Research shows that people who have a heart attack are at a significantly higher risk for experiencing depression. Scientists are further investigating whether these conditions share common genetic factors or shared environmental factors.
To determine the connection between the two conditions, Dr. Golam Khandaker and Dr. Stephen Burgess led a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge who examined data relating to almost 370,000 middle-aged participants of UK Biobank.
The team explored two possible avenues: family history and genetic predisposition. The study results, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, suggest that although it is possible for heart disease and depression to share the same underlying biological mechanisms, inflammation cannot be explained by a common genetic predisposition. Rather, individuals who are exposed to certain environmental factors such as psychological stress, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, physical inactivity and obesity can simultaneously increase their risk of heart disease and depression.
“‘Although we don’t know what the shared mechanisms between these diseases are, we now have clues to work with that point towards the involvement of the immune system,” said Dr. Burgess. “Identifying genetic variants that regulate modifiable risk factors helps to find what is actually driving disease risk.’”