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Hidden Blood Vessel Damage Linked to Depression


Damage to tiny blood vessels, often caused by diabetes and high blood pressure, is linked to an increased risk of depression in people age 40 and older, according to a new study. The finding provides one more incentive for mitigating the factors that contribute to the problem, including the consumption of junk food.

“Be aware that your hypertension and diabetes are an enemy to your microvascular circulation,” said senior author Miranda Schram of Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands. “Try to treat them.”

Capillary Damage Found to Increase Depression Risk by 58 Percent

The microvascular system is comprised of tiny blood vessels called capillaries. Although they are small structures, they are important because their function is to transport oxygen and nutrients to vital parts of the body. When the circulation to tissues is impaired due to damage in the capillaries, harm can occur in the organs they supply. While the brain is particularly vulnerable to the effects, the condition can also lead to the development of maladies in the kidneys, eyes, skin and nerves.

With this in mind, researchers wanted to determine if a link exists between depression and capillary damage. They looked for existing research on the two conditions that involved participants of the age of 40 and older. A compilation of 712 studies provided data on 46,300 individuals, of whom more than 9,000 had been diagnosed with depression.

An examination of the data showed that when signs of injury to the capillaries were noted in the blood, the likelihood of depression was 58-percent higher than when no signs were noted. In addition, the people whose brain scans revealed the presence of small strokes, which were caused by damaged capillaries, had a 30-percent elevated risk of depression.

In an interview with Live in the Now, Eric Braveman M.D., integrative physician and founder of PATH Medical in New York City, explains why harmed capillaries could influence mental health. “The effects of aging blood vessels come in many forms, including memory loss and impaired judgment. Brain tests show that when blood vessels are damaged, people lose processing speed, a condition also known as atrophy, which is linked to depression,” he said.

The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

How to Prevent Damage to Tiny Blood Vessels

So what can be done about this damage? As Schram suggests, take care of the conditions that cause it — namely, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Smoking worsens both conditions, so abstaining from the practice is very important. Regular exercise is also beneficial for the brain because it enhances the function of cells that line the blood vessels.

Diet can make a big difference as well. Since unhealthy eating habits exacerbate the conditions that increase the risk of capillary damage, avoid the consumption of highly processed foods, along with foods high in sugar and trans fat. Following a plant-based eating plan, such as the Mediterranean diet, can reduce the likelihood of obesity, another factor contributing to the problem. Moreover, eating the nutrient-dense foods of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and oily fish will help promote the health of the entire body, including the tiny blood vessels.

Once again, research highlights the value of following a healthful lifestyle. It can help prevent and alleviate a host of ills.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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