By guest writer Traci Patterson
Depression could be breaking your heart. Two of the most common chronic illnesses suffered by both men and women are heart disease and depression.
Research estimates that more than 25 million people in the United States live with heart disease and more than 31 million Americans have had at least one episode of major depression during their lives.
Surprisingly, most people do not realize that these conditions are closely linked, so Mental Health America Of Greater Houston wants you to join the fight for healthy hearts and healthy minds.
Depression not only affects your brain; it affects your entire body – including your heart. According to National Institute Of Mental Health, the past two decades have shown that people suffering heart disease are more likely to suffer from depression than people without the condition.
The institute says people with depression are at greater risk of developing heart disease and the risk of death after a heart attack is greater for people with heart disease who are depressed than for those who are not depressed.
About one in three people who have survived a heart attack will have at least one episode of major depression, according to the institute.
Some studies show that people with heart disease are more likely to suffer from depression than otherwise healthy people. While researchers are unsure exactly why this is so, they do know that heart attacks are closely linked with depression and that some symptoms of depression might reduce your overall physical and mental health, increasing your risk for heart disease or making symptoms of heart disease worse.
Fatigue or feelings of worthlessness can cause a person to ignore their medication plan and avoid treatment for heart disease. Depression increases a person’s risk of death after a heart attack.
Symptoms of depression can include continuing sadness, anxiety or empty feelings, feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness or helplessness, irritability or restlessness, difficulty concentrating, remembering details or making decisions, thoughts of death and suicide attempts.
Symptoms of heart disease can include chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea and extreme fatigue, pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels in those parts of your body and pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back.
While each person experiences symptoms of depression and heart disease differently, Mental Health America Of Greater Houston suggests that depression is a brain disorder that is manageable along with treatment for co-occurring illnesses like heart disease.
As an advocate for overall patient health, the organization suggests that patients consider and request an integrated healthcare plan to treat depression that co-occurs with heart disease.
This coordinated care is managed by a mental-health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or clinical social worker who stays in close communication with the patient’s physician and heart-disease care team.
Integrated healthcare has been shown as an effective course of treatment to improve both illnesses and Mental Health America Of Greater Houston encourages it no matter how advanced a patient’s heart disease.
No one has to suffer from depression; however, it’s important to remember that recovery from the disease takes time. Don’t let it break your heart.
If you or someone you know is living with heart disease and possibly depression, talk to a primary-care or mental-health professional before it’s too late.
Traci Patterson is director of communications for Mental Health America’s Greater Houston branch.