Depression and Cardiovascular Disease – How Are They Linked?
Not in a good mood? Feeling sad for long periods of time and urging to reach for a bowl of ice-cream or that big bar of chocolate to help drown your sorrows? Indulging in comfort food may feel good when you are feeling low or depressed but eating an unhealthy diet on a regular basis can affect your heart health or may put you at risk of heart disease and heart attack both of which are types of cardiovascular diseases.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a group of disorders that affect the heart and blood vessels. CVDs are the number 1 cause of death globally: more people die each year from CVDs than from any other cause. Heart attacks and strokes are mainly caused by a blockage in the arteries that prevents blood from flowing to the heart or brain. The blockage happens in the arteries leading to a condition called Atherosclerosis which can lead to death.
Depression (also known as major depressive disorder (MDD) or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that can affect how one feels, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.
Depression can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Feeling depressed can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle such as smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, lack of physical activity and an unhealthy diet. People who are depressed not only smoke more often than those who are not, but they are also less likely to quit smoking. In a space of 24-hours, a depressed person can consume a higher amount of calories per day compared to a person who is not. Depression can cause deficiencies in vitamins such as vitamin D, B12 and folates. Often sufferers do not see the benefit of being active and are therefore reluctant to engage in physical activity such as gardening, walking and sports activities.
Seeking medical attention and taking medication can often be difficult for a depressed individual. A study found that depressed patients were less likely to take their medicines as prescribed or follow through on lifestyle changes recommended by their doctor or healthcare professional. Another study confirmed that depressed patients with cardiac problems received a lower quality of care than their non- depressed peers and the lack of adequate care contributed to a higher death risk.
Interestingly, being mentally unstable, neurotic or being an introvert are personality traits that have also been linked to depression and cardiovascular disease.
Genetics can also increase the likelihood of an individual with high risk genes developing both depression and cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and depression are common. Individuals with CVD have more depression than the general population they are more likely to eventually develop CVD which can be life-threatening. The more severe the depression, the more risk there is of getting other cardiovascular episodes which can lead to a higher risk of death. Patients with CVD who are also depressed, fare worse than those patients who are not. Depressed patients also tend have issues with taking their medicines as prescribed or sticking to a healthy lifestyle that may help manage their condition.
Suffering from both depression and cardiovascular disease can result in a vicious cycle because of the way the two diseases affect each other. However, often managing the depression can result in an improvement in quality of life for the patient. Therefore screening for depression is very important in helping patients with cardiovascular disease.