Depression and Heart Disease

Getting Treatment for Depression and Heart Disease

Treatment for depression in the context of heart disease should be managed by a mental health professional -- for example, a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker -- who is in close communication with the physician providing the heart disease treatment. This is especially important when antidepressant medication is needed or prescribed so that potentially harmful drug interactions can be avoided.
Effective treatment of depression is extremely important, as the combination of heart disease and depression is associated with increased sickness and death. Prescription antidepressant medications, particularly the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are generally well tolerated and safe for people with heart disease. There are, however, possible interactions among certain medications and side effects that require careful monitoring. Therefore, people being treated for heart disease who develop depression, as well as people in treatment for depression who subsequently develop heart disease, should make sure to tell any physician they visit about the full range of medications they are taking.
Exercise is another potential pathway to reducing both depression and risk of heart disease. A recent study found that participation in an exercise training program was comparable to treatment with an antidepressant medication (a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) for improving depression symptoms in older adults diagnosed with major depression. Exercise, of course, is a major protective factor against heart disease as well.

Heart Disease and Depression: Final Thoughts

Because of advances in medicine and technology, both depression and heart disease are treatable conditions. However, it is important to understand that these conditions can be closely tied together. Therefore, for people with heart disease or those who have had a heart attack, knowing the signs and symptoms of depression is key to getting treatment early.
Also, always remember to be patient with yourself. Not everyone responds to treatment in the same way and recovery from depression takes time. Depression medications can take several weeks to work; and for a lot of people, prescriptions and dosing may need to be adjusted. But, no matter how advanced the heart disease, you do not have to suffer from depression.
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