In heart patients, keep an eye out for depression

Depression touches one in five people at some point in their lives. But individuals who suffer with a chronic disease are at even greater risk of developing depression. In particular, individuals with cardiovascular disease can experience rates of depression three times higher than the general population.

We know that depression influences quality of life, but it also affects how patients who are depressed manage their symptoms and whether or not they experience a decline in overall health. Patients with heart disease and depression are less likely to follow through on taking medication prescribed for their heart conditions. Early detection of depression in patients who exhibit symptoms of depression is critical to their recovery.

A study published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine found that the hospital readmission rates for patients older than 70 with depression and heart failure were 67 percent, compared with 44 percent for individuals in the same age range who suffered with heart failure but who were not depressed. Among this same age group, patients with depression were twice as likely to die as those who did not have depression.

In addition, patients with heart disease and depression may:

  • Experience increased pain, fatigue and sluggishness
  • Demonstrate the desire to isolate from friends and family
  • Have increased risk of heart attack or blood clot
  • Be prone to negative lifestyle habits, such as poor diet, smoking or drinking, and not exercising

If you have a patient with heart disease who you think is exhibiting symptoms of depression, we encourage you to reach out to them and develop a treatment plan together. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent sadness or empty feeling
  • Loss of interest in activities that once seemed interesting or pleasurable
  • Decreased energy
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping for longer-than-normal periods
  • Marked change in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating and with memory
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Excessive crying