TIME Health 2017
...Elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol might also be linking psychological and physical conditions, beyond just psoriatic arthritis. “We know that high levels of cortisol are associated with depression, and we know that they can contribute to an inflammatory state and to conditions like diabetes and heart disease,” says Gitlin.
Previous research has linked depression with an increased risk of conditions like stroke, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, and a 2016 study found that depressed mood—which included symptoms such as anxiety and fatigue—was as strong a predictor of heart disease as well-known risk factors like high cholesterol and obesity. Other mental-health diagnoses, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, have also been associated with increased risks of physical health problems.
But there's a bright side. Treating depression and other mental health conditions (either with medication, talk therapy or a combination of both) may help improve physical symptoms or reduce the risk of future problems, says Gitlin, especially if doing so can lower cortisol levels and other markers of inflammation. Likewise, treating physical illnesses and getting symptoms under control can help improve mental health.
For scientists, further studies and a better understanding of the body’s inflammatory response may help fuel the development of treatments and preventive methods for a wide variety of diseases—both physical and psychological.
“Researchers are starting to look at anti-inflammatory agents to see if they can be helpful in treating both types of conditions,” Gitlin says, citing studies that have linked cholesterol-lowering statins with a reduced risk of depression, or antidepressants with a reduced risk of cardiovascular events. “We know inflammation is the singular common thread, and we’re getting better at figuring out new ways to target it.”
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