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33MD for April 20, 2009

POSTED: Monday, April 20, 2009 - 5:47pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 10:58pm

Depression increases the risk of heart failure in patients with heart disease. That’s the finding of a first-of-its-kind study by cardiac researchers. The results could change the way patients are evaluated.

Barbara Jo Heiner is celebrating an anniversary this month. A year ago, she got a heart transplant that ended more than 15 months of physical and psychological stress. “I think that maybe, maybe they have diagnosed it wrong. I was definitely in denial. I really did start feeling like something was really, really wrong. I wasn’t going to be able to go on my cruise with my grandchildren, and that’s when I really started feeling depressed.”

Researchers at Intermountain Medical Center have now documented an increased risk of heart failure in patients who develop depression subsequent to their diagnosis of heart disease. Dr. Heidi May is an epidemiologic researcher and sounds, “We found that there was a 50% increase in risk with patients with heart disease to develop heart failure.” Dr. May says even when anti-depressant drugs were used in the study group, they didn’t appear to make a difference. “It would be natural to think that a reduction in depressive symptoms would be associated with a decreased risk, but we didn’t find a risk change between those with depression on or off anti-depressants.”

Dr. May says more studies are needed to identify possible links between the two disorders and what clinicians should do to help their patients.

A smoker’s risk for lung cancer may soon be predicted through a simple urine test. University of Minnesota researchers say smokers who develop the disease produce higher levels of two tobacco-related compounds. Those with the two compounds are nine times more likely to develop lung cancer. Since the compounds can be detected in the urine, scientists hope to develop a simple urine test to spot those at the highest risk. The research is still in the preliminary stages so the test could be years down the road.