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Jun 12, 2014

Phone-Based Support Helps Heart Patients with Depression

Researchers develop simple, cost-effective treatment for heart patients diagnosed with depression or anxiety.

A simple support plan helps treat heart patients with anxiety and depression, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical association.

Depression and anxiety disorders are extremely common among patients with heart conditions, such as heart attack or heart failure. Not only do many patients with these heart conditions develop depression soon after their event, depression may also trigger or worsen heart problems in some patients.

To address the issue, researchers tested a novel support plan to help treat heart patients with depression. Between 2010 and 2013, 183 patients hospitalized for heart attack, heart failure or an abnormal heart rhythm enrolled into the study. In addition to experiencing an acute cardiac event, patients were also diagnosed with clinical depression, anxiety disorder or a panic disorder.

Following standard practice, the hospital notified patients’ primary care doctors about the diagnosis, advising the doctors to follow-up with their patients. In addition, half of study participants received telephone support during the six months following their hospital stay. Phone calls typically lasted for 15-30 minutes and were delivered by a social worker, who worked closely with a team of psychiatrists. After six months, patients receiving the telephone-based intervention had fewer depressive symptoms and better functioning than those receiving only standard care.

Authors hope that with future research, the intervention can be perfected to help patients as much as possible. Not only was the intervention used in this study effective in treating mental health disorders, it was relatively inexpensive. Only one social worker was needed to follow up with nearly 200 patients and telephone calls were tailored depending on the individual needs of each patient. With further testing, investigators believe that simple telephone intervention could help significantly improve quality of life for heart patients with depression.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is depression?
  • Clinical depression is a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness, loss and anger to interfere with one’s daily life. Although the cause for depression is generally unknown, depression is often treated with antidepressants and/or talk therapy with a professional.
  • Are mental health and heart health related?
  • Although additional research is needed on the topic, there is a clear link between mental health and cardiovascular health. Many studies have suggested that having a positive attitude or outlook on life may reduce cardiovascular risk, while high stress levels and depression can increase risk for heart disease. As a result, it’s important to work with your doctor on improving both mental and physical health to reduce cardiovascular risk.

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