Additionally, and just as importantly, the researchers said even a psychological status previously considered to be sub-depressive puts these patients at higher risk of death. While it has been known that depression is associated with higher short-term mortality rates, this is the first study to measure the long-term risks of depression, they said.
The researchers, led by medical psychiatrist Wei Jiang, M.D., believe that their findings should help convince physicians who care for heart failure patients to pay close attention to their patients' psycho-social status, since these patients may be helped by aggressive heart failure and/or antidepressant therapy.
Jiang presented the results of her study March 7, 2005, at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology in Orlando. The study was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.
"Our findings provide further evidence to non-psychiatric physicians that depression can have a major impact on how their patients fare," Jiang said. "Approximately half of all patients with heart failure will die within five years of diagnosis, and we believe that our study appears to identify a group of these patients who are at a higher risk for dying."
Heart failure is a condition marked by the inability of the heart muscles to pump enough oxygen and nutrients in the blood to the body's tissues. Also known as congestive heart failure, its many causes include infections of the heart, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, previous heart attacks and valve problems. An estimated 4.7 million Americans suffer from the condition, with 400,000 new cases reported each year, and according to the researchers, it is the only cardiovascular disease that is rising in incidence.