Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Utah discovered that red blood cell distribution width (RDW)—a parameter that measures the size of red blood cells—may be a predictor for the onset of depression in patients with cardiovascular disease. Heidi May, Ph.D., the principal investigator, presented the findings at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in November 2013.
The American Heart Association provided education on cardiovascular diseases and psychiatric disorders through studies presented at its 2013 Scientific Sessions held in Dallas.
May and colleagues analyzed data from blood samples of approximately 43,000 patients with cardiovascular disease. Participants’ RDW was recorded over a five-year period, starting at patients’ initial diagnosis of cardiovascular disease. Participants were also evaluated for depression.
Results showed that individuals who had a RDW level greater than 12.9 percent—normal RDW range is 11.6 percent to 14.6 percent—had an increased risk for depression. The findings persisted despite adjustment for medications and indicators of other diseases.
“With these findings, physicians should be more aware of this association and note that heart patients with an elevated RDW are at a higher risk for depression,” said May. “Our hope is that other studies can be done to look at this association in different populations, even a more general medical population, to see if an association remains.” ■