We all know that stress is one of the biggest risk factors of heart disease.
Less known is that depression can also be a key factor.
The link between depression and heart disease.
Research indicates that one in five women will suffer from depression during their lifetime, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
As well as being an independent risk factor, it’s also linked to conventional risk factors such as unhealthy lifestyles – if you’re depressed, there’s a greater chance you won’t look after yourself, exercise or eat well.
Depression also affects the rate of recovery from CVD if the patient isn’t proactive about their health in general and particularly their heart health.
Social risk factors
The lack of a social support network can also contribute to a greater risk of CVD.
Research suggests that feeling isolated from friends, family and society in general has a very real negative impact on your physical health by increasing stress levels.
Traumatic life events, such as grieving a loved one or losing your home in a bushfire, can also place you in extreme emotional stress which can manifest physically.
While social risk factors are lower in healthy people, those who were already at risk of heart disease and lived alone faced a greater mortality rate from CVD.
The risk is even greater for socially isolated people who have already suffered a heart attack.
It’s not all bad news though, heart attack patients with depression or low social support who undertook the Enhancing Recovery in Coronary Heart Disease Patients (ENRICHD) trial and received counselling did better than those who didn’t have additional support.
According to the Heart Research Centre, this is when depression manifests after the emotional roller coaster of experience some sort of heart event, such as a heart attack or major heart surgery.
One in five people will develop depression after a major cardiac event, which shows that CVD is an emotional disease rather than just a physical one.
Symptoms can include crying easily, loss of temper, sleep issues, low libido, loss of appetite and anxiety.
A cardiac rehabilitation program can help, but if the symptoms don’t subside it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or get a referral to see a psychologist.
MJA – Psychosocial risk factors for coronary heart disease – https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2013/199/3/psychosocial-risk-factors-coronary-heart-disease