Understanding The Link Between Depression And Heart Disease
According to the American Heart Association, one in 10 Americans, age 18 and older, have depression. Symptoms of depression are about three times more common in patients after an acute heart attack than in the general population, which strongly suggests a link between depression and heart disease.
While being diagnosed with heart disease or having a heart attack may increase the risk of depression, depression itself may increase the chances of developing heart disease.
According to University of Iowa cardiologist Milena A. Gebska, M.D., Ph.D., a number of factors may explain why patients with depression are at a higher risk for heart disease.
There is a two-way relationship between heart disease and depression, Gebska says. On one hand, depression itself is an independent risk factor for adverse cardiac events in patients without known heart disease. On the other hand, patients with known heart disease, particularly those who develop a heart attack, are at increased risk of developing new diagnosis of depression.
Gebska says it is somewhat difficult to prove that heart disease directly leads to a patient’s first-ever episode of depression since many patients may have not been formally diagnosed with depression prior to the cardiac event.
“However, from a medical perspective, we can say with certainty that both depression and heart disease often coexist,” Gebska says.
Stomach Pain Or Uneasiness In The Abdomen
That sinking feeling in your stomach is one of the most recognizable signs of depression. However, when your abdomen starts to cramp, its easy to write it off as gas or menstrual pain.
Pain that worsens, especially when stress arises, may be a sign of depression. In fact, Harvard Medical School researchers suggest that stomach discomfort like cramps, bloating, and nausea may be a sign of poor mental health.
Whats the link? According to those Harvard researchers, depression can cause an inflamed digestive system, with pain thats easily mistaken for illnesses like inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome.
Doctors and scientists sometimes refer to the gut as the second brain, because they have found a connection between gut health and mental well-being. Our stomachs are full of good bacteria and if theres an imbalance of good bacteria, symptoms of anxiety and depression may arise.
Eating a balanced diet and taking probiotics can improve ones gut health, which may enhance mood, too, but further research is needed.
Digestive problems, like constipation and diarrhea can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. Often caused by food poisoning or gastrointestinal viruses, its easy to assume that gut discomfort stems from a physical illness.
But emotions like sadness, anxiety, and overwhelm can disrupt our digestive tracks. One 2011
How To Avoid A Heart Attack If You Have Depression
Individuals who are suffering from depression have enough on their plates without having to worry about heart attacks. Fortunately, having depression does not necessarily mean that you will suffer from a heart attack it all depends on the persons attitude. A positive outlook, attitude, and motivation can do a lot to decrease ones chances of developing heart disease. People suffering with depression need to concentrate on the importance of having a good attitude and a positive outlook towards the future. They need to convince themselves to take their medications faithfully, exercise, limit smoking and alcohol consumption, and live a healthy lifestyle.
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How Are Depression And Heart Disease Linked
To say one thing causes another, we first need to understand how the two things are linked, including which comes first.
Does depression lead to an event like a heart attack? Or are there early signs of heart disease which make people much more likely to have a heart event that lead to depression?
We know depression has physical effects on the body, some of which may harm the heart. Depression can increase inflammation, heart rate and blood pressure, all of which are involved in developing heart disease.
However, its also true people with early heart disease can feel physically lousy long before a life threatening heart event.
Half of people who survive a heart attack say they had heart disease symptoms leading up to it. The most common early signs were fatigue, shortness of breath and pains in the chest, arm, neck or back. If experienced for long periods of time these symptoms can leave a person feeling depressed.
Depression can also be linked to heart disease through behaviours and other chronic diseases. Smoking, not exercising enough, heavy drinking and poor diet, and chronic conditions like diabetes, are all more common in people with depression. These are all also factors involved in developing heart disease.
This is exactly what our study did.
Back Pain Or Aching Muscles All Over
You might feel okay in the morning, but once youre at work or sitting at a school desk, your back starts to hurt. It could be stress, or it could be depression. Although theyre often associated with bad posture or injuries, backaches can also be a symptom of psychological distress.
A 2017 research study of 1,013 Canadian university students found a direct association between depression and backaches.
Psychologists and psychiatrists have long believed emotional issues can cause chronic aches and pains, but the specifics are still being researched, such as the connection between depression and the bodys inflammatory response.
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Why Heart Disease Can Lead To Depression
If youâve been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, heart failure or another heart disease, life can change dramatically. You may need surgery, and be confined to bed for weeks. While you recover, you may be too weak to do the activities you love, such as golfing. Because of this, you might not see your friends as often.
In other words, the lifestyle changes brought about by a heart condition can lead to feelings of isolation and sadness. If you experience these feelings more often than not, you may have clinical depression.
In addition to the physical limitations, many who have had a heart attack or have been diagnosed with a life-threatening heart issue also report increased anxiety. It’s natural to worry about your health, and this concern is good when it causes you to make steps to improve health. But once youâve made changes, health anxiety no longer helps and can cause depression.
Diagnosis Of Depression In People With Heart Disease
Diagnosing depression in people with heart disease is not always easy, because symptoms of depression, such as tiredness and low energy levels, are shared with heart disease or can be side effects of medication used to treat heart conditions.Doctors can screen for depression using questionnaires or interviews that address the symptoms of depression. Screening for depression should occur during your first visit to your GP for coronary heart disease, and at your next follow-up visit. If you have a major heart event such as a heart attack it is recommended that you be screened at two to three months after that event, and then on a yearly basis.This type of screening will help to detect any depression early so you can have treatment and improve your mental and physical health.
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Identify The Cause Of Your Depression Stress Or Anxiety And Address It
Seek therapy if necessary.
At times you may feel down for a couple of days, but if it goes on for two weeks or more, you may need to seek help. Depression is a problem when it causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home.
The Role Of Genes In Anxiety Disorder
Just like a major heart attack, a burn is a horrible thing, says McCann. About 33% of patients who have really severe burns develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Which makes us wonder about the 66% who do not get PTSD. We think genes are a huge part of it. Were currently researching whether this same genetic vulnerability holds true for cardiac disease.
Johns Hopkins Women’s Cardiovascular Health Center
The Johns Hopkins Womens Cardiovascular Health Center provides education, comprehensive treatment and diagnostic services to prevent and manage heart disease in women.
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How To Avoid Depression If You Have Had A Heart Attack
Once again, the key to staying healthy and happy is a positive outlook on life. Individuals who have had a heart attack need to stay positive and try to prevent their thoughts from lingering on the heart attack. They need to try to stop worrying about their diminished physical capabilities, if they have any, and concentrate on what they are still able to do. They need to make plans and have dreams and live in the future and not the past. If this is difficult, there is another option. It is completely normal for people who have suffered a heart attack to seek psychiatric and medical help.
Depression and heart attacks are inter-related. Depression can cause a heart attack if the depressed person abandons a healthy lifestyle and stops caring about their health. Likewise, a heart attack can have such a negative impact on the persons health, lifestyle, and abilities that they can become depressed. However, being sick with one of these conditions does not mean suffering from the other! A healthy lifestyle and a positive outlook on life can help avoid heart disease, depression, and thousands of other conditions!
Can Depression Cause Heart Problems
Can Depression Cause Heart problems? Depression is one of the most widespread mental illnesses that mankind is faced with today. According to the DSM handbook of mental disorders by the American Psychiatric Association. Depression is a mood disorder marked by feelings of hopelessness and a lack of interest in daily activities.
How is Depression Different From Sadness?
Many usually confuse sadness with depression, although both are not the same. Sadness is just an emotion humans experience, whereas depression is a mental order that requires treatment.
What makes depression different from sadness is the fact that its symptoms usually persist for a long time. A depressed person, for instance, finds it arduous to even carry out the daily activities with interest. Thus, they are at a loss of energy and experience constant feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that bar them from functioning normally.
What are the Symptoms of Depression?
Since usually depression is mistaken for sadness, the DSM explains some of the symptoms of depression. Such that if persist for two weeks or more, can help lead to a diagnosis of clinical depression or major depressive disorder.
The symptoms include:
Does Depression Cause Heart Problems?
Impact of Depression
Depression may not directly be a cause of heart disease, but it certainly is a contributor due to the physical problems it gives rise to. Many studies have explored the relationship between depression and CVD and continue to do so.
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Heartache Can Create Heart Break
Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston have found another way mood can affect a persons physical health.
Using positron emission tomography scans and blood tests, the research team examined the differences in the brains of 28 women, 13 of whom had unmedicated depression. Those with depression had higher levels of IL-18 and showed higher levels of opioids, neurotransmitters that act to reduce the impact of stress on the body.
The women were first asked to think of something neutral. As they did, levels of IL-18 and opioids decreased.
Next, they were instructed to focus on a sad event in their lives. Both groups of women experienced increased opioids and IL-18.
These effects were observed during sadness in both groups, but were much greater in people with major depression as compared to non-depressed, otherwise healthy people, lead researcher Alan Prossin, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at John P. and Kathrine G. McGovern Medical School, said in a press release.
Interestingly, the level of IL-18 in depressed women increased after thinking about the sad event but not to the levels they had been before the experiment began. According to researchers, this suggests the neutral thoughts lowered IL-18 and that effect lingered even after they were asked to think of sad things.
These increased risks underscore the importance of getting help for depression.
What Can Be Done For People With Mental Health Disorders
Addressing mental health disorders early by providing access to appropriate services and support to increase healthy behaviors can reduce someones risk of experiencing a heart disease event.13,15,17,19,28,38-40
Below are some actions that health care systems, health care professionals, individuals, and researchers can take to promote heart disease prevention and support mental health.
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Eye Problems Or Decreasing Vision
Do you find that the world looks blurry? While depression may cause the world to look grey and bleak, one 2010 research study in Germany suggests that this mental health concern may actually affect ones eyesight.
In that study of 80 people, depressed individuals had difficulty seeing differences in black and white. Known by researchers as contrast perception, this might explain why depression can make the world look hazy.
Can Depression Cause Heart Disease Or Heart Attack
When you experience depression, anxiety or stress your heart rate and blood pressure rise, theres reduced blood flow to the heart and your body produces higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Over time, these effects can lead to heart disease. Depression and anxiety can also develop after cardiac events, including heart failure, stroke and heart attack.
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What Our Study Found
We used data from more than 150,000 people 45 years or older who had not already had a heart attack or stroke.
At the start of the study people reported their level of psychological distress, a commonly used measure of symptoms of depression and anxiety. We then followed them over five years to see how many developed heart disease.
People with the highest levels of psychological distress were 70% more likely to go on to have a heart event within the next few years than people with the lowest levels of psychological distress.
After taking smoking, exercise, alcohol, weight and diabetes into account, this dropped to just 40%.
When we excluded people with early signs of heart disease, there was little evidence psychological distress increased the risk of developing heart disease at all.
This suggests its more helpful to view depression as something that signals ahigher risk of heart disease, rather than as a direct cause of the disease.
This is in line with findings from other large-scale studies and robust trials. These have found treating depression does not reduce the risk of developing heart disease. If depression caused heart disease, we would have expected treating depression to have reduced the chance of developing heart disease.
How Are Heart Disease And Mental Health Related
- Tobacco Use: A 2016 survey found that 32% of adults with a mental illness reported current use of tobacco compared to 23% of adults with no mental illness. Tobacco use is a major risk factor for developing heart disease.
- Stress: Stress hormones like cortisol increase the risk of heart problems and are thought to be related to a number of mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Unmanaged stress can lead to high blood pressure, arterial damage, irregular heart rhythms and a weakened immune system.
- People with depression and no history of heart disease develop heart disease at higher rate than the general population. For example, someone with depression may be less likely to have healthy eating and exercise habits and more likely to abuse alcohol all of which put you at greater risk for heart disease.
- Those who already have heart disease, especially those who have suffered a heart attack, are at greater risk of being diagnosed with depression. For example, someone with no history of depression might start to show symptoms after the trauma of a heart attack while dealing with the pressures of recovery and fear of it happening again.
When a person has both heart disease and depression, the long-term outlook for both conditions can worsen so it is important to continue your mental health care during and after cardiac recovery.
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Treatment For Depression In People With Heart Disease
Depression is treatable, so it is important to ask for help early if you think you have symptoms of depression or anxiety.An important step is to ask your doctor or cardiac rehabilitation team for help. They can screen for depression and then recommend treatment that suits you and your situation. Support for people with depression and heart disease can include:
- care from a team of healthcare professionals working in collaboration
- exercise ask your doctor for advice about physical activities that are suitable for you
- psychological therapy that focuses on building skills to deal with your life stresses and to change negative thinking patterns
- antidepressant medication depending on what other medication you are taking.
It can take up to six weeks to feel better after starting antidepressant medication, but most people will notice an improvement sooner. Treating your depression will also make it easier for you to make some of the lifestyle changes that are important for your health or recovery.Depending on your abilities, lifestyle changes to improve your physical and mental health may include:
- exercising regularly