Depressed people are at a higher risk of suffering heart attacks, a new study says. The researchers found that heart failure patients with severe to moderate depression are five times more likely to die than their counterparts.
“We know that depression is common in heart failure and affects 20 to 40 percent of patients,” said John Cleland, study lead author and professor of cardiology at Imperial College London and the University of Hull in England.
The study involved 154 patients: 24 with moderate to severe depression and 27 with mild depression. After 302 days of follow-up, 27 patients died. The higher risk of deaths linked to moderate to severe depression was independent of the severity of heart diseases and other health issues.
The findings of the study were to be presented on Saturday at the annual meeting of the Heart Failure Association (HFA) of the Europe Society of Cardiology (ESC) in Seville, Spain. The findings are considered preliminary until published in a medical journal. When the heart fails, it can no longer pump blood.
About 1/4 of heart failure patients are diagnosed with other diseases in less than a month. “Within one year, most patients will have had one or more re-admissions and almost half will have died,” Cleland said. “Our results show that depression is strongly associated with death during the year following discharge from hospital after an admission for the exacerbation of heart failure; we expect that the link persists beyond a year.”
Depression is characterized by loss of interest in day-to-day activities, insomnia, loss of motivation and loss appetite. “This could explain the association we found between depressions and mortality,” Cleland said.
Even with the results of the study, Cleland does not support the use of anti-depressants to heart failure patients with depression. Cleland said, “Studies suggest that they are not effective in reducing depression in patients with heart failure. Clinicians should, however, screen patients with heart failure for depression and consider referring those affected for counseling.”