Depression is a worldwide mental health issue, and one in seven Australians will experience depression in their lifetime. It has the third-highest burden on the healthcare of all health conditions in Australia and worldwide and is the number one cause of non-fatal disability in Australia. Depression is a complex health issue that impacts many areas of life and health – and researchers believe this includes your heart health, especially regarding heart disease.
The Impact of Depression on Heart Disease and Heart Disease Risks
Depression is not simply feeling down or having a bad day, it’s a chronic, long-term condition that affects the entire body as well as the brain.
- It is linked to low-grade inflammation – A contributing factor in arteries becoming clogged and the release of cholesterol plaques into the bloodstream, which can cause a stroke, heart attack, or sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).
- It causes low energy and motivation levels – This makes it more challenging to commit to a healthy lifestyle, especially in terms of diet and exercise, two of the most important factors in reducing risks and symptoms of heart disease as well as preventing heart attacks. People with depression are also more likely to have difficulty quitting smoking, avoiding excessive alcohol use, or avoiding drugs that may increase the risks of a cardiac emergency.
- It impacts healing and recovery – Patients with depression who have undergone bypass surgery, heart attack treatments, and other major cardiovascular procedures tend to heal much more slowly, struggle with stress and fatigue. This puts them at a higher risk of not making a full recovery and experiencing additional cardiac emergencies, including blood clots, heart attack, and SCA. Even more importantly, 20% of patients who undergo a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) procedure experience major depression, and this depression was found to cause an increased risk of mortality by 17% within 6 months, compared to just 3% in patients without depression.
Because it is a complex issue, it is difficult to say that depression causes heart disease or cardiac emergencies like SCA or heart attack. However, the research does show a clear connection between the two, making it a risk factor in developing heart disease and experiencing more severe symptoms of the condition.
Support for People With Depression is Essential to Heart Health
Mental illnesses like depression have slowly become less stigmatised in our society, and this work must continue to help bring awareness to the condition and to assist people in minimizing their heart health risks. Types of support that are available include:
- Psychotherapy, group therapy, support groups, and family support
- Use of SSRI medications
- Social support networks
- Cardiac rehabilitation for patients who have experienced cardiac emergencies and major surgery
- Developing a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, exercise, proper sleep, relaxation, and stress management techniques
As with every health condition, it is just as important to recognise the early signs of depression and get effective treatment as soon as possible to get the best outcomes. A professional assessment is critical to making sure that depression and other mental health disorders, as well as heart disease, are diagnosed and a proper treatment plan is developed.
From current research, it’s clear that depression and heart disease share a connection that’s important for you to know about, and that can help save lives. Here are some important mental health hotlines and resources for anyone currently suffering from depression, as well as those concerned about their loved ones.
Support Heart Health with an AED for Your Home, Workplace, or School
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