February is American Heart Month. People with heart disease are at a higher risk for depression. In fact, up to 33 percent of heart attack patients end up developing some degree of depression – three times the rate compared to the general population.
How are depression and heart disease linked? People with heart disease are more likely to suffer from depression than otherwise healthy people. Angina and heart attacks are closely linked with depression. Researchers are unsure exactly why this occurs. They do know that some symptoms of depression may reduce a person’s overall physical and mental health, increasing the risk for heart disease or making symptoms of heart disease worse. Fatigue or feelings of worthlessness may cause a person to ignore their medication plan and avoid treatment for heart disease. Having depression increases the risk of death after a heart attack.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression? Not everyone will experience the same symptoms of depression, but symptoms may include:
• Ongoing sad, anxious, or empty feelings
• Feeling hopeless
• Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
• Feeling irritable or restless
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once enjoyable, including sex
• Feeling tired all the time
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
• Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, a condition called insomnia, or sleeping all the time
• Overeating or loss of appetite
• Thoughts of death and suicide or suicide attempts
• Ongoing aches and pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease with treatment
Treating depression can help a person manage their heart disease and improve their overall health. Common treatments for depression are psychotherapy, medication, or combination of both.
Visit the National Institute of Mental Health website for more information on depression and heart disease.
To take a free, anonymous mental health self-assessment that screens for depression and other common mental health conditions visit our online screening.