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Depressed heart patients are twice as likely to die compared to non-depressed patients
2019-01-07 15:59:35
Liza Tan

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The relationship between depression and heart disease has remained to baffle scientists for years.But that’s not the case anymore.A group of researchers from the Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City have concluded their study with a new scientific finding; that a case of depression in a patient who has been diagnosed with coronary heart disease increases their risk of death on the double.

Heidi May, a Ph.D.holder at the same institution and the main brainpower behind the research, says that the risk of death will remain high whether the patient develops depression immediately after a heart diagnosis or years later.

The finding will act as a new reference point for doctors in the linkage between the manifestation of heart disease and depression in the same patient.More importantly, Dr.May draws attention to the need for doctor’s to conduct screening and diagnosis for depression in heart patients even after years of living with the disease.

The study

Dr.May and her colleagues at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute kicked off their research by identifying 24,138 coronary heart disease patients.To ascertain the authenticity of diagnosis, each patient underwent an angiography before being deemed as a suitable study participant.

The researchers then carried on by detecting subsequent depression in each of the participants.Here, they carefully studied ICD codes (also known as International Classification of Diseases codes or standardized diagnostic codes) and categorized each patient according to the time span between their heart disease diagnosis and the point in time when signs of depression were clinically identified.

Of all the participants, 15 percent (2,646 patients) were diagnosed with depression during follow-up.This group was further stratified according to the number of years after which the diagnosis had occurred following the heart diagnosis. 

The classifications were as follows: 27 percent of the patients were found to have been diagnosed with depression within a year, 24 percent between one and three years, 15 percent between three and five years, and 37 percent at least five years after the heart disease diagnosis.

The study is one of the first of its kind to look at the connection between depression, heart disease, and increased risks of death in a new kind of light.As Dr.May notes, most studies have focused on a single point in time (such as 30 days after the diagnosis of heart disease) for the case of depression.A few studies have stretched to the span to a year but hardly has any extended it past one decade.

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The latest study strived to present a clearer picture of the linkage between the two conditions and increased risks of death in patients.It bolters past research findings concerning the relationship and shows that the treatment of depression can increase the life span of heart disease patients.

Dr.May’s team has carried out several other depression-related studies in the past and had performed observations and analyses for many years for the current study to materialize.According to Dr.May, their studies have repeatedly shown that the manifestation of heart disease and depression in the same patient increases their health risks.

Essentially, the relationship between the two conditions is bi-directional, meaning that a heart disease diagnosis is more likely to elicit depression in a patient and that depression is bound to worsen the case for heart patients.

The majority of those diagnosed with depression were relatively younger and female and had previously received diabetes or depression-related diagnosis.They were, however, twice likely to have suffered a heart attack compared to those who had not been diagnosed with depression.

The precise reason for the elevated risk of death is still unclear to Dr.May and her colleagues although she believes that depression may interfere with a patient’s adherence to their treatment plan. "We know people with depression tend to be less compliant with medication on average and probably, in general, aren't following healthier diets or exercise regimens," she says.

She notes that depressed patients are poorer at doing prescribed activities than non-depressed patients. “That certainly doesn't mean you're depressed, so you're going to be less compliant, but in general, they tend to follow those behaviors," She added.

According to the research team, a clue of the link between depression and increased death risks might be held in the physiological changes that occur within a patient’s body when they are diagnosed with depression.


Before the findings, previous studies had already uncovered that people who have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease generally record a shorter lifespan compared to their non-diagnosed counterparts.Doctors have also implemented a broad range of scientific techniques in an attempt to extend this lifespan as much as possible, including surgeries, therapies, and aggressive treatment of risk factors.

However, even with the developments, depression has increasingly proven to be an intensified risk factor, and its treatment could mean a longer life for coronary artery disease patients.The latest findings show that continual screening of depression and early treatment can improve the long-term well-being of heart patients, which leaves the health care sector with the challenge of decreasing mortality among coronary artery disease patients.

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