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Am J Cardiol. 2002 Dec 15;90(12):1279-83.

Clinical depression and inflammatory risk markers for coronary heart disease.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 63130, USA.


Despite mounting evidence that psychiatric depression heightens risk for cardiac morbidity and mortality, little is known about the mechanisms responsible for this association. The present study examined the relation between depression and the expression of inflammatory risk markers implicated in the pathogenesis of coronary heart disease (CHD). One hundred adults were enrolled (68% women, 48% Caucasian, 48% African-American, mean age 30 +/- 2 years). Fifty subjects met the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression; the remaining 50 were demographically matched controls with no history of psychiatric illness. All subjects were in excellent health, defined as having no acute infectious disease, chronic medical illness, or regular medication regimen aside from oral contraceptives. The depressed subjects exhibited significantly higher levels of the inflammatory markers C-reactive protein (3.5 +/- 0.5 vs 2.5 +/- 5 mg/L, p = 0.04) and interleukin-6 (3.0 +/- 0.3 vs 1.9 +/- 0.2 pg/ml, p = 0.007) compared with control subjects. Mediational analyses aimed at identifying the pathways contributing to this association revealed that neither cigarette smoking nor subclinical infection with cytomegalovirus or Chlamydia pneumoniae had been responsible. However, depressed subjects exhibited greater body mass than control subjects, and analyses were consistent with adiposity accounting for a portion of the relation between clinical depression and increased expression of inflammatory markers. These findings indicate that in otherwise healthy adults, depression is associated with heightened expression of inflammatory markers implicated in the pathogenesis of CHD. Increased body mass appears to be partially, although not completely, responsible for this relation.

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