Mental Health

Patients with Heart Problems Need to be Checked for Depression

| by Alex Groberman

According to a new report, individuals who have been hospitalized for heart issues seem to suffer less depression and anxiety in the following weeks and months if they participate in a basic depression management program.

The findings, which appeared online on March 7 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, noted too many cardiac patients end up not having their depression recognized or treated. Seeing as the American Heart Association has made it a point to recommend depression screenings for heart disease patients, this report seems to simply reinforce the importance of paying attention to patients’ mental health.

"This is important because depression is common in heart disease patients, and it has been linked to more re-hospitalizations and higher death rates," noted the study's lead author, Dr. Jeff C. Huffman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

"However, most cardiac patients have their depression go unrecognized and untreated," Huffman added. "A program like the one studied could identify depression in hospitalized heart patients and help them to not only get treatment for their heart disease but also treatment for the depression that could impair their recovery."

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For the purposes of their study, Huffman and his researchers conducted research on 175 people. These subjects were about to be released from the hospital following treatment for acute coronary syndrome, arrhythmia or heart failure. After being screened for depression, they were either assigned to receive standard care or participate in a depression management program.

Six weeks after being discharged, the people that were involved in the depression management program came back healthier on all measures of mental health. Depression symptoms were reduced by half for nearly 60 percent of participants, compared to 30 percent in those who didn’t partake in the program.

Further, individuals who took part in the program were more likely to stick to their recommended diet and exercise regiments. Thus, they were less likely to experience cardiac symptoms, and the symptoms that they did experience, were less severe.

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