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Is there a connection between diseases of the brain and the heart?
Inflammation leads to various health problems, such as severe pain and indigestion. Researchers have now found that inflammation is a key link between diseases of the brain and heart.
A recent study by the internationally highly regarded University of Cambridge found that inflammation is a central link between diseases of the brain and heart. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Molecular Psychiatry".
What causes chronic inflammation?
Chronic inflammation can be caused by illness, stress, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyle and obesity, for example. This inflammation is a kind of bridge between depression and heart disease.
People who have had a heart attack are at higher risk of depression. Conversely, people with depression are more likely to have a heart attack. So far it was unclear whether the two symptoms were related to lifestyle factors or genetics. Heart disease and depression may have common biological mechanisms that manifest themselves as two different conditions in two different organs, the cardiovascular system and the brain, the authors of the current study report.
Data from almost 370,000 participants were evaluated
The study examined the health records of nearly 370,000 middle-aged adults in the UK. Participants who had at least one parent died of a heart attack were 20 percent more likely to develop depression. However, when analyzing the genetic factors associated with heart disease, the researchers found no strong association with depression. This means that depression and heart disease don't seem to share a common genetic predisposition. Rather, the data suggest that the environmental factors that lead to heart disease can also cause depression.
Do three biological factors lead to depression and heart disease?
The study then identified three common biological factors associated with an increased risk of heart disease and depression: triglycerides (a type of blood lipid) and inflammation-related proteins IL-6 and CRP. Previous studies have shown that people with elevated IL-6 and CRP levels are prone to depression. An excess of biomarkers for inflammation has been found in people suffering from severe depression where conventional treatment is ineffective. Clinical trials to test the IL-6 reducing, anti-inflammatory drug tocilizumab in depression patients are already underway.
More research is needed
The investigation now reveals the common mechanisms between depression and heart disease. This enables further research. The identification of genetic variants that regulate modifiable risk factors helps to find out what actually causes the disease risk. (as)