February 06, 2021

The Surprising Connection Between Depression and Heart Disease and Why It Should Matter to You

Depression and heart disease are two widespread and serious health conditions. What many people don’t know is that each may affect the other. 

Specifically, a significant percentage of people with no history of depression develop the condition after being diagnosed with heart disease or having a heart attack, and people who have depression, but no known heart disease seem to have a higher risk of developing a heart condition.

Heart Disease May Cause or Worsen Depression

Heart disease may have a significant negative impact on a person’s quality of life. If it progresses, it may require limitations on everything from how much a person can work, to what leisure activities they can pursue, to what meals they can eat. 

As a result, people diagnosed with heart disease may start experiencing depression or worsening depression if the condition was already present. And suffering a heart attack may amplify their sense of helplessness and hopelessness, as they wrestle with:

  • Uncertainty about the future
  • Lack of confidence in their role as an employee, spouse, parent, friend, etc.
  • Self-doubt and embarrassment over their diminished physical abilities
  • Guilt and regret about past lifestyle choices that may have affected their health
  • Concerns about dying and how their absence will affect their family

In addition, some medications prescribed for heart conditions may exacerbate depression. 

Depression May Cause Heart Disease and Hinder Heart Attack Recovery

Not only is it possible that heart disease can cause or worsen depression, but the opposite is true as well. For example, the stress associated with unmanaged depression may lead to high blood pressure and could also increase the risk of developing blood clots and having a heart attack. Changes in the nervous system may cause abnormal heart rhythms.  

Plus, in people who are recovering from a heart attack or cardiac surgery, depression may increase fatigue and intensify pain, both of which reduce the likelihood that they will stick to their rehabilitation plan. And depression increases the chances that a patient will engage in unhealthy habits like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, and lack of exercise. 

Depression frequently causes people to withdraw from their usual activities, as well, depriving them of the social support that’s an essential part of recovering from heart disease, a cardiac event, or surgery.

Concerned about your heart? Take Baptist Health’s Heart Risk Assessment today.

A Two-Pronged Approach for Better Physical and Mental Health

The relationship between heart disease and depression is complicated, but one thing is clear: People suffering from either should take steps to address both. 

The good news is that improvements you make in your heart health may have a corresponding positive impact on your mental health, and vice versa. For example, adopting a healthier diet and getting more exercise will benefit your heart, and both of those actions could also improve your mood and overall sense of wellbeing. Likewise, taking steps to manage your depression may give you the energy to be more active, which lowers your risk of heart disease or a cardiac event like a heart attack. 

So, the heart disease-depression link doesn’t have to produce a bad outcome. It may actually be leveraged to increase the likelihood of positive changes to your overall health. 

And, of course, you shouldn’t wait to be diagnosed with either condition before taking action. Create a plan for improving your heart health and mental health today, and you can enjoy greater mind and body wellness going forward. 

Learn More About Heart Care with Baptist Health

Learn more about Baptist Health Heart Care and the services we offer or take our free Heart Health Assessment today and find out if you’re at risk.

Next Steps and Useful Resources:

What’s the Difference Between a Stroke and a Heart Attack?
Are High Fat Foods Good for Your Heart?
Find a Heart Care Provider
Read More in the Patient Story Library

Learn More.