New Delhi: While a lot has been spoken and written about depression and its impact on mental health, the repercussions of chronic depression on the human body and physical health are often overlooked.
Do you know that longstanding depression can also predispose you to greater risk of cardiovascular disease?
Chronic depression doesn’t just have mental implications; it can also cause serious physical health complications. And one of the possible risk people with depression face is that of heart disease.
Dr Anil Dhall, director, Cardiovascular Sciences, Venkateshwar Hospital, Dwarka says that the relationship between depression and heart disease is complex but existent nevertheless. It is imperative that heart patients are examined in a holistic way and treated comprehensively if found to have depression.
“Though we do not have a clear answer to why depression causes heart disease, a number of studies have pointed to a two-way link between depression and heart disease. While people with depression have been found to run a higher risk of suffering from heart attack, patients who happen to suffer from a heart attack also tend to turn depressive. Research suggests that people with depression may have unusually sticky platelets, the cells responsible for the blood’s clotting mechanism. This may lead to or accelerate atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries that causes heart attack,” said Dr Dhall.
Not only is a patient who suffers from heart disease, especially Heart Failure or Intractable Angina, likely to get depressed; Depression itself can be a modifiable risk factor for heart disease.
“Another connection is that of depression triggering stress hormones that in turn induce inflammation and buildup of plaque in the arteries. In fact, the more severe the depression, the greater the risk of heart attack and heart failure,” he added.
At the same time, it has also been observed that heart disease patients who have depression tend to have a more serious level of disease or more difficult time with it as compared to patients who are not depressed. The presence of depression therefore can also exacerbate disease in patients with heart ailments.
Patients with depression tend to have risk factors for coronary artery disease such as unfavorable blood pressure levels, inflammation and high stress hormones. At the same time, depressed people tend to ignore their health and have poor lifestyles that may include high levels of smoking and drinking, unhealthy eating habits, lack of physical activity.
There is a condition actually called ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’ or ‘Tako-tsubo Cardiomyopathy’ (From a Japanese word for Octopus-trap which the heart shape resembles). In this condition, there is a sudden temporary weakening of the heart muscle. This weakening may be triggered by emotional stress, such as the death of a loved one, a break-up, or constant anxiety apart from other medical conditions.
A study conducted in the US found that people with coronary heart disease who are diagnosed with depression are about twice as likely to die compared with those who are not diagnosed with depression.
“All these observations tell us that people with heart disease must not only be treated for their physical conditions but also regularly checked for depression. If found to be depressed, they must be given adequate treatment and continued follow-up,” explained Dr Dhall.
If you have depression, make sure to seek medical help to address the condition. Depression is a disorder that can be reliably diagnosed and treated. Specialist care is needed for a small proportion of individuals with complicated depression or those who do not respond to first-line treatments.
At the same time, if you have a family member or friend suffering from depression make sure he/she received the required medical attention.