Studies have shown that patients with heart disease are more likely to suffer from depression than those who are otherwise healthy. However, research continues to be conducted as to why this is the case. Perhaps unsurprisingly, depression often leads to weakened physical and mental health. A weakened mental and physical constitution may exacerbate the symptoms of heart disease. Additionally, a distressed or apathetic emotional state can affect the patient’s ability to properly follow through with treatment.
Those suffering from both depression and heart disease will be considerably more likely to display destructive behaviors. These habits can include poor diet and lack of exercise. The individual may be more likely to engage in alcohol or substance abuse as a means of alleviating feelings of depression. In turn, this harmful behavior worsens the experienced symptoms in the long-term. The effects of controlled substances may make proper diagnosis of the condition difficult. A dual diagnosis may be required for proper treatment.
Depression can make a patient susceptible to a hormonal imbalance and changes in the nervous system. Additionally, those who have already experienced a heart attack and continue to live in a depressed state have a greater chance of experiencing deadly heart rhythm irregularities. Depressed clients also are more likely to have unusually sticky platelets, a condition that can lead to blood clotting. This is naturally a concern for those with heart disease, as the chances of the arteries hardening will increase. Hardened arteries means greater odds of a heart attack.
Depression is also actually quite common after a person experiences a heart attack. Some may experience major depression at this time, while others may be prone to mild depression. Depression can lead the body to produce more stress hormones than usual. This increase in stress hormones causes additional problems, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate. Other dangers include unusual heart rhythms and injury to the inner lining of heart muscles. Hormones may also cause fatty plaques to accumulate in arteries.
Studies have shown, in terms of gender, women are especially susceptible to these dangers. This is because they are at greater risk for both depression and heart disease. Young women in particular have been shown to be more than twice as likely to experience a fatal heart attack or heart disease if they have moderate or major depression. The biological differences between men and women continue to be studied as to why this gender-based likelihood exists. Those who have strong personality traits, since as becoming angry or being especially sensitive to signs of anxiety can increase the chance of a heart attack.
When one suffers from depression, they are also at greater risk for factors that may eventually lead to heart disease. These include conditions such as insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and hypertension. Stress hormones may also cause the heart to work harder than necessary. While the relationship between depression and heart disease has been demonstrated, this does not necessarily hold true in other cases. For instance, no such link has sufficiently been shown between depression and the odds of having a stroke.
Thankfully, there are a number of treatment methods that help those suffering from heart disease and depression. For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy may prove to be effective in managing symptoms. The patient will learn to change patterns of thinking that frame situations in a negative light. Sufferers will also adopt new behaviors that will help provide a more positive outlook on life.
The client may also be prescribed a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI. These include medications such as Zoloft, Prozac and other antidepressants. Another option is a SSNI, or a serotonin or norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. These act in a comparable fashion to an SSRI and also provide relief from such symptoms. Examples of these include medications such as Cymbalta and Effexor.
By treating the signs of depression, the client will have a greater likelihood of being able to make life improvements to better manage heart disease. For instance, those with this condition should work exercise into their regular schedule and eat a healthy, balanced diet. If the patient smokes, he or she will need to stop, using a cessation program if necessary. Those who frequently consume alcohol will need to drink in moderation or stop drinking altogether. Surgery may be required along with additional heart medications. By taking a proactive approach to both of these emotional and physical ailments, sufferers can expect to live both a longer and happier life.
Contributed by Sovereign Health Writer, Ryan McMaster
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