Hopelessness and the Heart Attack: The Role of Depression in Heart Disease
“Everybody obviously has a mood dip after a heart attack,” says Laura Kubzansky, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor of society, human development, and health at Harvard University. But in studies, she says, heart attack victims diagnosed withdepression fared significantly worse than heart attack victims without signs of depression. Interestingly, these studies suggest that many of these depressed patients were never depressed or treated for depression before they had heart attacks.
Several studies, says Kubzansky, have tracked heart attack patients for many months after they left the hospital. The studies found that the patients with diagnosable depression suffered more heart complications including death.
In the United States, heart disease is the number one killer of men and women. To help determine who may need more aggressive treatment after a heart attack, doctors assess each patient’s risk factors. Most known risk factors center around complications of the heart itself or predisposing traits, like high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure. Interest in the role of depression and mental health, however, opens up another avenue in the fight against heart disease and its complications. In light of findings of depression as a risk factor, many doctors now recommend that all heart attack patients be screened for depression.
Last reviewedMay 2012by Peter J. Lucas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.