If you suffer from crippling depression, you are likely aware of many of the complications it can cause. From feelings of hopelessness to a change in your dietary and sleep patterns, the effects can be devastating. However, new research shows that crippling depression can have even more of a harmful impact than we once thought.

There is a growing belief among medical professionals that there is a strong negative connection between depression and heart health. If you have been diagnosed or believe that you suffer from crippling depression, you should allow a trusted medical professional to conduct tests on your heart. The sooner you do so, the better chance you have of catching heart disease before it’s too late.

Facts About Heart Disease

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The Mayo Clinic describes heart disease as “a range of conditions that affect your heart. Numerous issues fall under this umbrella. Typically, most of these complications rise about because of atherosclerosis, which is a condition that causes plaque to stick to and build upon the walls of the arteries. When this happens, it becomes more difficult for the heart to pump blood.

Examples of heart disease include, but are not limited to:

  • Blood vessel diseases, including coronary artery disease
  • Arrhythmia and other heart rhythm problems
  • Congenital heart defects and other similar heart defects that someone is born with
  • Heart attack
  • Congestive heart failure

Heart disease is a severe problem that impacts many throughout the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 600,00 people in the US die from heart disease annually. This means that, on average, heart disease is responsible for 25 percent of the deaths throughout the country. Additionally, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US.

Even if heart disease does not result in death, that does not mean that it won’t cause other long-term problems. For example, statistics also show that approximately 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year. About 70 percent of those who suffer a heart attack are first-time victims, while the other 30 percent suffer their second attack.

Facts about Depression

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As mental illnesses continue to become better understood by the scientific and research community, it’s becoming more and more evident what a severe problem it is. Scientists now believe that of those ages 18 or older, one out of every ten suffers from depression. Other studies show that on average, more than 16 million Americans experience at least one major depressive episode each year.

Additionally, there seems to be a direct link between depression and heart health. While ten percent of adults suffer from depression, that figure jumps to more than 30 percent in those who have suffered a heart attack. However, this is a “chicken or the egg” type of situation, in that it’s unclear if people suffer from depression because of their heart attacks, or vice versa. Realistically, it’s probably a mix of both.

Perhaps the most critical statistic is the fact that half of those who suffer from clinical depression do not receive treatment. Doing so could be in their best interest, as reports find that antidepressant medication could be useful in up to 60 percent of those who take them. Failure to treat depression could lead to a host of issues, generally encompassed in these broad categories:

  • Disruption of regular eating habits
  • Disruption of sleep patterns
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of energy
  • Issues surrounding your self-image
  • Suicidal thoughts

Depression Effects Your Diet

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When people suffer from depression, one of the first things they are likely to forgo is a healthy diet. The medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, Dr. Nieca Goldberg, said that whenever people are feeling down, anxious, or stressed, they become overwhelmed. As a result, they are not likely to make healthy eating choices.

Goldberg continued to say that people do not pay enough attention to their mental health when it comes to the picture of the general health as a whole. In this case, Goldberg is referring to the fact that people don’t realize how their depression, and thus their tendency to reach for comfort food when they are down, can impact their heart health.

She also continues to say that even if people have not been diagnosed with depression and are merely “feeling down,” they could still impact their heart health negatively. That’s because, in both scenarios, changes happen within the body, as the brain releases chemicals to help counteract how you’re feeling. For example, your body may release stress hormones or cortisol.

If individuals fail to address the symptoms of depression, they put their heart at considerably more risk. Studies show that people diagnosed with depression are four times more likely to develop a heart attack than those individuals who have never suffered from depression previously. Once someone has suffered a heart attack, his or her risk of suffering another heart attack increases significantly.

Recent Studies Prove Link Between Depression and Heart Health

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Recent studies also highlight other damage that depression can cause in your life. These studies confirmed the previous statement that researchers are unaware whether depression causes cardiovascular disease or vice versa. However, the studies did prove that there is a strong correlation between the two.

The lead author of the studies, Dr. Victor Okunrintemi of Baptist Health South Florida in Coral Gables, Florida, indicated that scientists are nearly sure that depression is a risk marker for cardiovascular disease. This means that those with cardiovascular disease are more at risk for depression than those with a healthy heart.

The first of Okunrintemi’s studies found that undiagnosed depression is incredibly damaging and at-risk. The study found that those who had not been diagnosed with depression but were at risk of the disease had a poorer perception of their health status and a lower quality of life than those individuals diagnosed with depression.

The other study found that those who suffer from depression are about a third more likely to suffer from an abnormal heart rate. Furthermore, the study concluded that those who suffer from both heart disease and depression are twice as likely to pass away prematurely. Thus, it’s imperative that those who may suffer from depression visit their doctor to evaluate their health further.

What Can You Do?

If you suffer from depression or heart disease, you’ll want to take measures to reduce the complications of both. It’s critical to remember that the two are inherently linked. Suffering from one disease will drastically increase the likelihood of experiencing the other. It’s crucial that you keep all options open in the future and concern yourself with the entirety of your health, both mental and physical.

The first thing you should do is have a conversation with your doctor. If a licensed medical professional has diagnosed you with depression, you should tell your doctor that you would like to test for heart disease. Furthermore, if you notice yourself suffering from any symptoms of depression, you should contact your trusted medical professional immediately for further testing.

More than anything, you should be upfront with your doctor and honest about how you’re feeling. This is the only way for your doctor to gain an understanding of what you’re suffering from and is the best way to protect your long-term health. Failure to do so could cause severe health issues down the road, perhaps even resulting in death.

Your doctor may prescribe medications to help treat the diseases from which you’re suffering. Your doctor could prescribe anti-depressants, medicine to combat heart disease, medicine to lower your blood pressure, medicine to lower your cholesterol, or some combination of them all. All could have severe side effects, so communicating with your doctor is again vital.

Additionally, your doctor may advise you to make numerous lifestyle changes to help reduce your risk of depression. Since the two are linked, the first lifestyle change will likely involve your diet. Your doctor will probably advise you to work more fruits and vegetables into your diet and cut back on foods that are high in unhealthy fats, such as cheeses, red meats, and junk food.

Your doctor could also advise you to exercise more. Studies find that regular physical activity could cut your risk of coronary heart disease by more than 20 percent. This could also be particularly beneficial because researchers have found that exercise is also helpful for those who doctors have diagnosed with clinical depression.

Lastly, if you are a smoker, your doctor will likely advise you to quit immediately. Smoking is one of the most significant red flags when it comes to heart disease. In addition to increasing people’s risk of coronary heart disease, smoking will also increase their risk of high blood pressure while decreasing their exercise tolerance. Smoking also makes people’s blood much more likely to clot.

But, smoking does not merely impact your heart health. There is also evidence that suggests that smokers are more at-risk to suffer from depression than non-smokers. Although scientists are unclear as to why there is no denying that smoking puts users in a dangerous cycle that could lead to them suffering from both depression and heart disease.

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