Understanding the Link Between Heart Disease and Depression
Did you know depression and heart diseases in men often go hand in hand?
Widespread and extremely common among US population, both heart disease and depression can occur simultaneously in the same individual and can lead to life-threatening circumstances. Millions of American men who have a heart attack suffer from stress-related depression and those with depression develop heart disease at a higher rate than general population.
This Men’s Health Month, we’ll help you understand the two-way relation between these diseases, how one often leads to another, and steps you can take to keep your mind and heart healthy.
How heart health affects your brain health?
It is quite common for men, and women, to feel sad and depressed after a heart attack, cardiac surgery, or soon after you are diagnosed with a heart disease. While most people are able to return to their normal roles and responsibilities after recovering from a heart attack, some experience:
- A change in mood or attitude
- A low self confidence or self esteem to fulfill their everyday roles and responsibilities
- A lacked sense of certainty about future
- Aggressive behavior
- Diminished physical capabilities
- Constant fatigue
- Troubled sleeping
In fact, after a heart attack, men often feel distressed, moody and irritable due to lack of work productivity and inability to carry out their day to day work without help. This leads to increased levels of stress and anxiety in them. If these symptoms don’t improve over time, they eventually lead to depression.
How depression leads to a heart disease?
Mental stress has a negative effect on men’s heart health too. Men with depressed mood have low zeal and self desire to lead a normal life.
While both men and women suffer from depression, men due to their reluctance to reach out for help and seek treatment stay longer with depression than women. They are also more prone to abusing drugs and alcohol. All of this together leads to higher levels of unmanaged stress and:
- High blood pressure, arterial damage, and irregular heart rhythms
- Weakened immune system
- Decreased desire to make healthy food choices
- Lack of motivation to stay physically active
- The adoption of negative lifestyle habits – smoking, alcohol consumption and use of drugs
- Issues adhering to a regular medication regime
These, in turn, contribute toward declining heart health and lead to chronic heart diseases in men at a much higher rate than women.
How to stay heart healthy and mentally fit, even when you are down
While it is easy to feel overwhelmed and lost when you are battling a health condition, you must remember that the only way to stay healthy and get back to life is by addressing your health issues appropriately. If you are fighting depression or dealing with a heart condition or both, here are some steps that you can take to ensure long term health and happiness:
Identify the cause behind your health condition and address it
Find the root cause behind your health condition – unhealthy eating habits, lack of physical activity, work-life stress, smoking, drinking, and more – and work toward improving them, one step at a time.
Stick to healthy eating habits
Both depression and heart issues are related to unhealthy eating habits. Make it a point to always choose healthy foods over unhealthy ones. Cut down on processed food, sugar, fat, sodium and anything that’s high on calories. Instead, try reaching out for healthy alternatives – fruits, green leafy vegetables, and undressed salads for a nutritious and satisfying meal.
Inculcate exercise into your everyday routine
While it’s difficult to find motivation to exercise when you are depressed or struggling with a heart ailment, you must remember that even a small amount of physical activity can go a long way to help you restore your life back to normal. It can help you improve your mood as well as boost your heart health. You can start with simple walking schedule and extend your exercise routine as you go forward.
Give up your bad lifestyle habits
Smoking, drinking, substance abuse, or whatever it may be, try to give them up all. However, instead of quitting all of them together, and then returning back to them after a few days, try to fix one thing at a time. For a more structured approach toward smoking cessation or alcohol abuse, you can seek expert help from medical practitioners who can chalk out an effective medically based plan to help you quit your bad habits.
Seek expert medical help
Whether you have depression or a heart disease, your primary health care provider should be your go to place for expert medical advice and immediate help. After thoroughly analyzing your condition and its underlying causes, he/she can chalk out an effective program to provide you immediate as well as long term relief. From putting you on medicines to conducting mental health therapies and cardiac rehabilitation programs, your primary health care practitioner can provide you a supervised, structured plan to lift your mood and help you restore your life back to normal.
The final note
Heart diseases and depression often carry overlapping symptoms – fatigue, irritability, low energy, sleeping disorders and difficulty in carrying out daily tasks – so watching the early signs and symptoms and speaking to your healthcare practitioner is vital. They can help you analyze the exact disease and treat it appropriately and in the best possible manner.