The severity of mental health issues, including depression, may have a connection to heart disease and stroke. A study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions examined the connection between depression and non-fatal heart diseases such as heart failure, coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, or stroke.
The study looked at U.S. adults aged 20 years and older by using questionnaires completed in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). During the study, more than 11,000 adults diagnosed with depression were identified, which represents 231 million adults in the general population. Of these patients identified, about 1,200 people said they had been diagnosed with heart disease or stroke.
The author of the study was Yosef M. Khan, national director of Health Informatics and Analytics for the American Heart Association in Dallas, Texas. He spoke about the research, saying, “Cardiovascular diseases are impacted by and related to a variety of aspects of health and well-being including mental health. We found that the level of depression was strongly tied to living with heart disease and stroke, even after accounting for other factors that could impact risk, including the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 and variables of age, income, education, sex and race/ethnicity.”
Levels of Depression
The research team found that the odds of non-fatal heart disease and stroke increased by 24 percent with each additional level increase of depression, whether mild, moderate, moderately severe, or severe.
“The implications of such an increase are vast,” Khan said. “By understanding the relationship and degree of impact we can properly identify, prevent, treat and create policies and strategies to help decrease cardiovascular diseases and improve lives by tackling mental health and heart disease together.”
Like depression, heart disease is common, so it’s not unusual to have both conditions together. Depression can heighten inflammation in the body, and chronic inflammation may lead to hardened blood vessels and plaque buildup in arteries, which can trigger a heart attack or stroke.
Depression is reported in an estimated 1 in 10 of Americans ages 18 and older. But just feeling down can lead to changes that can affect your health, and not just because you may fall into habits that are bad for your heart. This study helps to show how depression can actually increase the risk of many health problems depending on the severity. There are many lifestyle changes that may be able to reduce depression symptoms.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential, as insomnia can be one of the complications of depression and being well-rested can help to reduce stress. Another excellent remedy for reducing depression symptoms is getting regular exercise, and nothing is more important than eating healthy foods. Nutrition has been shown to be a key component in helping managing depression through well-balanced meals. By introducing these simple lifestyle changes, those who suffer from depression may find that symptoms can change and may lessen over time.