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Depression and heart disease linked, calls for 'psychocardiology'

By Michael Krebs     Mar 18, 2013 in Science
With science pointing to links between heart disease and mental disorders like depression, calls have emerged for a new sub-specialty on 'psychocardiology.'
The links between depression and heart disease have been chronicled enough for the National Institute of Mental Health to publish a brochure calling attention to the association. Yet, cardiology and psychiatry remain separate practices and operate in entirely separate worlds.
But as the links between psychosocial disorders and heart disease continue to present themselves, as has been seen in stress and in depression, and as psychosocial benefits arise, such as that of the link between altruism and heart health as Digital Journal reported last week, calls are emerging for a new sub-specialty on "psychocardiology."
Speaking at the World Psychiatric Association Thematic Conference on Intersectional Collaboration and 4th European Congress of the International Neuropsychiatric Association in Athens, Greece, Angelos Halaris, MD, PhD pioneered the overlapping concept of the psychocardiologist, admitting that the idea is currently a "pipe dream."
"The formation of a formal subspecialty is a bit of a pipe dream at this point," Dr. Halaris said in an interview with Medscape Medical News. "But I wanted to put it out there because our colleagues in cardiology as well as in psychiatry need to realize there is a very clear association between emotional/psychiatric/psychological conditions and cardiovascular health."
The connection between depression and heart disease is an established one, with one recent study, reported by Laboratory Equipment, demonstrating a link between childhood depression and teen heart disease.
Dr. Halaris is on to something. 40 percent to 60 percent of people with cardiovascular disease also have clinical depression, Halaris told Medscape Medical News.
And the issue of heart disease and psychiatry is not limited to depression. The link between stress and cardiology is well-founded, and according to UPI, there is a corresponding link between stressful work-related "burnout" and heart trouble.
"It is only through the cohesive interaction of such multidisciplinary teams that we can succeed in unravelling the complex relationships among mental stress, inflammation, immune responses and depression, CVD, and stroke," Halaris said, according to Medscape Medical News. "I see coming together for research as an important first step, and academic institutions are already beginning to work towards developing such joint teams that cut across department barriers. A later step down the road might be the formal creation of a subspecialty."
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