Heart attack survivors with depression have an increased risk of stroke, and more research is needed to find out why, according to the authors of a new study.
“There could be a multitude of depression-related factors that are leading to these outcomes,” said lead author Frank Annie, a research scientist at Charleston Area Medical Center in West Virginia. “What we’re seeing in this data is very troubling, and we need to dig deeper to understand the causes and effects.”
His team’s analysis of data on more than 495,000 U.S. patients who suffered a heart attack between 2015 and 2021 showed that about 51,000 (10.5%) of them were diagnosed with depression afterward.
Stroke rates were 12% among those with depression and 8.3% among those without depression, a nearly 50% difference, according to findings scheduled for virtual presentation Saturday at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology.
Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until peer-reviewed and published.
This study found that men were more likely to have depression than women. Heart attack survivors with depression tended to have higher rates of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
They were also more likely to have a history of smoking and a higher body mass index (BMI). BMI is an estimate of body fat based on height and weight.
Annie said several factors could underlie the higher risk of stroke in heart attack survivors with depression.
For one, depression may affect patients’ ability to go to medical appointments and keep up with their medications. Depression can also interfere with sleep and concentration, making it a struggle to get regular exercise and follow a heart-healthy diet.
There is growing evidence that treatment for depression can benefit heart disease patients, but only 7% of those with depression in this study had used antidepressants.
“Based on these data, if there’s someone who has a history of heart disease and depression, I would advocate for devoting special attention within the health care system to making sure that these individuals are making their appointments and that they’re seeing the right providers within the health system,” Annie said in a meeting news release.
The Cleveland Clinic explains how to protect your mental health after a heart attack.
SOURCE: American College of Cardiology, news release, March 23, 2022
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