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Depression and Heart Disease – Are They Connected?

woman with face buried in hands

According to the Government of Canada, it is estimated that 11 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women in Canada will experience major depression at some point in their lives. Depression has major consequences and affects quality of life, relationships and often leads to missed work or school time. It also can lead to chronic diseases including diabetes and heart disease. Luckily, depression can be treated.

What is depression?
While most people will experience extreme sadness in their lives, depression is a clinical lonely girl sitting at the edge of a dockterm used to describe a period of more than two months where an individual feel worthless and hopeless – in extreme circumstances, suicidal. Like anxiety disorder, depression interferes with daily activities and the ability to be socially involved. Symptoms may start during childhood or the teen years and continue into adulthood.

What causes depression?
While there are many reasons why a person can suffer from depression, often there is a genetic link. When you include external factors such as the death or illness of a loved one, low self-esteem, financial difficulties and/or addictions, this can complicate and aggravate a person’s depressive state. Some even suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which affects them at the same time every year, usually in the winter when there is less natural light. For some women, post-partum depression can happen due to a sudden change in hormones after giving birth.

What are the Symptoms of Depression?

Different people will exhibit different symptoms, but these are some of the most common ones:


  • Feeling hopeless and in constant despair;
  • Loss of appetite and/or a change in sleep patterns;
  • Excessive sleeping;
  • Frequent crying;
  • Inability to concentrate;
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches;
  • Lack of energy;
  • Thoughts of suicide.

Are Depression and Heart Disease Connected?

Many people will develop depression after a heart attack or being diagnosed with heart sad looking man with head downwardsfailure, even with no history of depression. On the flip side, those already suffering from depression tend to develop heart disease at a higher rate than those without depression. While it is difficult to make a definitive link between depression and heart disease, it’s safe to say that those who have suffered heart attack or already living with heart disease are more likely to have feelings of sadness and despair, which can lead to depression.

How to Treat Depression

To encourage successful heart event recovery, John Hopkins Medicine recommends cardiac rehabilitation, social groups, and more specialized evaluation and treatment by psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychiatric social workers. The following also are essential to recovery after a heart-related episode:

Cardiac rehabilitation – You can find supervised forms of exercise in many clinical exercise centers around the country, including Johns Hopkins. Your closely monitored program may include an activity and nutrition plan specifically developed for heart attack recovery. Studies have shown that returning to normal activity and seeing the progress of other people recovering from a heart attack significantly improves mood and confidence.

Social support – It’s natural to withdraw and lose social confidence after a heart attack. But according to some studies, making an extra effort to re-engage and socialize with friends can help you return to the person you were before, which can be vital to heart attack recovery

More formal forms of support – Sometimes going back to a normal life after a heart attack requires the guidance of a psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychiatric social worker. Many milder forms of depression can be successfully treated by behavioral or “talk” therapy, either one-to-one or in a group of heart attack recovery patients. For some, depression symptoms may require antidepressant medication.

Often, when a depressed person suffers from a heart attack or is diagnosed with heart happy couple smilingdisease, they will fall into a sad state and forget to take important medications, which affects his/her ability to get better. As well, depression can impact the nervous system and hormonal balance, which can result in heart-related health issues.

It’s important to treat both depression and heart disease in order to lead a healthy life. Talk to your doctor if you’re struggling – they can help or refer you to someone that can treat depression effectively. This may be a combination of medication and behaviour therapy.