Gender pain gap: Women with depression face 64% higher heart disease risk than men with same condition, study suggests

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Women diagnosed with depression have a higher risk of heart disease and strokes than men who have also been diagnosed with the mental health disorder. 

Researchers analyzed the health data of 4.1million people to find the association between depression and cardiovascular disease (CVD), heart attacks, strokes and angina – chest pain or pressure that occurs when the heart muscle doesn’t get enough blood or oxygen. 

While both men and women with depression had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), women showed a greater risk – 64 percent compared to men’s 39 percent.

Women are also more prone to angina, stroke and other heart problems, according to researchers at the University of Tokyo.

Approximately 44 percent of women are living with some kind of heart disease (stock photo)

Dr Hidehiro Kaneko, co-author, said this discovery could may help in the development of targeted prevention and treatment strategies that address the specific CVD risks face by depressed patients, including screening for, preventing and treating the mental health condition. 

He said: ‘A better understanding will allow healthcare providers to optimize care for both men and women with depression, leading to improved CVD outcomes for these populations.’

The authors suggested women may experience more severe and persistent symptoms of depression compared to men, which could contribute to their poorer heart health. 

Women are more likely to suffer depression during hormonal changes, such as their menstrual cycle and menopause.  Females are also more susceptible to underlying CVD risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. 

Additional results showed compared to non-depressed women, those with the condition had a 52 percent higher risk of heart attacks, a 68 percent higher risk of angina, a 56 percent higher risk of stroke and a 64 percent higher risk of heart failure. 

Among men, those with depression had a 16 percent increased risk of heart attacks, a 46 percent increased risk of angina, a 42 percent increased risk of stroke and a 28 percent higher risk of heart failure.  

Researchers conducted the investigation between depression and CVD by using a database of medical claims between 2005 and 2022.

Depression was defined as those clinically diagnosed before their initial health checkup.

The study collected vitals including body mass index (BMI), blood pressure and blood tests. 

Researchers then analyzed the differences between participants with and without depression to determine the increased risk.

Women are more likely than men to develop depression and it is estimated that one in eight women suffer from mental health condition in the United States – nearly twice the amount as men.

In the US, one person dies from CVD every 33 seconds and it accounts for about one in five deaths. 

Approximately 44 percent of women are living with some kind of heart disease. In men, heart disease affects more than one-third. 

Dr Kaneko said: ‘Healthcare professionals must recognize the important role of depression in the development of CVD and emphasize the importance of a comprehensive, patient-centered approach to its prevention and management.

‘Assessing the risk of CVD in depressed patients and treating and preventing depression may lead to a decrease of CVD cases.’

The study was published in the journal JACC Asia. 

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