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Pathophysiological basis of cardiovascular disease and depression: a chicken-and-egg dilemma

Bases fisiopatológicas da doença cardiovascular e depressão: um dilema do ovo e da galinha

OBJECTIVE: To describe the pathophysiological basis linking cardiovascular disease (CVD) and depression; to discuss the causal relationship between them, and to review the effects of antidepressant treatment on cardiovascular disease. METHOD: A review of the literature based on the PubMed database. DISCUSSION: Depression and cardiovascular disease are both highly prevalent. Several studies have shown that the two are closely related. They share common pathophysiological etiologies or co-morbidities, such as alterations in the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, cardiac rhythm disturbances, and hemorheologic, inflammatory and serotoninergic changes. Furthermore, antidepressant treatment is associated with worse cardiac outcomes (in case of tricyclics), which are not observed with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. CONCLUSION: Although there is a strong association between depression and cardiovascular disease, it is still unclear whether depression is actually a causal factor for CVD, or is a mere consequence, or whether both conditions share a common pathophysiological etiology. Nevertheless, both conditions must be treated concomitantly. Drugs other than tricyclics must be used, when needed, to treat the underlying depression and not as mere prophylactic of cardiac outcomes.

Heart; Depression; Cardiovascular disease; Coronary artery disease; Antidepressive agents


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