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Recent studies show that chronic depression can increase one's risk for developing coronary heart disease and may lead to a heart attack. These studies suggest that treating depression may prevent heart disease and its complications.

Does too much sadness increase your risk for heart disease? Or, can depression lead to a heart attack? Although sadness is often associated with a broken heart in popular literature, the direct link between depression and development of coronary artery disease in people who were previously healthy has not been established until recently.

What is Depression?

Sadness is a common experience to all men and women. Everyone undergoes a feeling of depression after a major life problem or loss occurs. But most people are often able to recover from feelings of sadness, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and other symptoms within a few days or weeks. They are able to move on and go back to their normal activities in life, even if sad thoughts sometimes come back. On the other hand, some people experience deep sadness that may prevent them from leading a normal life. This may be a sign of depression.

When chronic depression interferes with one's ability to lead a normal life, mental experts refer to it as a major depressive disorder. This is a serious mental disorder that can reduce the quality of one's life. It affects about 6.7% of adults in the US and can cause other health problems.

When one experiences a depressed mood that persists for more than two weeks and his physical health and social life are affected, immediate treatment is necessary.

Treatment may come in various forms, but what is important is for the individual to get help to reduce his risk for other health problems such as heart disease.

Treat Depression and Prevent Heart Disease

Previous studies linking depression with heart disease have been inconsistent. Recently, however, two new studies have shown that symptoms of major depression may increase one's risk for coronary heart disease. Major depressive disorders may also increase the likelihood that one will suffer from a heart attack.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) occurs when the blood flow to the heart muscles is reduced due to narrowing of the blood vessels (coronary arteries) supplying the heart with oxygen and nutrients. There are many factors that can cause CHD including poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and other health conditions. Recently, the link between chronic depression and CHD has been supported by a study that involved more than 10,000 adults in London who were followed up for a span of 24 years. The participants were evaluated up to six times during this period for depressive symptoms using a health questionaire. They were also evaluated once using the Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. The results showed that participants who were screened positive for depression on more than two occasions were more likely to develop heart disease than those who were not chronically depressed. In addition, the researchers also found that depressed individuals also had a higher risk of suffering from a heart attack or from dying from after a heart attack.

Another study which involved 235 older patients who were clinically depressed showed that those who received antidepressants and psychotherapy had a lower risk for developing heart disease and dying from a heart attack or stroke than patients who received standard care.

These findings have led mental health experts to conclude that treating depression may prevent people from developing CHD and from suffering from a fatal or nonfatal heart attack.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Medpage Today. Treat Depression to Prevent CVD?
  • Brunner EJ, Shipley MJ, Britton AR, et al. Depressive disorder, coronary heart disease, and stroke: dose-response and reverse causation effects in the Whitehall II cohort study. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2014.
  • J. C. Stewart, A. J. Perkins, C. M. Callahan. Effect of Collaborative Care for Depression on Risk of Cardiovascular Events: Data From the IMPACT Randomized Controlled Trial. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2013
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  • Mindmap by
  • Photo courtesy of Johanna Hardell by Flickr :

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