Depression & Disease
The link between heart disease and depression is based on the current theory of chronic uncontrolled systemic inflammation. Multiple studies have now shown a link between chronic mental stress and early onset coronary artery disease. Some studies are showing a link between young depressed adults and earlier onset artery damage, precursors to heart attacks. Other studies have shown a link between mental disorders like depression and anxiety and increased inflammation in the blood stream and nervous system.
(Acute intermittant stress is known to beneficial while chronic daily stress is detrimental.)
One study by Dr. Hoge from Harvard* compared the immunological and inflammatory cells of 48 patients suffering from panic disorder against 48 control subjects. What they discovered was that 87% of the anxious patients had elevations in the major pro inflammatory cytokines/proteins.
Which came first is still unknown, however, we know from other data that inflammation appears to be a root cause of most disorders given the right genetic profile. I always think of disease as a multiple hit theory. You need the right genetic makeup coupled with the wrong diet, chemical exposure and stress at the wrong time.
Historically, humans needed an active immune system to fend of the intense volume of infectious pathogens that would kill us. Now we have a world with sanitation, cleaning agents, vaccines and antibiotics and this advantage can become a disadvantage.
Dr. Raison noted in a 2013 study that depressed individuals often had genes that encoded for a robust immune response. WIth our cleaner environment, this genetically strong immune system will react to many harmless pathogens and proteins causing an inflammatory response that when chronic is a possible cause or potential exacerbator of mental illness.
Knowing this coupled with the knowledge that mental disorder frequency is on the rise in industrialized countries brings me to the point of this article. Treating depression effectively and early is the key to reducing all cause illness risk. Coronary artery disease is just one of many bad outcomes of chronically depressed individuals.
In young adults that are showing signs of anxiety and depression, we need to be especially aggressive with treatment given the long life risks of uncontrolled mental disorders.
Treatment is based on the severity of the illness. Some individuals may require medicines to dampen the severity of the symptoms while they begin an intensive functional medicine based approach to therapy focusing primarily on:
1) an anti inflammatory diet
2) psycho therapy - intensive in the beginning
3) micro nutrient analysis and supplementation based on needs
4) daily aerobic exercise for 30 + minutes
5) adequate sleep
6) meditation, journaling and other mind body therapy for relaxation and stress reduction
7) daily breath work
8) micro biome analysis and treatment (remember the mice studies)
9) parental education on how to effectively help parent a youth in depression. I find that many parents are too proud to admit that they need help so I always recommend it regardless of their ability. Everyone can use guidance during such a stressful time.
10) self love through affirmations of positive beliefs about the self.
Do not wait until your loved one is struggling and in a more dangerous state that requires medicine and intensive care.
*Source Scientific American Mind May 2015