Frequent chest pain is common in depressed patients even in the absence of coronary artery disease. Lead researcher Dr. Salim Hayek explained, “Depression is a common and well-recognized risk factor for the development of heart disease. Patients with known heart disease and depression tend to experience chest pain more frequently. However, until now, it was not known whether that association was dependent on underlying coronary artery disease.”
The study looked at the association between depression and chest pain independent of an underlying coronary artery disease. The study looked at the data for 5,825 participants who completed a questionnaire and underwent a cardiac catheterization.
The researchers found that depression severity measured by the questionnaire was independently associated with chest pain frequency, indicating that the more severe the depression is, the greater the risk of chest pains. Patients with mild depression also experienced chest pain regardless of their depression symptoms.
Depression patients were three times more likely to experience chest pain, compared to those without depression.
Dr. Hayek added, “We found that depression is strongly associated with the frequency of chest pain in adults with and without underlying coronary artery disease, and that patients with depression and heart disease did not have an improvement in their chest pain frequency even after coronary intervention. One possible explanation for our findings is that pain and depression share a common neurochemical pathway.”
“Although depression is established as a risk factor for heart disease, there are no clear recommendations in the U.S. for depression screening in patients with cardiovascular disease. ESC [European Society of Cardiology] prevention guidelines recommend assessing patients for depression to prevent cardiovascular disease. Although our findings do not establish causality, they do suggest that depression is an important confounder of the relationship between chest pain and heart disease. Screening for depression in patients presenting with chest pain should be considered, and studies examining the effect of appropriate anti-depressive therapy on chest pain are needed,” he added.
Dr. Hayek concluded, “The fact that chest pain frequency at follow-up was decreased in patients whose depressive symptoms improved indicates that treating depression may help alleviate chest pain, after obstructive coronary artery disease as a cause of chest pain has been ruled out. This needs to be confirmed in randomized controlled trials.”
Aside from chest pains, depression symptoms can include feeling helpless or hopeless, loss of interest in daily activities or once favorite hobbies, changes in appetite or weight, changes in sleep, anger or irritability, loss of energy, self-loathing, reckless behavior, problems concentrating, and unexplained aches and pains.
Other physical symptoms which could be signs of depression include joint pain, migraines, digestive problems, and back pain. You may also find yourself more susceptible to illness such as colds and flu.
The problem with depression in seniors is that it is often overlooked, as symptoms can overlap with other ailments. Proper diagnosis is then necessary in order to begin treatment and reduce the risk of complications associated with depression.