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Jan 31, 2014 10:54 AM EST

Children With Depression May Have An Increased Risk Of Heart Disease By Their Teen Years

Children who suffer from depression have an increased risk of heart disease by their teen years, according to a recent study the Business Standard reported.

Researchers from Washington University, University of South Florida and the University of Pittsburgh found that children with depression are not only more likely to be obese, smoke and be inactive as early as their teen years, but they could also increase their risk of heart problems later in life, according to a press release.

Higher rates of heart disease in the parents of adolescents that had been depressed as children were also observed.

"Given that the parents in this sample were relatively young, we were quite surprised to find that the parents of the affected adolescents were reporting a history of heart attacks and other serious events," Jonathan Rottenberg, associate professor of psychology at the University of South Florida, said in a statement.   

Previous studys have shown that a link exists between depression and heart disease. Depressed adults are more likely to suffer a heart attack, and if they do have a heart attack, it's more likely to be fatal. 

For the study, Rottenberg and his colleagues followed up on more than 200 Hungarian children who had participated in a 2004 study of the genetics of depression. Researchers surveyed more than 200 children with a history of clinical depression, as well as about 200 of their siblings who have never suffered from depression.

Researchers also gathered information from more than 150 unrelated children of the same age and gender with no history of depression, according to a press release.

Heart disease risk factors- such as smoking, obesity, physical activity level, and parental history- were compared across three categories of adolescents.

In the study, researchers said it was unclear when the association between clinical depression and cardiac risk develops, or how early in life the association can be detected.

Researchers said their findings suggest that improved prevention and treatment of childhood depression could reduce adult cardiovascular disease.

The research is published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

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