MONDAY, Jan. 17, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Heart failure patients whose depression worsens with time are less likely to fare well in the long-run than patients whose depressive symptoms either stabilize or dissipate, a new study indicates.
The research team from Duke University Medical Center said that their study, published in the Jan. 25 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, is the first to track heart patient health along these lines.
In a journal news release, the study authors observed that as a result of their findings "it may be prudent for clinicians to reassess symptoms of depression routinely in heart failure patients to determine better appropriate medical management of these patients."
The current findings stem from an assessment of the mental and physical health of 147 heart failure patients who were examined at the outset of the study and then again one year later.
The team then tracked their cardiovascular health for an average of five years.
The investigators found that relative to patients whose depression was more or less stable, those patients whose depression worsened during the one-year study period faced double the risk for negative outcomes, such as heart attack, stroke or the need for cardiac surgery.
A worsening depression also bumped up the risk for having to be hospitalized and/or dying from any cause, although not to the same degree as it raised the specific risk for heart health complications.
As a result of their findings, the Duke team concluded that health providers should support the American Heart Association's recommendation for depression screening among heart failure patients, adding that 24 percent to 42 percent of the more than 5 million Americans living with the condition are estimated to be diagnosed with depression.
However, in an accompanying editorial, Dr. Peter Shapiro of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, and Ingrid Connerney from the University of Maryland School of Nursing noted that depression among cardiac patients is often under-diagnosed. They suggest that cardiologists should be armed with depression screening tools, so as to be prepared to refer patients in need of treatment.
For more on heart disease and depression, visit the Cleveland Clinic.