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Feb 19, 2019

Experts Highlight the Strong Link Between Depression and Heart Disease

Given high rates of depression among heart patients, experts encourage better screening and treatment for mental health.

Screening and treatment for depression are critical in patients with heart disease, based on a paper published in the European Heart Journal that puts a spotlight on both cardiovascular and mental health.

Written by a team of experts on heart disease and mental health, this paper summarized everything we know about the link between depression and heart health. It also provided recommendations to help improve patient outcomes and quality of life.

Depression is a common but serious mood disorder that can cause feelings of sadness and loss of interest in activities. It affects approximately 10% of the U.S. population and can interfere with daily functions and even impact physical health.

Unfortunately, patients with heart disease are up to three times more likely to experience depression than the general population. Many studies suggest that depression has a negative effect on health outcomes, risk for heart events and overall quality of life.

In the recent paper, experts note that depression affects up to 30% of patients with heart disease. Evidence suggests that depression is twice as common and tends to be more severe in women than men, especially after a heart attack. Heart patients with depression also tend to have worse outcomes than those without depression, highlighting the need for screening and treatment.

However, we still have much to learn about the link between depression and heart disease, according to authors. Based on studies, it’s not a one-way street between depression and heart disease. We know that patients with heart disease are more likely to develop depression, which contributes to worse outcomes and quality of life. But the reverse may be true as well.

A large analysis of 30 studies showed that among adults free of heart disease, depression increased risk for heart events by 30%. Therefore, depression may also lead to heart disease, although additional research is needed to understand the association.

Based on what we know, experts highlight the importance of screening for depression in patients with heart disease. Screening can be as simple as having heart patients complete a survey about their mental health or just starting a conversation about how a patient is feeling. When a patient reports symptoms of depression, experts encourage treatment through exercise, therapy or medication when necessary.

With their recent paper, experts hope to raise awareness about the high rates of depression among heart patients so that it won’t be ignored. According to authors, depression should be considered a risk factor for heart events, right alongside factors like high blood pressure, obesity and physical inactivity. With proper treatment for depression, it’s likely that patients can help improve heart health and boost quality of life.

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.
  • Can mental health affect heart health?
  • Yes. Although there’s still much to learn, research suggests there is a close connection between mental and cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that patients with a mental illness, like depression, are at increased risk for heart disease. It’s also possible that having heart disease increases risk for depression and can worsen outcomes. It’s important to discuss all aspects of health, including mental health, with your doctor.

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