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Study links depression after heart disease diagnosis with premature death

Thursday 3rd August 2017
More mental health support may be needed for heart disease patients, a new study suggests. Image: OcusFocus via iStock
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People who suffer from depression after being diagnosed with heart disease are more likely to die prematurely than those whose mental health is not affected by their diagnosis.

As a result, this suggests that a greater level of mental health support may be required for patients who receive life-changing diagnoses.

A study carried out by doctors from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Utah, US, found a clear link between poor mental health following cardiovascular disease diagnosis and premature death.

Published in the European Heart Journal - Quality of Care and Clinical Outcomes, the research found that people who fell into a depression after being told they had coronary artery disease were significantly more likely to be dead seven years later than their counterparts who did not struggle with their mental health after a diagnosis.

This was even found to be the case when the depression did not take hold in the immediate aftermath of a diagnosis, but set in several years later.

This may suggest that depression places an extra strain on the heart or can lead to other aspects of poor physical health, increasing the likelihood of premature death.

In addition, the researchers said the link may be due to depression making people less likely to follow their recommended heart disease treatment plans.

Dr Heidi May, lead author of the study, explained: "No matter how long or how short it was, patients were found to have twice the risk of dying compared to those who didn't have a follow-up diagnosis of depression.

"Depression was the strongest risk factor for dying, compared to any other risk factors we evaluated. That included age, heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failure or having a heart attack or stroke."

With this in mind, mental health support workers could have an important role to play in helping people to recover from their post-heart disease depression and get the best possible treatment for their specific needs, as this could help to prevent their mental illness from further affecting their physical health.

Written by Angela Newbury

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