Stress and depression can take a combined toll on the heart, creating a “psychosocial perfect storm” that dramatically increases the risk of death from heart disease, new research has found. A study involving nearly 4,500 adults with coronary artery disease found those who also suffered from significant stress and depression were nearly 50 percent more likely to die or have a heart attack during a six-year study period, regardless of other risk factors.
A separate study, meanwhile, found that having a strong sense of purpose in life actually lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke. “Developing and refining your sense of purpose could protect your heart health and potentially save your life,” says cardiologist Randy Cohen, the study’s lead author. People with goals that are important to them, his analysis of 10 studies involving 137,000 people found, are 23 percent less likely to die over a given period than those without such goals.