Depression and Heart Disease


Not only does depression affect your mood and your behavior, but the body can become afflicted too. Depression and heart disease is just one example of numerous health problems, that have been linked to depression. It’s very difficult to deal with any health problem, but having more than one makes it even more important to seek specialist treatment.

Major Depressive Disorder

Depression, or major depression, is a very serious disorder that can interfere with daily functioning and reduce overall quality of life. It is estimated that approximately 6.7 percent of U.S. adults have a depressive disorder diagnosis.

Signs and Symptoms

The following are common signs and symptoms of depression.  If you experience any of the below, you should consider contacting a mental health professional to discuss treatment options.

  • Ongoing feelings of emptiness, sadness or anxiety
  • Helplessness or hopelessness
  • Irritability and/or restlessness
  • Excessive fatigue, lack of energy
  • Difficulty with concentration, decision-making, or memory
  • Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep), or sleeping too much
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Appetite disturbance, including loss of appetite or overeating
  • Activities or hobbies once enjoyable are no longer gratifying
  • Suicidal thoughts, attempts, or thinking about death

Too often people with depression and heart disease think their depressive symptoms are really due to their heart problems.  For example, fatigue, loss of energy, loss of appetite and loss of interest in things one used to enjoy are mistakenly thought to be the result of a heart attack or surgery, when in fact these are signs of depression.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is a general diagnoses which includes a variety of illnesses that affect the heart and surrounding blood vessels. The muscles of the heart pump blood throughout your entire body. Like all other muscles in your body, your heart needs a consistent supply of oxygen and nutrients, which it receives from the blood that is pumped from other parts of your body, such as the lungs. This nutrient and oxygen rich blood is carried to the heart by the blood vessels.

Pain in the chest, or angina, may be signals if you do not receive enough blood to your heart. This pain may also be present in the left arm and shoulder, neck, and/or jaw as well; however, this pain does not always occur when your heart is not getting enough blood.

When blood supply to your heart is completely cut off, a myocardial infarction (heart attack) occurs. The part of your heart that didn’t receive the oxygen and nutrient rich blood will begin to die (infarct) if blood flow isn’t restored quickly. Even though some parts of the heart muscle may be permanently damaged, fast treatment can save your life, but limit the harm to the rest of your heart.

The Link Between Depression and Heart Disease

It’s been shown that people with a diagnosis of heart disease, especially specific diagnoses like angina and previous heart attack, are more likely to suffer from depression than people who are otherwise healthy.  Untreated symptoms of depression reduce one’s overall mental and physical health, making increasing the risk for heart disease making existing heart disease worse. It has also been found that the risk of death after a heart attack increases in those who suffer from depression.  Symptoms of depression like fatigue and feelings of worthlessness may cause a patient to ignore their heart medication and avoid evaluation or treatment of heart disease.

Treatment of Depression and Heart Disease

Your doctor can diagnose and treat depression, which not only improves your overall health, but helps you manage your heart disease. It will take time, but treatments for depression are highly effective.

The most common treatments for depression include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of talk therapy that helps one recognize and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be contributing to their depression.
  • Medicines such as SSRI’s and SNRI’s are usually well-tolerated and safe, but you should talk with your doctor about starting a medication, their side effects, drug interactions, and any other treatment options.
  • Medication should be combined with ongoing psychotherapy, as it has been proven that both are more effective than either alone.

However, if these first line treatments for depression are not effective, you may require a more intensive outpatient program for depression.  Because our treatment center relies on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods for depression.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and other mental health disorders.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of these disorders in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   It will be easier to follow a treatment plan for heart disease if your depressive symptoms are under control. You will be able to make the lifestyle changes needed in order to manage your heart disease, including:

• Exercising regularly

• Eating healthier

• Reducing alcohol intake

• Smoking cessation

• Following your heart disease treatment plan

Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan that can result in recovery.  Treatment for depression can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.