New Study reveals link between elevated red cells and depression

A new research study conducted at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute revealed a link between elevated red cell distribution and depression. This new discovery should help physicians diagnose depression earlier among their heart patients. This is the first time this association has been discovered. Results of the study were presented during the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Dallas, on Monday, November 18. It was revealed that red cell distribution width or RDW is a parameter that measures variation in red blood cell size or red blood cell volume. A high RDW (over 14.5%) means that the red blood cells vary a lot in size. A normal RDW is 11.6 to 14.6%, but researchers from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute found that patients with a RDW level greater than or equal to 12.9% had an increased risk for depression. “Elevated red blood distribution widths are associated with anemia, but it also appears to be associated with other poor outcomes such as heart attack and heart failure, death and now depression,” said Heidi May, PhD, MSPH, the study’s principal researcher. 

This study looked at 43,226 patients and evaluated them for an average of 5.3 years, identifying RDW levels of patients at time of diagnosis and comparing them to a follow-up diagnosis of depression. “Patients and physicians should be more aware that depression may be one of those poor outcomes and should be more diligent in screening for depression among patients who have an elevated RDW,” Dr. May said.