Harvard Mental Health Letter

Depression and heart disease in women

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women. Close to 43 million women in the United States have some form of cardiovascular disease — a term that includes both heart disease and stroke — and every year nearly 422,000 die of it. Several behaviors and conditions — smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes — increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Evidence has mounted that depression should be added to the list of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Research suggests that depression increases the likelihood of developing heart disease and stroke, even after taking into account factors such as smoking. The issue is important to consider for women in particular, because they are twice as likely as men to develop depression.
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