Cholesterol-lowering Medication Can Protect Against Depression

on February 22, 2012 10:57 AM EST

Cholesterol-lowering medication can protect against depression
Heart coronary arteries. (Photo: flickr.com/Patrick J. Lynch)

Researchers at Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the University of California San Francisco have studied the link between medication taken for cardiovascular disease and the development of depression. In their studies, scientists have determined that a particular class of medication, i.e. statins, can reduce the risk of developing depression. Statins are one of the most commonly prescribed medications worldwide and have a cholesterol-lowering effect. They are used particularly to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

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To date, little is known about the effects of statins on symptoms of depression in patients with heart disease. Research results are of importance because depression significantly reduces chances of recovery in patients with cardiovascular disease. Depression influences a person's behavior and can lead to inadequate exercise, lack of social contact and neglecting to take prescription medication regularly. Furthermore, biological changes due to depression are also known, such as an increased release of stress hormones and higher inflammatory parameters. This, in turn, can cause deterioration of a patient's health.

Together with his research group, Prof. Christian Otte, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Charité, looked into the question of whether patients with cardiovascular disease taking statins are less likely to develop depression. Together with his American colleague, Mary Whooley, he examined about 1,000 patients with cardiovascular disease over a period of six years. At the beginning of the study, the patients were on average 65 years old. Patients who regularly took statins showed a reduced risk of almost 40 percent for developing depression. These results indicate that statins could have a protective effect against depression on cardiovascular patients.

Further studies should now clarify whether this thesis can be confirmed, whether these positive effects also occur in other patient groups, and which mechanisms could be responsible for them.

Source: Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

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