Depression & Heart Disease – The Link

We are mind, body, and Spirit. All three must be aligned in order for true health to be our state. In the USA alone anxiety and depression affect nearly 40 million people yearly. When you feel bad, emotionally it only makes sense that eventually your body may follow suit.

Depression can most certainly feel like a broken heart. The question is, Is it a possibility that depression could cause physical damage to the heart itself? Surprisingly, research has shown that it can. It can also work in the opposing direction. Sometimes heart disease can cause depression as well.

The Facts:

The leading cause of death in America is heart disease hitting 1 of every 3 people.

1/3 of all heart attack survivors will experience depression post heart attack.

Depression is the top disability claimed. It affects 1 in 20 adults at some point in their lifetime.

Those with a history of depression are 4x more likely to have a heart attack than those who have no history of depression.

Heart disease patients with depression are far more likely to die within 6 months than those without depression.

This is a highly complex issue

When you feel stress, the hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released and the sympathetic nervous system activates, initiating what is referred to as the “fight or flight” response. During a depressed state, it can result in chronically elevated levels, a situation that can have damaging effects on the heart muscle over time.

On the opposing side, depression has been known to take hold as a result of heart disease. During one study, nearly 50% of all patients a week following a major heart disease surgery showed beginning signs of clinical depression.


The relationship between heart disease and depression is still being studied, early results show that one plausible answer is that patients who have recently undergone major heart surgery tend to feel slow and sluggish, finding it difficult to get back into their regular routines. They just don’t feel like their old healthy selves. If their regular routines have been threatened by heart disease or they must change their lifestyles drastically in order to adjust to new health concerns, they will start to feel sad, depressed, and discouraged and many have been quoted as feeling like a shell of who they formerly were.

Treating Depression & Heart Disease is Tricky

Heart disease patients who have clinical depression often don’t receive the correct medical treatment that works on both issues. When depressed its often difficult for patients to remember to take care of themselves properly, and may forget to take their medications. They may also lack the energy to keep follow-up appointments which can set them further back.

Many cardiologists and primary care doctors don’t have the experience with patients with mental illness the way psychiatrists and psychologists do. Because of this, they may not be able to recognize when a patient is experiencing depression. It is because of this the symptoms may go overlooked.

There are still a lot of unknown factors when it comes to the relationship between depression and heart disease. For compassionate cardiologists who care about the overall health of their patients and not just medical issues addressed by them specifically, contact the Tampa Cardiovascular Associates by calling (813) 975-2800 today.

Our physicians are always here for you and are happy to address any concerns you have related to your heart health or to refer you to a qualified mental health specialist.

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