Pilot Study Hopes to Reduce Risk of Heart Disease in Those with Depression

Researchers from Indiana University Center for Aging Research and assistant professor of psychology at the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Jesse Stewart, Ph.D., will conduct a study in collaboration with the American Heart Association to determine if depression intervention can prevent heart disease. The study, called “Beating the Blues for Your Heart”, will begin this year and will explore whether artery function can be improved by treating depressive symptoms in patients. Depression, like elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for heart attacks and heart disease in the United States. “Evidence, including our own past research, strongly suggests that depression is an independent risk factor for heart disease. A depressed individual is at greater risk for a future heart attack than someone who is not depressed. Our goal is to treat depression before it contributes to a heart attack,” said Stewart.

The study will follow 30 heart healthy people with depressive symptoms. They will be divided into two groups, one receiving traditional treatment and the other will receive an eight week protocol termed Beating the Blues, a technologically advanced computerized regimen that is being applied in the UK. Each participant will undergo screenings for artery function before and after the treatment. “If earlier treatment of depression, with a computerized therapy which can be confidentially and inexpensively administered anywhere at a time that is convenient for the patient, effectively reduces heart disease risk as we hypothesize, this information will provide a new treatment option that could be considered along with treatments for traditional risk factors, such as high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol,” added Stewart. He hopes that the findings from this study will lead to a larger clinical study. “Decreasing risk of ever having a heart attack by changing clinical practice to include depression treatment should significantly reduce disability and death from heart disease,” concluded Stewart.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Angel Stuart

    Angel Stuart

    May 27th, 2011 at 9:32 PM

    It’s not exactly in need of a study if the link is already known to be there between heart trouble and depression. It’s a no-brainer, is it not?

    “Evidence, including our own past research, strongly suggests that depression is an independent risk factor for heart disease. A depressed individual is at greater risk for a future heart attack than someone who is not depressed. Our goal is to treat depression before it contributes to a heart attack,” said Stewart.”

    Since they know that, why don’t they spend the money finding new treatments instead of confirming what they already have evidence of? Beats me.

  • Natasha T.

    Natasha T.

    May 27th, 2011 at 10:37 PM

    @ Angel Stuart: Yes, but I think the medical community has learned to not take chances even when links appear completely obvious. You don’t want to have an untested treatment on the books or one that’s fallible. It would be a huge liability.

    And the man said the evidence “strongly suggests”. That’s not the same as a confirmation.

  • IainCrawford


    May 28th, 2011 at 12:19 AM

    Researchers don’t take their work lightly and they don’t report results from studies as factual evidence if they aren’t 100% sure.

    That’s a fast way to crush your reputation to smithereens. The last thing they need is to shout from the rooftops about a connection and have it turn out to be inconclusive after all.

  • Steve


    May 28th, 2011 at 3:41 AM

    This looks promising! I wonder what the researchers thoughts are on how long a person has to suffer from depression before it will seriously contribute to heart disease in a normally healthy person. This could be some pretty valuable information for them to ascertain.

  • helen


    May 28th, 2011 at 11:55 PM

    the number of people with heart diseases is expected to rise dramatically over the next few decades. and as most of us know, the modern lifestyle is also giving a lot of us depression. so if treating one can prevent another it will be great. I wish all the very best for this study.

  • Lovely d

    Lovely d

    May 29th, 2011 at 5:26 AM

    No matter what type of illness we are faced with it seems that early detection is critical to manintaining optimum health for the longest amount of time. I would have never necessarily thpught that heart disease and depression would go hand in hand but reading about it it seems to make perfect sense that one could contribute to the other. Just know yourself, and when something does not feel right, then how about going and talking to someone instead of letting it grow out of control.

  • Nadia Laine

    Nadia Laine

    May 29th, 2011 at 9:42 PM

    @IainCrawford–Exactly, Iain. That’s why it takes years and sometimes decades for new medications to get FDA approval.

    They have to go through round after round of trials and even then there’s no iron-clad guarantee the drugs will ever come to market.

    I hope this study does confirm the link and they can move forward in preventative treatment of patients with both depression and heart issues.

  • Brendan P.

    Brendan P.

    May 29th, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    If what IainCrawford said is true, that explains why they always seem to do studies that are obvious.

    And all this time I’ve been laughing at them for trying to prove things anyone could see as being crystal clear to the average thinking person.

    Nobody wants to be the guy they point the finger at for getting it wrong, no matter what your profession is. I don’t blame them.

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