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Depression raises risk of heart disease in younger women

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Depression is a serious illness on its own. Now research finds women under 55 who are depressed are more likely to have heart disease and die from it.

Paige Gerson says cycling is probably as important to her as medication or her support group. Gerson has bipolar disorder. Bouts of depression are part of it. Exercise improves her mood.

"It releases endorphins. It just makes me feel good. I'd say it's better for my mind almost than it is for my body," said Gerson.

A new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests Gerson shouldn't overlook the benefits of exercise for her heart. The study finds women under 55 who have moderate or severe depression are more than twice as likely to have heart disease as those who aren't depressed. They're more likely to have a heart attack and die from it or other causes, and they're more likely to need angioplasty.

"It may be harder to get yourself up to go do that exercise, to cook the fresh vegetables rather than just ordering pizza or whatever," said Susan Crain Lewis of Mental Health America of the Heartland.

Crain Lewis says there are other mind-body connections, too.

"Some pretty solid theory that says depression is an inflammatory disease." she said.

So is heart disease. Crain Lewis says the findings show that depressed patients need to be screened for heart disease.

Gerson says they shouldn't be afraid to talk with their medical doctors about it.

"Again the stigma thing. If we could get people where they're not scared to tell their doctor they have depression," said Gerson who facilitates the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance of Overland Park.

The study did not find a similar link to heart disease in men or in older women who are depressed. Crain Lewis says it may be that other heart disease risk factors are much stronger in those groups.

To find help in dealing with depression, go to this link.

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