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Dec 09, 2013

Depression and Heart Disease: A Likely Pair

Improved diagnosis and treatment of depression in heart patients may improve outcomes, according to recent update.

Depression and heart disease are both extremely common and have a big impact on health and quality of life. Many patients with heart disease develop depression and similarly, patients with depression are at increased risk for heart disease. When these conditions happen together, there’s no question that both health and quality of life suffer, and according to a review published in the European Heart Journal, we have much to learn about the prevention and treatment of depression in heart disease patients.

Heart disease and depression are the two most common causes of disability in the United States and the relationship between the two has been recognized for more than 40 years. A paper published in 1967 found that nearly half of all patients who had a heart attack suffered from depression. In 1972, researchers found that depression and anxiety could impact as many as two-thirds of heart attack patients. And depression has an enormous impact on outcomes, especially after a heart attack. Recent studies show that patients with depression after heart attacks have three times greater risk of death and generally speaking, the worse the depression, the worse the outcomes.

Authors who conducted the recent review on heart disease and depression believe that screening and treatment are key to breaking the cycle between the two conditions. Since we know that depression is common among heart disease patients, it’s important that patients complete questionnaires on a regular basis about their mental health. Patients with depression should receive prompt treatment, including any combination of exercise, talking therapies and anti-depressant medications. Providers should also be proactive about preventing depression in heart patients through things such as cardiac rehab programs and exercise training.

Authors hope that through early detection and treatment of depression, we can help improve outcomes in heart patients. Experts also encourage future research on depression and heart disease so we can better understand their relationship and how to manage patients with these conditions.

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.

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