ECU researchers treat depression and cardiovascular health through innovative study

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – ECU researchers are conducting an innovative study to help people battling depression who are also at risk for cardiovascular health issues.

Studies show people with depression are 60 to 80% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and the risk is also high vice versa. That’s why ECU researchers are working to reduce risk for other health issues by first treating depression.

They’re currently seeking participants for the Happy Hearts ECU study.

Researchers treat participants with depression and risk of cardiovascular issues not with medication, but with behavioral activation treatment. They analyze behavior and goals, then make small changes in daily routines.

ECU’s Dr. Matt Whited leads the study.

“They start making all these changes ’cause they’ve made a few that make them feel better. And then once they see that pattern is happening, that ‘if I do things that are important to me that I love, that I value, then I start to feel better,’ they start doing it and then we end up keeping up with them,” Dr. Whited said.

Dr. Whited says that can be anything from changing diet and exercise to picking up hobbies.

“We work in really tiny things at first. It might be you know ‘how long would it take you to call your cousin that you’ve lost touch with? I mean 5, 10 minutes. Okay let’s, will you do that tonight? Let’s write that down in your calendar for tonight at 5 o’clock, you’ll give your cousin a call.’ that one little thing, after a few weeks of doing little things like that, can really set off a pattern of making those kind of little changes,” Dr. Whited said.

The 12 week treatment program consists of tracking activities and mood hourly and attending therapy sessions.

About 15 people have completed this or are in treatment now.

Find out more about this study and how to get involved by clicking here.

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