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Can Depression Increase the Risk of Heart Disease?


The demands of modern life have lead to an unhealthy lifestyle in most of us, and this deteriorates further when people are stressed, depressed, or anxious. But do you know that these unhealthy choices can ultimately take a toll on your heart?

There is a deep, bidirectional relationship between heart disease and depression.  Depression is an independent risk factor for cardiac issues in patients without known heart disease. Simultaneously patients with identified heart disease are at a higher risk of developing a diagnosis of depression. Upto 15% of patients with heart disease and 20% who have undergone bypass surgery experience depression.

Research consistently proves that your mental and emotional health has physiological effects on the heart and body.


How does depression affect the heart?


  • Unmanaged stress/ depression can lead to high blood pressure, arterial damage, irregular heart rhythms and a weakened immune system
  • Patients with depression have increased platelet reactivity, decreased heart variability and increased pro inflammatory markers, all risk factors for heart disease
  • Depression increases the risk of heart attacks and development of coronary artery disease
  • Depression slows recovery after cardiac surgery and increases morbidity and Mortality.
  • The American heart association recommends that all cardiac patients should be screened for depression


Tips for managing depression and stress


Consider the following key steps to manage depression and stress.

  • Identify and address Depression

It is absolutely normal to feel low or anxious on certain occasions or days. However, if this becomes persistent and pervasive, for more than two weeks, the possibility of depression should be considered and appropriate action taken , including seeking help from Mental health professionals. Depression can result from various factors, such as an amalgamation of genetic vulnerability, biological, environmental, and psychosocial elements.


Some symptoms of depression to be on the lookout for include:

  • Sadness of mood
  • Fatigue/ low energy levels leading to physical inactivity
  • Lack of interest
  • Disturbed sleep and appetite
  • Anxiety, irritability
  • Lack of pleasure in previously pleasurable activities
  • Overthinking, negative thinking
  • Low self confidence and Motivation
  • Physical symptoms such as aches and pains
  • Poor attention concentration and memory functions


 For those Manifesting symptoms, evaluation is highly recommended and psychotherapy with or without medication helps treat depression.


  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle

Going on a walk for 40 minutes a day, up to 300 minutes a week will benefit heart health. Half of the walk needs to be vigorous. Regular physical activity also improve your mood, is a big stress buster and eventually aids your mental and emotional well-being.


Daily practice of yoga and exercise helps in maintaining heart health. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises and meditation are also ingredients of a good lifestyle. They help control the wandering mind. Adequate sleep, 7 to 8 hours a day is necessary.


  • Pay attention to your diet

Switch to healthy and balancing diet options. Understand the concept of a balanced diet.  Adopt healthier cooking techniques and ingredients to cut down on fat, sugar, salt, and calories. Consume healthy evening snacks, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Remember to ‘eat the rainbow ‘, fruits and vegetables of different colours, and avoid HFSS foods (high fat, salt and sugar).


  • Find time for positive addictions. These include exercise, music and dance, creative arts, gardening, reading, cooking, to name a few. Pickup your hobbies again and spend sometime every day on this. These are effective Stress buster.
  • Avoid smoking alcohol and other drugs of abuse. Contrary to popular belief, drugs of abuse lead to anxiety, sadness and host of other mental and physical problems such a heart attacks, stroke and many other ailments. Seek help of mental health professionals for quitting. There are a host of Medications and therapy available to help individuals quit.
  • Social connectedness. This is one of the most effective stress busters and a recipe for wellbeing. This becomes more effective with meaningful communication Prioritize talking to, meeting and connecting with people.
  • Optimism and positive thinking.

Optimistic people are healthier, have lesser illnesses, they are happier and more productive and successful. Furthermore, optimism is now know to increase our lifespan. The mind can be gradually trained to adopt optimistic and healthy thinking patterns.

  • Be in the present moment. Our stresses and worries often come from the past or worrying related to the future. We never seem to understand the value of the present moment, that’s all we have. Happiness lies only in the present. So make a conscious effort to be more present moment focused. This will help reduce stress and enhance mood.
  • Focus on small steps

It is not possible to expect overnight changes in your health and lifestyle. Adopt one habit at a time and continue it with determination and perseverance.


The bottom line


Depression and heart disease are among the most restricting lifestyle conditions that the present generation is facing. Nothing is more important than your mental and physical health. Always keep them on priority and handle them with proper medication and assistance. Treating depression is as essential as treating any other medical condition or disease. Depression and anxiety should be addressed as soon as possible to avoid further risk of heart disease.


Appropriate medical assistance from an expert can help improve the overall health and decrease the risk of heart disease. If you have experienced any of the above symptoms of depression, you can consult a mental health expert at Medanta.


Dr. Saurabh Mehrotra
Meet The Doctor
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