk factors are linked to an increased incidence of depression in older adults.

Sandra Martin-Pelaez and colleagues from the University of Granada in Spain led the research. The study’s findings were published in the open-access journal ‘PLOS ONE.’

Due to similar risk factors, such as inflammation and oxidative stress, cardiovascular disease and depression are thought to be linked. Despite the fact that depression has been established to be a risk factor for cardiovascular illness, research on the impact of cardiovascular health on the development of depression is limited.

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The researchers analysed data from a 6-year multi-centre randomised experiment in Spain that examines the effect of a Mediterranean Diet on overweight or obese men and women aged 55-75. The current study comprised 6,545 people who had no cardiovascular or endocrine problems at the start.

Each participant received a cardiovascular risk score based on the Framingham-based REGICOR function, which was used to categorise them into low (LR), medium (MR), or high/very high (HR) cardiovascular risk groups. A questionnaire was used to assess depressive status at the start of the study and again after two years.

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Women in the HR group had a higher risk of depression than women in the LR group at the start of the study (OR 1.78 95 per cent CI 1.26-2.50). Furthermore, among all participants with a total cholesterol level < 160 mg/mL, MR and HR people had a higher risk of depression than LR people (MR: OR 1.77 95 per cent CI 1.13-2.77; HR: OR 2.83 95 per cent CI 1.25-6.42).

MR and HR people, on the other hand, had a lower risk of depression than LR people with total cholesterol of 280 mg/mL or greater (MR: OR 0.26 95 per cent CI 0.07-0.98; HR: OR 0.23 95 per cent CI 0.05-0.95).

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Participants’ depressed state scores dropped on average after two years, during which time all participants were told to adopt a Mediterranean Diet as part of the research, with the highest declines reported in MR and HR participants with high baseline cholesterol levels.

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According to the authors, high and very high cardiovascular risks are linked to depressive symptoms, particularly in women, and that other factors, such as adherence to the Mediterranean Diet, should be investigated further.

“High cardiovascular risk, especially in women, is connected with symptoms of depression in the elderly,” the authors found.