Will 'Beating The Blues' Reduce The Risk Of Heart Disease?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and depression is a risk factor for heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes. A psychology professor at Indiana University has just won a $110,000 grant from the American Heart Association to see whether early treatment of depression before heart disease is evident will reduce the likelihood of future heart disease. The study will use a British treatment program called Beating The Blues.
Jesse Stewart, recipient of the AHA grant, named the study Beating the Blues for Your Heart.
"Evidence, including our own past research, strongly suggests that depression is an independent risk factor for heart disease. A depressed individual is at greater risk for a future heart attack than someone who is not depressed. Our goal is to treat depression before it contributes to a heart attack," said Stewart, a clinical health psychologist.
Patients chosen for the study will be free of heart disease and their arterial functions will be measured by ultrasound before and after their therapies, as an indicator of risk of future heart disease.
The treatment method is also under investigation. Half of the 30 depressed patients will receive traditional psychological treatment and the other half will receive eight weeks of Beating the Blues, a computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program that the British National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends for the treatment of patients with mild to moderate depression.
Stewart and his colleagues believe that depression is an independent risk for heart disease and that it can cause a heart attack with no other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, being present. Therefore, goes their theory, depression should be treated early, just as hypertension and high cholesterol are treated as early as possible before heart disease occurs.
Stewart posits that if the computerized CBT program is effective in reducing depression and thus the risk of heart disease, it would be a practical alternative to other therapy methods, which could be inexpensively administered at the convenience of the patient.