If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, you may need to be more concerned about the health of your bones. Studies show that depression can increase bone density. Here’s what you need to know.
The psychological effects of depression are well known including symptoms of sadness, loss of motivation and energy, and sleep disturbances. What’s less completely understood are the physical consequences of being depressed. As it turns out the biochemical changes that occur with depression may affect many systems of the body, including the health of your bones. A recent study looked at the possibility that depression may decrease bone density in young women.
This study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine looked at 133 premenopausal women, some of whom had been diagnosed with depression and some who hadn’t. It was discovered that women who were diagnosed with depression had significantly lower bone density that those who were not deemed to be depressed. The women who were depressed were also shown to have higher levels of several inflammatory markers in their blood stream.
Although it’s unclear exactly how depression might decrease bone density, the fact that inflammatory markers were elevated in this study suggests that depression may somehow activate an inflammatory process that could affect bone health. Inflammation has been shown to play a role in a variety of chronic diseases including heart disease and cancer. People who are depressed have elevated levels of a hormone known as cortisol which plays a role in inducing an inflammatory response.
Although depression is only one risk factor for decreased bone density, understanding this association can allow you to take stronger measures to protect your bone health in other ways. These might include altering your diet to include more calcium and vitamin D and eliminating soft drinks which contain phosphoric acid that can also decrease bone density. It’s also important to eliminate smoking and get regular physical exercise to preserve bone health. Knowledge of this association may also serve as a red flag to your doctor that you need an earlier bone density study to rule out osteoporosis.
One area that’s unclear regarding the role depression plays in decreasing bone density is the effect of antidepressant medications. Some antidepressants, known as SSRI’s, have been shown to increase the risk of bone fracture by decreasing bone density. These medications alter serotonin levels which play a role in bone health. Taking SSRI’s for depression could further increase the risk of osteoporosis.
If you suffer from depression and are concerned about decreased bone density, contact your doctor who can schedule a bone density study for you. Never stop taking prescribed antidepressant medications without contacting your doctor first as this can adversely affect your depression. In the meantime, continue to take measures such as dietary changes to preserve your bone health.