It has been shown that people who experience depression are more likely to develop heart disease than those who don’t. The reasons behind this are not fully understood.
This new study to investigate cardiovascular risk factors and treatments in patients with depression aims to find out why.
The study, supported by a British Heart Foundation investment grant of over £120,000, will use the SAIL Databank Trusted Research Environment (TRE) as part of this ground-breaking investigation early next year.
The research will be led by Swansea University’s Dr Libby Ellins and co-investigated by Professors Mike Gravenor, Ann John, Keith Lloyd and Julian Halcox, and Senior Research Manager & Data Scientist Ashley Akbari, as well as Professor David Osborn of University College London.
This work will examine whether patients with depression are more likely to have worse cardiovascular outcomes due to less effective assessment, treatment and control of their risk factors for heart disease than those without depression.
Physical health indicators may include factors such as high blood pressure or cholesterol levels in the blood, both of which increase the risk of developing heart disease, but which can be effectively treated to reduce this risk.
Preliminary work from this group has shown that patients with depression are less likely than patients without depression to have their cholesterol checked after coronary angioplasty and stenting treatment; a procedure to unblock the main blood vessels supplying the heart. This was also most likely to be the case in women with depression than in men.
This new research aims to explore whether people with depression in the wider population without pre-existing heart disease are less likely to have these risk factors assessed and treated as effectively as those without depression.
In addition, the researchers want to examine whether socio-economic status and where someone lives, for example in urban or rural settings, influences an individual’s likelihood of risk factor assessment and effective treatment.
Speaking about potential impact of this research, lead researcher Dr Libby Ellins, said, “We are looking forward to starting this project which will try and identify ways to improve the health of those with depression. If we discover that factors known to contribute to the development of heart disease are not being checked and managed as effectively in patients with depression, it will identify an area where improved care could have longer term benefits for both physical and mental health.”
Senior research lead, Professor Julian Halcox, added, “Our research team are delighted that the BHF have chosen to fund this important study of heart disease prevention at a population level. This work will be an important example of how clinicians and data scientists can work together using the unique SAIL Databank, to identify gaps in evidence-based risk factor management in patients with depression in the population of Wales. The results of this study are also likely to be relevant to the wider UK and other advanced health economies.”
A better understanding of the scale of the problem, including the main factors associated with less effective management of cardiac risk factors, will inform public health policy and should inform better delivery of preventive care in patients with depression. This has the potential to improve clinical outcomes of those many thousands of patients with depression who are known to be at increased risk of heart disease.