Heart disease and depression are both very serious and common conditions. They affect millions of people worldwide, and sometimes occur simultaneously in the same person. Such an occurrence makes many people question whether the two are related and question whether their condition can put them at risk of a heart attack. So, let’s find out!
People began speculating about the connection between depression and heart attack back in the 1980's. At that time, it was determined that there is a connection between the two conditions, but it is not a direct one. Depression is simply one of the contributing factors that may cause heart disease. Interestingly enough, the opposite can be said; a heart attack can cause depression. It can be better described as a two-way relationship. Depression can cause a heart attack in some people, just like a heart attack can cause depression in others. Whether or not this happens depends solely on the individual and how they learn to deal with their illness.
How can depression cause a heart attack?
The relationship between depression and heart disease is usually not a medical one. Most of the risks that depression creates involve changes in the person’s behavior rather than actual physical problems. Depressed people have a higher risk of having a heart attack because of the way depression causes them to act. Here are a few examples of how depression can cause a heart attack:
- People with depression often lose the motivation to stay healthy and they begin to worry much less about caring for their health. Many depressed people lead unhealthy lifestyles and have bad habits, such as drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, smoking, avoiding exercise, and eating junk food. They use some of these unhealthy habits to feel better, and sometimes they just don’t care about the damage those bad habits are causing their body.
- Depression creates a lot of stress which, in turn, can cause more plaque to form in the arteries. If that plaque is combined with the plaque that builds up due to the unhealthy food many depressed people consume, the arteries become clogged. Clogged arteries limit the amount of oxygen and nutrients that can get to the different organs, putting the heart at major risk.
- Depressed people often lose the motivation to stay healthy. Those who are already sick with heart disease sometimes avoid taking their heart medication. This can put them in more danger for a heart attack.
- Many people suffering from depression notice some changes in their hormonal balance and nervous system. This puts them at risk of getting arrhythmia, a heart rhythm disorder that can later cause a heart attack.
- Depression can also increase the production of fatty acids and free radicals. This can seriously damage the lining of the blood vessels.
How to avoid a heart attack if you have depression
Individuals who are suffering from depression have enough on their plates without having to worry about heart attacks. Fortunately, having depression does not necessarily mean that you will suffer from a heart attack – it all depends on the person’s attitude. A positive outlook, attitude, and motivation can do a lot to decrease one’s chances of developing heart disease. People suffering with depression need to concentrate on the importance of having a good attitude and a positive outlook towards the future. They need to convince themselves to take their medications faithfully, exercise, limit smoking and alcohol consumption, and live a healthy lifestyle.
How can a heart attack cause depression?
Depression can be one of the things that causes a heart attack. However, the reverse can also be true. A heart attack can cause a person to feel depressed and lose their positive outlook on life. Unfortunately, older people are more likely to suffer from depression after they have had a heart attack. They are also the least likely to get proper treatment for depression.
Here are just a few examples of how a heart attack can impact a person’s mental state:
- A heart attack can cause a person to lose their sense of certainty about the future. They are no longer sure about whether they will live as long as they had wished and be as healthy and successful as they had hoped to be. Thus, many people lose their aspirations, hopes, and dreams.
- A heart attack is a big hit to a person’s overall attitude and mood. These people no longer feel the same everyday joy.
- People who have had a heart attack often have less physical capabilities than they did prior to the attack. This causes them to feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, and lose confidence in themselves.
- Their diminished physical capabilities make people who have had heart attacks less capable of fulfilling their previous roles. They can no longer be the same caring parents or productive employees. This causes people to lose confidence and feel depressed.
- Many people who have suffered a heart attack keep worrying about the past. They feel guilty over some of the things they have done and the habits they have had that may have caused the heart attack. These feelings of guilt can be strong enough to keep a person feeling down in the dumps.
How to avoid depression if you have had a heart attack?
Once again, the key to staying healthy and happy is a positive outlook on life. Individuals who have had a heart attack need to stay positive and try to prevent their thoughts from lingering on the heart attack. They need to try to stop worrying about their diminished physical capabilities, if they have any, and concentrate on what they are still able to do. They need to make plans and have dreams and live in the future and not the past. If this is difficult, there is another option. It is completely normal for people who have suffered a heart attack to seek psychiatric and medical help.
Depression and heart attacks are inter-related. Depression can cause a heart attack if the depressed person abandons a healthy lifestyle and stops caring about their health. Likewise, a heart attack can have such a negative impact on the person’s health, lifestyle, and abilities that they can become depressed. However, being sick with one of these conditions does not mean suffering from the other! A healthy lifestyle and a positive outlook on life can help avoid heart disease, depression, and thousands of other conditions!