In April 2018, presented at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions showed a link between heart disease and depression. In fact, around one-fifth of all heart patients also suffer from depression. According to one of the studies, depression increases the risk of abnormal heart rate by one-third. The other study suggests that people who have both depression and heart disease are twice as likely to die prematurely as those who suffer from cardiovascular disease alone. This is true of depressed patients who have been diagnosed with depression, as well as those who have not.
Depression and Cardiovascular Disease Are Often Entangled
Dr. Victor Okunrintemi, the lead author of the studies and research fellow at Baptist Health South Florida in Coral Gables, Florida, says that doctors still do not know which of the two diseases come first. However, the consensus is that depression is a marker for cardiovascular disease. In other words, a person who has heart disease has a higher chance of also having depression, when compared to the population.
The Links Between Depression and Cardiovascular Disease
In one study, researchers divided participants who had cardiovascular disease into two groups: those who had a diagnosis of depression and those who did not. Both groups were evaluated, based on resources, healthcare expenses, and patient experiences. They came to the following conclusions:
- Patients who had a higher risk of depression also spent more on out-of-pocket and overall healthcare than those with lower risks of depression.
- Patients who had a higher risk of depression were twice as likely to use the emergency room or spend time in the hospital than lower-risk patients.
- Patients who had a higher risk of depression were five times more likely to perceive their health status negatively and almost four times more likely to be dissatisfied with the healthcare they received.
- Patients who had a high risk of depression also had a considerably worse quality of life relating to their healthcare.
According to Dr. Okunrintemi, patients’ negative attitudes toward healthcare could stem from the fact that their depression had not yet been diagnosed and treated.
Depression Increases Time in Hospital for Cardiovascular Patients
The other study compared the use of health resources among cardiovascular patients who were depressed with those who were not depressed. Dr. Okunrintemi and his team discovered that heart attack patients who had been diagnosed with depression were over 50 percent more likely to spend time in the hospital and over 40 percent more likely to visit emergency rooms than those who had not been diagnosed with depression. In addition to time spent in the hospital, heart attack patients who had depression spent over $4,000 more on healthcare than their counterparts who had not received a depression diagnosis.
Stroke Patients with Depression Report Declining Health During Recovery
A third study, conducted by a separate group of researchers, found that stroke patients who had been diagnosed with depression before they had a stroke were more likely than those without depression to suffer from declining health during their recovery. The study consisted of 1,600 participants of similar status after they were released from the hospital. Among the patients, those who had been diagnosed with depression before they had a stroke were over 50% more likely to report declining health and negative stroke-related effects after their release.
As a result, researchers recommend the strategic management of depression in heart patients to prove the quality of life during their recovery.
- Okunrintemi V, et al. Presentation 240. Presented at: American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions; April 6-7, 2018; Arlington, Va.
- Okunrintemi V, et al. Presentation 241. Presented at: American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions; April 6-7, 2018; Arlington, Va.
- Shah S, et al. Presentation 17. Presented at: American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions; April 6-7, 2018; Arlington, Va.