Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Does depression contribute to high blood pressure?

According to population surveys, large number of medical conditions are associated with major depression. One of these is high blood pressure (hypertension). It is possible that being diagnosed with high blood pressure would lead to depression because receiving such a diagnosis may be a stressful even for some people. However, it is also possible that depression might increase the risk of high blood pressure. There are several mechanisms by which this might occur. One is that depression is characterized by activation of the autonomic nervous system, which is involved in the regulation of blood pressure. Another possibility is that immune activation, which occurs in depression, may lead to blood pressure changes. We recently used a Canadian health data source (a study called the NPHS) to explore the possibility that people with major depression would be more likely develop high blood pressure. The hypothesis was confirmed: an increased risk of high blood pressure was observed, see PubMed link. This does not necessarily mean that depression was causing high blood pressure. Another possibility is that there is a shared cause of both conditions. Nevertheless, people with major depression should be aware that they may be at higher risk and closer monitoring of their blood pressure may be warranted.