One out of every four deaths in the United States can be attributed to heart disease. Heart disease is so common, in fact, it’s safe to say the condition can be coincidentally present in people with other health disorders. But when it comes to depression, the pairing may be more than just coincidence.
We’re learning that depression and heart disease may be inexorably linked. It turns out that a large number of heart patients have depression, which can make it difficult for them to recover from cardiac episodes. This is because depression causes hormonal and physiological changes that can increase cardiovascular risks. People with depression also find it more difficult to stick to cardiac treatment plans, which leaves them vulnerable to a second episode.
Is There a Link Between Depression and Heart Disease?
What is the Connection Between Depression and Heart Disease?
As many as 25 percent of cardiac patients have depression, and adults with depression are more prone to heart disease, says the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. While the exact correlation between the two diseases is unclear, doctors believe it is a two-way street.
People with no history of depression often develop the condition after having a cardiac episode. But also, those with a history of depression but no history of cardiac issues, seem to develop cardiac issues out of the blue.
It may be that people with heart trouble experience depression because they are uncertain about the future or they may not be able to do all that they once could. Or some may struggle with feelings of guilt and responsibility for their family members. Of course, there may also be hormonal and physiological factors at work, such as dropping estrogen and testosterone levels.
But regardless of individual cause, the link can seriously complicate matters for both heart patients and those with depression.
Why Depression Makes It Harder to Recover from Cardiac Episodes
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, having depression may make it more difficult for you to recover from cardiac episodes. In fact, depression can make heart issues deadly. There are three reasons why:
- Those who are depressed may be more likely to skip taking medications, and may find it more difficult to care for themselves overall. Poor food choices and exercise avoidance can also delay recovery.
- Depression causes changes in the nervous system and may also cause hormonal changes. Both of these can lead to arrhythmia — a condition which may be dangerous in individuals with a damaged heart.
- Untreated depression may cause blood platelets to stick together, which may increase the chances of having a heart attack.
Addressing Depression and Heart Disease Simultaneously
Just as there may be a link between depression and heart disease, there may also be some overlap in the treatment of the conditions as well. The following activities, perhaps advice given too often but which needs to be considered by us all, may help treat depression and heart disease simultaneously:
- If able, walk for at least 30 minutes per day
- Take all prescribed medication — on time, and completely
- Join a support group or seek counseling
- Eat healthy foods — by which we mean vegetables
- Get enough sleep or take steps to remedy poor sleep habits
- Reduce or manage stress
- Reduce body fat or maintain a healthy weight
For those who have both depression and heart disease, the steps to treat both conditions may help build a successful recovery. Fortunately, lifestyle changes that are largely within our control, can help us make headway on both fronts as taking steps to improve our physical health we may also improve our mental health.
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