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The Link Between Depression & Heart Disease

It is well known that depression can leave you feeling down, hopeless, guilty, sad, and make daily functioning difficult, but have you ever stopped to wonder about how this might impact your heart?  Individuals with depression are estimated to have at least twice the risk for developing heart disease or having a significant cardiac event, such as a heart attack.2 

The Link Between Depression and Heart Disease - Man Grabbing His Chest In Pain

Interestingly, this risk is present even without other classic risk factors like diabetes, hypertension, or smoking.3  Also, those with a cardiovascular condition are at a higher risk for depression.  Stress and resulting changes produced cellular level are believed to be responsible for alterations common to both heart disease and depression.3 Many of these mechanisms are not entirely understood and continue to be researched, however, a variation in nervous system function, inflammation, and high levels of cortisol account for the link between depression and developing heart disease.

Untreated depression worsens cardiovascular outcomes. Data has indicated that first-line medication treatment, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have different ways of offering protection against heart attacks.1 With these findings, the American Heart Association has encouraged that monitoring for cardiovascular disease be completed for individuals with depression as young as adolescence.4

Worldwide, there are 350 million people living with depression and 17.3 million deaths due to cardiovascular disease.4 The impact of these two conditions is widespread and their connection cannot be ignored.  Lessening cardiovascular risk is a two-way street that emphasizes managing depression (therapy, medications) and addressing lifestyle modifications that promote a healthy heart (diet, exercise, quitting smoking). 

If you’re suffering from depression, request an appointment or contact us for a free TMS Consultation.


1. Davies, S. J. C., Jackson, P. R., Potokar, J., & Nutt, D. J. (2004). Treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders in a patient with cardiovascular disease. BMJ, 328(7445), 939-943. doi: 10.1136/bmj.328.7445.939 

2. Demlet, T. D. (2018). Treating comorbid depression in CVD patients. Retrieved from https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/treating-comorbid-depression-in-cvd-patients/

3. Dhar, A. K. & Barton, D. A. (2016). Depression and the link with cardiovascular disease. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 7(33), 1-9. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00033

4. National Institute of Health: Heart Lung, and Blood Institute. (2017). Heart disease and depression: A two-way relationship. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/news/2017/heart-disease-and-depression-two-way-relationship/

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Renae Wise, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC

Renae Wise, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC

Renae is a board-certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner who sees patients of all ages. Renae embraces all populations, however, holds special interests in anxiety, depression, maternal mental health, and military populations.

1 Comment

  1. Kelly Santell on September 17, 2019 at 5:05 am

    Thank you Renae for shedding some light on this topic

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