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Depression and Heart Disease, a Common Combination

Know the signs of depression.

older man with chin in hand, thinking

If you have heart disease, you have a higher risk of becoming depressed than someone without heart disease. Research shows that half of people with heart disease experience depression. Similarly, depression is a risk factor for heart disease.

The link between depression and heart disease is complicated and is the subject of much research. Untreated depression in people with heart disease is associated with more complications and higher risks.

Getting treatment for your depression can help you improve your overall health and manage your heart disease.

Don’t know if you’re depressed? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I lost my zest for life? Am I no longer interested in the activities and hobbies I used to enjoy?
  • Am I eating too much or not eating enough?
  • Do I have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or am I sleeping all the time?
  • Do I feel tired all the time?
  • Do I feel guilty, helpless, hopeless, worthless, irritable or restless?
  • Am I anxious and sad often?
  • Do I have trouble concentrating, making decisions or remembering details?
  • Have I had thoughts of death or suicide?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, tell your doctor. You may have depression. Treatment can help.

If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, call your health care professional, 911 or a suicide hotline such as 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), or have someone drive you to your nearest emergency department.

If you feel you are in immediate danger of hurting yourself or someone else, call 911 or your local emergency services immediately.

How is depression treated in people with heart disease?

  • Medications. Several antidepressant medications are considered to be safe for use in people with heart disease.
  • Psychotherapy. Professional counseling (especially a type known as cognitive behavioral therapy) frequently helps people deal with depression. It may help change negative behaviors and thinking patterns that may contribute to depression.
  • Exercise. An exercise program, recommended by your doctor, can help your heart and ease symptoms of depression. Your doctor can tell you what activities are right for you.
  • Stress relief methods. Heart disease patients may learn ways to reduce stress, such as meditation and breathing exercises.

Your doctor may recommend one or more of these treatments.

If you have heart disease and think you might be depressed, make an appointment to see your doctor today.

By Lucy M. Casale, Editor

National Institute of Mental Health. Depression and heart disease. Accessed: October 23, 2015.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Living with coronary heart disease. Accessed: October 23, 2015.
Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. Depression and coronary heart disease. Accessed: October 23, 2015.

Last Updated: October 26, 2015