Can Depression Lead to Heart Disease?

Posted by: Tampa Cardio

On: May 29, 2015

If you’ve ever experienced depression first hand, then you know that it can, in some ways, feel like you have a broken heart. But while depression can certainly feel like a broken heart, can it, in fact, cause actual damage to your heart? Because recent research has shown both that heart disease can cause depression and that depression can cause heart disease, the short answer is that yes, it absolutely can.

A few statistics regarding heart disease and depression to consider:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
  • 1 in 3 Americans will die from heart disease.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability throughout the entire world.
  • 1 in 20 adults in America experiences major depression each year.
  • 1 in 3 heart attack survivors experiences major depression each year.
  • People with a history of depression are 4 times more likely to experience a heart attack within 14 years than those who have no history of depression.
  • Heart disease patients with depression are 4 times more likely to die within 6 months than those without depression.

After reading the above statistics regarding heart disease and depression, it is obvious that heart disease and depression are related, though how and why they are related is a much more complex issue. Let’s begin by examining the potential ways in which depression can lead to heart disease. Have you ever heard the phrase “stress kills”? While this statement may seem a little overly dramatic, it does have a lot of basis in medical facts. When a person is stressed out, the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released and the sympathetic nervous system is activated, oftentimes referred to as a person’s “fight or flight” response. When a person is depressed, it often results in a chronically elevated level of these hormones, a situation that can have detrimental effects on the heart over time.

On the other hand, depression has been known to occur as a result of heart disease. In one recent study, nearly half of all patients examined a week following a major heart disease surgery showed beginning signs of clinical depression. But why is this? While the relationship between heart disease and depression is still under study, one possible answer is that patients who have recently undergone major heart surgery tend to feel slow and sluggish, finding it difficult to get back into their regular routines. If their regular routines have been threatened by heart disease or they must change their lifestyles drastically in order to adjust to new health concerns, they will understandably start to feel a sense of discouragement and hopelessness.

In addition, heart disease patients with depression often don’t receive the correct medical treatment in order to address both issues simultaneously. This can in part be due to the actions of the patient directly, as depression can make it difficult for people to remember to take care of themselves, and patients may forget to take their medications or simply not feel the motivation to do so. Similarly, they may also lack the motivation and energy to even simply keep their follow-up appointments. Furthermore, many cardiologists and primary care doctors simply don’t have the experience with or exposure to patients with mental illness the way psychiatrists and psychologists do, and may not be able to properly recognize when a patient is experiencing depression. For this reason, heart disease patients with depression often get overlooked for their depression and aren’t effectively treated for it the way a patient seeking treatment for mental illness specifically would.

While there are still a lot of unknowns regarding the relationship between depression and heart disease, both conditions can be effectively treated with proper recognition and monitoring. For compassionate cardiologists who care about the overall health of their patients and not just medical issues addressed by them specifically, contact the Tampa Cardiovascular Associates by calling (813) 975-2800 today. Our physicians are always here for you, and are happy to address any concerns you have related to your heart health or to refer you to a qualified mental health specialist.

Posted by: Tampa Cardio

On: 29/05/2015

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