Heart Disease Patients at Greater Risk of Depression

By Ryan Mccann
Friday, 03 May, 2013

Heart disease patients are at higher risk of depression and should be screened for the illness as soon as their heart condition is diagnosed, said the National Heart Foundation of Australia.
Research published online in the Medical Journal of Australia suggests around 40 per cent of people experience milder forms of depression after a heart attack or bypass operation and 15 per cent experience major depressive disorder. The Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand, Beyondblue and The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists have endorsed the paper.
The Heart Foundation recommends routine screening for depression in all people with heart disease, when a patient first visits their doctor, at the next follow up appointment, and two to three months after the heart event. Ongoing screening should be considered on a yearly basis.
Heart Foundation, National CEO, Dr Lyn Roberts, said heart disease and depression seem to be very much intertwined and it is important to recognise depression in heart disease patients in order to provide the best possible care.
“Having a heart attack and living with a debilitating disease such as heart disease has a big impact on a person’s psychological wellbeing," Dr Roberts said. “The links between mental health and heart disease are not yet fully understood, but we know that patients with heart disease and depression have a higher risk of another event and death, and that it’s vital to seek treatment early.”
“Past studies show that depression is about three times more common in heart attack patients. “There can be a reluctance to treat depression in patients with heart disease because of a belief that it is normal after a heart event, but we know depression has a significant impact on a person’s life and needs to be addressed. “Heart disease patients who are depressed are less likely to take their medicines as advised, improve their eating habits, exercise and attend cardiac rehabilitation sessions, all of which could contribute to a worse outcome. “Treatments of the heart can’t be done in isolation from the patient’s mental health.”
beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell said people who have a health scare such as heart disease are at greater risk of experiencing depression because of factors such as emotional trauma. The emotional trauma involved is believed to be a contributing factor. However, she said, help is available.
“In response to this increased risk we developed a brochure earlier this year for people who have experienced a serious health issue,” she said. “It contains advice on what the typical emotional reactions to a health scare are, how to identify signs and symptoms of depression and how to tackle this condition. “I’d urge anyone with heart disease to order a copy of the brochure from the beyondblue support service on 1300 22 4636 or download it from www.beyondblue.org.au/resources.”

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