Early screenings in teens with depression and bipolar disorder could help offset their increased risk for heart disease, according to a recent statement from the American Heart Association.
In 2011, an expert medical panel identified a number of medical conditions that put teens at increased risk for heart disease. Among these conditions were major depression and bipolar disorder, which are considered the first and fourth most disabling conditions among adolescents worldwide. Not only are depression and bipolar disorder linked to increased risk for heart disease, they’re extremely common, affecting roughly 10% of adolescents in the United States.
To increase awareness, the American Heart Association recently released a scientific statement about depression and cardiovascular risk among teens. Published in the journal Circulation, this paper summarized the latest evidence and offered recommendations to address this important public health issue.
In their statement, experts review three possible factors that increase cardiovascular risk in teens with depression and bipolar disorder.
First, teens with depression may be less likely to make heart-healthy lifestyle choices like staying active, eating healthy and getting enough sleep. These lifestyle choices often carry into adulthood and can increase risk for heart disease and other chronic diseases. Teens with depression and bipolar disorder are also more likely to smoke, which is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease.
Second, some medications used to treat depression and bipolar can promote weight gain and increase cholesterol levels. These side effects are also associated with increased risk for heart disease, especially if left untreated.
Finally, research suggests that depression and bipolar disorder can have negative physical effects on the body. For example, depression and stress have been linked to increased inflammation, which is closely linked to heart disease.
Together, these factors likely work together to increase cardiovascular risk.That’s why, as experts explain, early screening for cardiovascular risk factors is key.
Doctors should keep a close eye on the health of teens with depression and bipolar disease, monitoring factors like weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. Through improved communication and early screening, doctors can work closely with patients to address any cardiovascular risk factors before they become a problem. Authors also encourage future research on the issue, as few studies have specifically addressed cardiovascular risk in this population.