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B. An Association Between Heart Disease and Depression

Narrator: This is Science Today. Several studies have shown that patients with depression have an increased risk of developing heart attacks and are more likely to die once they've had the heart attack. Mary Whooley of the University of California, San Francisco and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center is leading the Heart and Soul Study, which is designed to try and understand why patients with depression are at greater risk for cardiovascular events.

Whooley: We wanted to figure out what are the mechanisms that explain this? Are there physiological consequences of depression that affect the heart? Like maybe elevated levels of stress hormones that damage the heart in depressed patients or are there behavioral consequences of depression, like not exercising, not taking their medications as prescribed, not eating well that are the reason that patients with depression have an increased risk.

Narrator: Whooley says their research has found such associations.

Whooley: But we haven't yet got to the point where we've put it all together and figured out which ones are responsible. And in all likelihood, it will be a combination of them.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.