Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of your arteries. The more
forceful it is—the higher it is—the more likely it is that the walls of your arteries will

women who are depressed have a risk of dying from heart disease equal to that of women who smoke or dangerous to the who have high blood pressure.

The link works the other way around, too: While about | in 20 American adults experiences major depression ina given year, that number jumps to about one in three among those who have survived a heart attack,

One study found that depression was as heart as smoking or high blood pressure.

 The more severe the depression, the more dangerous it is to your health, But some studies suggest that even mild depression, including feelings of hopelessness expenenced over many years, may damage the heart. Other studies suggest depression) may affect how well heart disease mecications work,

Researchers aren’t sure what the connection between depression and heart disease is, but theories abounrl. One is that people who are depressed tend not to take very Rou) care of themselves. They’re more likely to eat high-fat, high-calorie “comfort” foods, less likely to exervise, and more likely to smoke. But beyond lifestyle, there is probably also a physiological link between depression and heart disease. Recent studies found that people with severe depression tended to have a deficiency of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. People who are depressed also often have chronically elevated levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol. These keep the body primed for fight or flight, raising blood pressure and prompting the heart to beat faster, all of which put additional stress on coronary arteries and interfere with the body’s natural healing mechanisrns

A whole branch of medicine is devoted to the complex links between mental health, the nervous system, the hormone system, and the immune system. Called psychoneuroimmunology, this science is gradually sorting out how the mind-b« xdy connection affects our vulnerability to, or defense against, heart disease.

Overall, an estimated 10 percent of American adults experience some form of depression every year. Although available therapies can alleviate symptoms in more than 80 percent of people treated, less than half of those with depression get the help they need.

How the Plan Can Help

A major component of the Plan is regular, moderate exercise. A 1999 study conducted at the Duke University School of Medicine found that exercising 30 minutes a day, three days a week, was just as beneficial in treating depression as medication alone, and nearly as beneficial as medication combined with exercise, Of course, regular exercise is also a great way to reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your cholesterol, On the Plan you’ll also get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids (from food and fish-oil supplements) and B vitamins, both beneficial in preventing depression.

The Live It Doum Plan diet can also help defend against a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which often strikes in the winter. Increased production of serotonin, a brain chemical that is associated with mood, relieves SAD.

The complex carbohydrates favored by the Plan will help increase serotonin levels by increasing the amount of tryptophan that reaches the brain. Tryptophan, an amino acid, is a precursor of serotonin.

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