Statins linked with lower depression risk in heart patients

February 24, 2012
This is Mary Whooley, M.D. Credit: UCSF

Patients with heart disease who took cholesterol-lowering statins were significantly less likely to develop depression than those who did not, in a study by Mary Whooley, MD, a physician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

The study was published electronically in the (February 21, 2012).

Whooley and her research team evaluated 965 for , and found that the patients who were on statins were significantly less likely to be clinically depressed than those who were not. They then followed the 776 patients who were not depressed – 520 who were using statins and 256 who were not – for an additional six years. Of those taking statins, 18.5 percent developed depression, compared with 28 percent of those not on the drugs. Put another way, the patients who took statins were 38 percent less likely to develop depression than patients who did not.

As the study went on, said Whooley, the difference between the two groups became more pronounced, with the patients on statins becoming less likely to develop depression and the patients not on statins becoming more likely to become depressed over time.

"This would suggest that statins may have some kind of long-term protective effect against depression, perhaps by helping to prevent atherosclerosis in the brain, which can contribute to depressive symptoms," Whooley said.

She also noted that statins have positive effects on the endothelium – the inner lining of the blood vessels – keeping blood vessels less rigid and therefore better able to adapt to the body's changing needs. "The exact mechanism is not known, however, and requires further study," she said.

Whooley cautioned that it is possible that patients who take statins "are just healthier overall than those who don't, and somehow we're not accounting for that in our analysis, even though we adjusted for factors such as smoking, physical activity and levels."

If statins are definitively proven to protect against depression, said Whooley, they could be used to reduce the burden of depressive symptoms in patients with heart disease and, by extension, improve cardiovascular outcomes in depressed patients. Whooley has shown in previous studies that heart disease patients with depression are less likely to exercise and take medication, thus increasing their risk for heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular events.

Statins are the most commonly-prescribed medication in the world, according to the study authors. "They are relatively safe, and generally well-tolerated," said Whooley.

Explore further: Study: Most at-risk patients don't adhere to statin treatment, despite real benefits

Related Stories

Study: Most at-risk patients don't adhere to statin treatment, despite real benefits

May 12, 2011
A new study from North Carolina State University shows that the vast majority of patients at high risk for heart disease or stroke do a poor job of taking statins as prescribed. That's especially unfortunate, because the ...

Study finds no link between statins and cancer risk

July 25, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reports that, contrary to previous studies, the use of cholesterol reducing statin drugs does not increase the risk of patients ...

New research shows mental illness common, linked to heart disease

September 12, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Mental illnesses -- led by anxiety disorders and depression -- now affect one-quarter of the US population according to new research. In Europe a similar proportion -- about 27 percent -- suffers from ...

Cholesterol drugs may improve blood flow after stroke

April 26, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins may help clot-busting drugs treat strokes, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Recommended for you

Exposure to violence hinders short-term memory, cognitive control

July 24, 2017
Being exposed to and actively remembering violent episodes—even those that happened up to a decade before—hinders short-term memory and cognitive control, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National ...

Using money to buy time linked to increased happiness

July 24, 2017
New research is challenging the age-old adage that money can't buy happiness.

Researchers pave new path toward preventing obesity

July 24, 2017
People who experience unpredictable childhoods due to issues such as divorce, crime or frequent moves face a higher risk of becoming obese as adults, according to a new study by a Florida State University researcher.

Higher cognitive abilities linked to greater risk of stereotyping

July 24, 2017
People with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to learn and apply social stereotypes, finds a new study. The results, stemming from a series of experiments, show that those with higher cognitive abilities also more ...

Neuroticism may postpone death for some

July 24, 2017
Data from a longitudinal study of over 500,000 people in the United Kingdom indicate that having higher levels of the personality trait neuroticism may reduce the risk of death for individuals who report being in fair or ...

Psychologists say our 'attachment style' applies to social networks like Facebook

July 24, 2017
A new investigation appearing this week in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests a strong association between a person's attachment style—how avoidant or anxious people are in their close relationships—and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.