Can depression put your heart at risk?

By The Health News Team | February 20, 2019
Can depression put your heart at risk?

It makes sense that your mental health may be affected when you experience heart disease. It is easy to feel down or discouraged when facing a serious diagnosis and managing changes to your lifestyle to include medication, exercise and diet adjustments.

In fact, symptoms of depression are roughly three times more common in patients after an acute heart attack than in physically healthy individuals.

Being depressed can also put your heart at risk, says Dr. Christina Huang, a licensed clinical health psychologist with Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. “It is important to remember that the relationship between your health — especially heart health — and depression is a two-way street.”

Can depression cause heart disease?
Negative lifestyle habits associated with depression — such as smoking, excessive drinking, lack of exercise, poor diet and lack of social support — increase your risk of heart disease and pose a threat to treatment.

“Unmanaged stress can lead to high blood pressure, arterial damage, irregular heart rhythms and a weakened immune system, which research has recently provided evidence that is directly connected with mental health,” says Dr. Huang.

Can heart disease cause depression?
“For those with heart disease, depression can increase the risk of a cardiac event, such as a heart attack or blood clot, as depression impedes important lifestyle habits that are essential to recovery from depression,” she says.

According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the continued presence of depression after recovery from a heart attack increased the risk of death to 17 percent within six months, while the risk among patients without depression was 3 percent.

In fact, the connection between depression and cardiac disease has led to the American Heart Association recommending that all cardiac patients be screened for depression.

Help for those at risk
The important takeaway from this connection is to be mindful of any mood changes after a cardiac event or stroke. Warning signs include:

  • Lack of interest or enthusiasm

  • Feelings of helplessness

  • Increased dependency

  • Changes in sleep or appetite

“When sadness turns from something temporary to a daily feeling that prevents you from leading a normal life, it is time to seek help,” says Dr. Huang.

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, Sharp Mesa Vista can help. Call 858-836-8434 to learn more.

Christina Huang

Dr. Christina Huang


Dr. Christina Huang is a clinical health psychologist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital in COG-IOP, a program that specializes in treating severe mood and personality disorders. She is also a Sharp Health News contributor.

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