A heart attack can be a very challenging and traumatic experience for a person to live through. Along with the actual event, which is frightening and extremely painful, the recovery process is also long and arduous, with many lifestyle and diet changes that need to be incorporated into one’s way of living.
Along with all these elements, there is another risk that is posed by a heart attack, which you may not know about — subsequent depression. This, it turns out, is something that you should be aware of, as it can bring on further cardiac events, according to a new study.
Published in the December 5th edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the study notes that people who go through a heart attack and experience depression as a result are subsequently at a higher risk of experiencing heart problems in the future. This is in comparison to individuals who don’t experience depression after a heart attack. This even went for individuals who were depressed before the heart attack happened — they were not at a higher risk of a further episode in the way that individuals who developed depression after the fact were.
The study, which was named the DepreMI Study, was conducted at the University Medical Centre Groningen in the Netherlands. The researchers set out to learn if all types of depression contributed to subsequent cardiac events in individuals who suffered an initial heart attack.
The researchers looked at 468 patients who were hospitalized due to a heart attack. They kept tabs on these patients for 2.5 years while evaluating them for depression at the three- and 12-month marks. It turns out that the participants who experienced depression due to heart attack were more prone to having more non-fatal and fatal cardiovascular emergencies as a result of their depression, in comparison to those individuals who did not develop depression as a result of the initial heart attack.
According to one of the researchers, Dr. de Jonge, “We found that only incident (first-time) depression — no other type — was related to a poor prognosis. In other words, our findings suggest that patients who experience depression after a heart attack, but never before, are at particular risk for future incidents.”
Dr. de Jonge also added “Based on other studies, it appears that standard anti-depressive treatment may not be sufficient for this category of patients. We feel that especially in these cases, anti-depressive treatment should be integrated into cardiac after-care and made a prominent part of the rehabilitation program.”
Anti-depressive treatment is not often considered after a patient experiences a heart attack and it turns out that the standard therapies, which include drugs that can affect a person’s mood, may be insufficient. It turns out that post- heart attack depression differs from other forms of the mental illness. More integrative methods need to be introduced along with medication, suggest the researchers, such as relaxation techniques, stress management, and psycho-educational intervention.
According to the researchers, interventional studies that go beyond the typical therapies for depression need to be created in order to combat the condition in heart attack sufferers. Screening for depression should also be integrated into the cardiac care process that doctors now implement for their patients. A multi-pronged approach needs to be introduced, say the researchers, which includes referral to a psychologist, counseling, and/or antidepressant medication, which would be customized to meet each sufferer’s individual needs.
Further research is needed into this problem that faces many heart attack sufferers. For now, if you have experienced a heart attack, speak to your doctor if you are exhibiting any of the symptoms of depression. Visit www.depression.com for more information on the condition. Don’t leave yourself at risk for more heart concerns down the road.