February 26, 2024

Can Depression Cause Heart Attacks?

Modern science does not know why individuals who suffer from depression are more likely to have a heart attack.  Doctors know that the two events are related, but it is not clear if heart attacks cause depression or if depression causes heart attacks. Links between heart attack and depressive disorders were first discovered toward the end of the 1980s.

Lifestyle Factors

Doctors and scientists speculate that one of the reasons why the two events are linked is because of underlying lifestyle factors.  Individuals who have a heart attack or depression are more likely to drink excessively, smoke and be under mental stress.  These individuals are less likely to exercise or take heart medication if they have a heart problem.  The mental strain produced by depression can case plaque to form on the arteries.  Depression also increases the amount of free radicals in the body and can damage blood vessels.

Statistically, the people who are most likely to develop depression are over the age of 65.  This group of people is also at the most risk of having a heart attack and is more likely to live alone.  Studies show that people who live alone or lack a social network are more likely to be depressed and less likely to have a healthy lifestyle.  What makes the matter worse is that older individuals are less likely to seek treatment for depression than the rest of the population.  Currently, scientists believe that depression can be more of a factor in developing heart problems than cholesterol or blood pressure levels.

A Chain Reaction

People who have developed depression are more likely to suffer from inflammation in their blood vessels and heart.  This inflammation can raise the amount of collagen in the body and stiffen the heart.  As this proves happens, patients with depression may develop fibrosis.  Fibrosis stops the heart from pumping the way it should and can lead to a heart attack if left untreated.

Making the Connection

Science has shown that depressed individuals experience higher levels of stress and anxiety.  These factors can result in a rise in insulin levels and create high cholesterol.  Individuals with depression often have difficulty sleeping or eating healthy food.  When all of these factors combine, it makes the body ripe for a heart attack.  Overall, someone with depression is more likely to have heart problems.  An individual who has already had a heart attack is also far more likely statistically to develop depression.  To stop this process, individuals with depression should seek treatment and try to live a healthy lifestyle.  Depression is completely treatable and the damage on the heart can be reversed if proper medical care is sought.


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