Heart Disease and Depression Doubles Risk of Heart Failure

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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According to a new study, depression combined with heart disease is an important risk factor for developing heart failure. The study is the first to show that heart disease and depression doubles the risk of heart failure, a condition that causes the heart to pump ineffectively. Heart failure leads to swelling, fatigue, shortness of breath and decreased quality of life.

Heidi May, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., epidemiologist, Intermountain Medical Center, Murray, Utah says, anti-depressant are not shown to help patients with heart disease and depression. “This finding may indicate that antidepressants may not be able to alter the physical or behavioral risks associated with depression and heart failure, despite a potential improvement in depressive symptoms."

The combination of heart disease, depression, and heart failure puts a significant burden on patients and the healthcare system, making the findings an important area of concern.

Dr. May suggests careful screening for heart failure among patients with heart disease and depression, even when symptoms of depression improve. "Patients need to be carefully screened for depression so that interventions that alter some of the risk associated with depression can be used and the related risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular events can be diminished."

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The reasons for the association between heart disease, depression, and heart failure might be related to unhealthy behaviors. Other risk factors seen among patients with heart failure include smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and non- compliance with taking medications and follow-up with physicians.

Depression is also common after a heart attack. The current study examined 14,000 individuals who had no signs of depression or heart failure at the time of diagnosis of heart disease. Subsequent follow-up showed that heart failure developed in 1,377 patients who were also diagnosed with depression, or 3.6 percent per one hundred patients.

The study results are important. Heart failure is one of the leading causes of hospitalization and re-hospitalization, especially among elders. The American Heart Association says the cost of treating heart failure amounts to $35 billion annually. Depression and heart disease combined is now shown to double the risk of heart failure.

Modifying unhealthy behaviors associated with depression could decrease mortality and reduce the risk of heart failure seen among patients with heart disease. According to Dr. May, more studies are needed to explore the association between depression and heart failure.

Journal of the American College of Cardiology

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