Depression Significantly Increases Death Rate For Heart Patients


Developing depression after a diagnosis of coronary artery disease doubles the patient’s risk of death when compared to non-depressed heart patients.

The increased risk of death by any cause exists whether depression occurs immediately after a heart disease diagnosis or develops years later, according to researchers at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City.

These findings highlight the importance of depression screening for those diagnosed with heart conditions.

Even when controlling for other factors, the investigators found coronary disease with depression was the single largest predictor for death. “Depression was the strongest risk factor for dying, compared to any other risk factors we evaluated,â€? said researcher Heidi May, PhD., Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute. “That included age, heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failure, or having a heart attack or stroke.â€?

The Intermountain research team analyzed data from 24,138 patients who had angiographies that determined coronary artery disease. Subsequent depression was determined by locating standard diagnostic codes for depression in the patients’ medical records.

The patients in the study were followed for an average of 10 years after their coronary disease determination, and 15 percent (2,646) were eventually diagnosed as depressed. The study does not explain why depression elevates the risk of death, but it’s hypothesized that depression may effect how well a patient adheres to their treatment plan.

“We know people with depression tend to be less compliant with medication on average and probably in general aren't following healthier diets or exercise regimens,â€? says May. “They tend to do a poorer job of doing things that are prescribed than people without depression. That certainly doesn't mean you're depressed so you're going to be less compliant, but in general, they tend to follow those behaviors.â€?

The researchers also acknowledge that physiological changes owed to depression may be a factor in the heart disease and depression link.

“I hope the study’s takeaway is that it doesn't matter how long it's been since the patient was diagnosed with coronary artery disease,â€? said May. “Continued screening for depression needs to occur. After one year, it doesn't mean they're out of the woods. It should be ongoing, just like we keep measuring things like LDL cholesterol.â€?

Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: mendhak


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