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Metabolism. 2005 May;54(5 Suppl 1):45-8.

Depression and cardiovascular disease: a reciprocal relationship.

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Department of Medicine (Nephrology), Institute of Geriatrics, University of Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.


Until relatively recently, depression has been considered a purely "mental" disorder and therefore in the natural domain of psychologists and psychiatrists. However, recent epidemiological studies have revealed that aging, physical and psychological stress, chronic pain, several metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance and established diabetes, alcoholism, inflammatory conditions, and vascular disorders such as arterial hypertension all may be associated with depression. The present review examines some of these depression-associated factors and the mechanisms by which they might give rise to vascular disorders such as atherosclerosis, microcirculation endothelial dysfunction, and interstitial disturbances leading to organ damage. A number of disorders involving the circulation can lead progressively and insidiously to large artery rigidity, remodeling of peripheral arteries, and alterations of the microcirculation of large blood vessels. Perturbations in vasa vasorum blood flow may contribute to atherogenesis, in addition to the influence of numerous cellular events involved in inflammation (tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin 1 beta, etc). Since Hans Selye first described the neuroendocrine cascade generated by experimentally induced stress half a century ago, phenomena such as the axonal release of neurotransmitters (including serotonin), accumulation of metabolites such as homocysteine, platelet-activating factor, and nitric oxide also have been implicated in the pathogenesis of depression. Moreover, vascular consequences of depression such as heart rate and pulse pressure variations may lead to endothelial dysfunction in critical microcirculation networks (cerebral, myocardial, and renal) and initiate physicochemical alterations in interstitial compartments adjacent to vital organs. The appropriate use of ambulatory monitoring of vascular parameters, such as heart rate and pulse pressure, and eventually, early identification of genetic and metabolic markers may prove helpful in the early detection of events preceding and predicting the clinical manifestations of depression.

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