Health Topics

Healthy Living

February 2011
Depression & the Heart
Dr. Abraham Oomman
You want to cry for no reason... The future looks grey and bleak... The purpose of life remains meaningless... Your family, friends and co-workers are all tiresome... Getting up from bed seems an insurmountable problem, let alone going to work...  You withdraw into a mental cocoon... Occasionally it seems like it'd just be whole lot simpler if you weren't even alive...

If any of these sound familiar, then you may be having clinical depression. What's worse, that depression may be taking its toll on your heart.

Pumping Love?
The human heart is the most efficient pump in the world. It pumps on and on. But the heart requires muscle for pumping - not love as the poets say. Stiffening of the muscles of the heart can occur with a process called fibrosis, which a University of Maryland School of Medicine study found depressed people are more likely to suffer from.

Obvious Depression
There are a few obvious reasons why depressed people are more likely to suffer from heart disease:
  • Depressed people are more likely to smoke,drink excess alcohol and be sedentary.
  • They're less likely to take medicines.
  • Depression may increase plaque formation in the arteries.
  • The mental condition could increase the production of free radicals and fatty acids, damaging the lining of the blood vessels.
  • Depressed adults have higher levels of C-reactive protein and Tumour Necrosis Factor alpha (TNF-alpha) - which may be a link between depression and heart attacks.
Increased Risk
Depressed people are four times more likely to have a heart attack in the next 14 years. Dr. Curt D. Furberg of the Wake Forest University found that depressed personalities had a 40 per cent higher risk of developing coronary artery disease. Depression, stress and anxiety go hand in hand. So much so that scientists have classified a Type-D personality- short for distressed!

Fifty per cent of heart attack victims go on to experience symptoms of depression after heart attack - and 20 per cent experience major depression. The Harvard Mental Health Letter says that depressed patients with heart attacks are two to four times more likely than average to die within the next year.

Help Yourself
Since we know now that depression could lead to heart trouble, take matters into your own hands. If you have signs of depression, see someone about it. New anti-depressant drugs are much safer nowadays. Exercise has double benefits - when you exercise, a chemical called endorphin is released which elevates the mood and counters depression.

No one is an island, so don't isolate yourself from others - reach out to friends and family for help. There's much more at stake than your state of mind.

Dr. Abraham Oomman is Sr.Consultant Cardiologist at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai
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