Is Your Heart in It?
Ignoring depression might double your risk for a heart
IF YOU'RE WORRIED about having a heart
attack, you might want to take note of where your head is at. Your
psychological well-being, particularly having depression, and the
health of your heart have been shown to be linked. In 2011, a
Concordia University-led study revealed that individuals who suffer
from a mood disorder may be twice as likely to have a heart attack
compared with individuals who are not depressed.
"You can draw an arrow from one to the other, and back again,"
says Marc Gillinov, M.D., a cardiac surgeon and co-author of Heart
411. A combination of factors contributes to this mind-heart
relationship, Dr. Gillinov says. "Those with depression have an
increased risk for inflammation and releasing the stress hormone
cortisol, are less likely to exercise and are less likely to follow
a heart-healthy diet and pay attention to contributing symptoms,
such as shortness of breath." In addition, he adds, they often are
more likely to smoke and may not take their recommended heart
Depression may follow a heart attack, but the heightened
emotional state after one isn't necessarily
due to a damaged ticker. "It's a question of which came first, the
chicken or the egg," Dr. Gillinov says. Therefore, it's important
for patients and family members to recognize the signs of
depression as part of a hearthealthy regimen. "People tend to tune
in to the obvious risks for cardiac disease by watching their diet
and monitoring blood pressure, but you have to take note of
health to minimize risk, too," he adds.
You can evaluate yourself for depression using two simple
questions from the American Heart Association:
- During the past month, have you frequently felt down, depressed
- During the past month, have you felt little interest or
pleasure in doing things?
If the answer is "yes" to both questions, seek an evaluation
from a mental health professional. It could strengthen your mind
and your heart. -By Sally Clasen