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Published: February 19, 2021

The surprising connection between depression and heart disease | Local News

Depression and heart disease are two widespread and serious health conditions.

Dr. Prem Subramaniyan, cardiologist, explained, “What many people don’t know is that each can affect the other. Specifically, a significant percentage of people with no history of depression develop the condition after being diagnosed with heart disease or having a heart attack, and people who have depression, but no known heart disease seem to have a higher risk of developing a heart condition.”

Heart Disease Can Cause or Worsen Depression

“Heart disease can have a significant negative impact on a person’s quality of life,” stated Dr. Subra. “If it progresses, it can require limitations on everything from how much a person can work, to what leisure activities they can pursue, to what meals they can eat.” As a result, people diagnosed with heart disease may start experiencing depression or worsening depression if the condition was already present. Suffering a heart attack can amplify their sense of helplessness and hopelessness, as they wrestle with:

- Uncertainty about the future

- Lack of confidence in their role as an employee, spouse, parent, friend, etc.

- Self-doubt and embarrassment over their diminished physical abilities

- Guilt and regret about past lifestyle choices that may have affected their health

- Concerns about dying and how their absence will affect their family

- In addition, some medications prescribed for heart conditions can exacerbate depression.

Depression Can Cause Heart Disease and Hinder Heart Attack Recovery

Not only can heart disease cause or worsen depression, but the opposite is true as well. For example, the stress associated with unmanaged depression can lead to high blood pressure and can also increase the risk of developing blood clots and having a heart attack. Changes in the nervous system can cause abnormal heart rhythms. Plus, in people who are recovering from a heart attack or cardiac surgery, depression can increase fatigue and intensify pain, both of which reduce the likelihood that they will stick to their rehabilitation plan.

Dr. Subra added, “Depression also increases the chances that a patient will engage in unhealthy habits like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, and lack of exercise. Depression frequently causes people to withdraw from their usual activities, as well, depriving them of the social support that’s an essential part of recovering from heart disease, a cardiac event, or surgery.”

A Two-Pronged Approach for Better Physical and Mental Health

The relationship between heart disease and depression is complicated, but one thing is clear: People suffering from either should take steps to address both. The good news is that improvements you make in your heart health can have a corresponding positive impact on your mental health, and vice versa.

Dr. Subra stressed, “Aadopting a healthier diet and getting more exercise will benefit your heart, and both of those actions can also improve your mood and overall sense of wellbeing. Likewise, taking steps to manage your depression can give you the energy to be more active, which lowers your risk of heart disease or a cardiac event like a heart attack.”

So, the heart disease-depression link doesn’t have to produce a bad outcome. It can actually be leveraged to increase the likelihood of positive changes to your overall health. And, of course, you shouldn’t wait to be diagnosed with either condition before taking action. Create a plan for improving your heart health and mental health today, and you can enjoy greater mind and body wellness going forward.

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