Depression and Heart Disease

According to the American Heart Association 92.1 million American adults are living with some form of cardiovascular disease or the after-effects of stroke.1 Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women and about 1 in every 4 deaths can be attributed to heart disease.2

Recent studies show that people hospitalized for heart attack or chest pain are 4 times more likely to develop major depression than the general population.3 Additionally, people living with depression are more likely to experience heart disease. This could be because people who are depressed may have more behaviors associated with poor health, such as drinking alcohol, smoking, and overeating to cope with their depression. People experiencing depression may also have a harder time exercising regularly and controlling their stress levels. All these behaviors increase the risk for heart disease.

People with heart disease and even their heart care physicians may misinterpret depression's warning signs, mistaking them for normal responses to heart disease. It is common for symptoms of depression to overlap with those of heart disease. Usually though, feeling sad or depressed after a heart attack or a new diagnosis of heart disease should begin to go away within a few weeks. If these feelings last longer and are interfering with your ability to live your life, it may be time to seek help for depression.

Depression has been proven to be a such a risk factor in cardiac disease that, since 2008, the American Heart Association has recommended that all cardiac patients be screened for depression.4

One of the most important things to remember is depression is treatable, even when an additional health condition is present. Be sure to share all of your symptoms with your health care providers so that they can work with you to find the best treatment for both depression and heart disease.


  1. 1.Benjamin EJ, Blaha MJ, Chiuve SE, Cushman M, Das SR, Deo R, de Ferranti SD, Floyd J, Fornage M, Gillespie C, Isasi CR, Jimenez MC, Jordan LC, Judd SE, Lackland D, Lichtman JH, Lisabeth L, Liu S, Longenecker CT, Mackey RH, Matsushita K, Mozaffarian D, Mussolino ME, Nasir K, Neumar RW, Palaniappan L, Pandey DK, Thiagarajan RR, Reeves MJ, Ritchey M, Rodriguez CJ, Roth GA, Rosamond WD, Sasson C, Towfighi A, Tsao CW, Turner MB, Virani SS, Voeks JH, Willey JZ, Wilkins JT, Wu JHY, Alger HM, Wong SS, Muntner P; on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2017 update: a report from the American Heart Association [published online ahead of print January 25, 2017]. Circulation. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000485

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Multiple Cause of Death 1999-2015 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released December 2016. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2015, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/mcd-icd10.html

  3. Depression as a Risk Factor for Poor Prognosis Among Patients With Acute Coronary Syndrome: Systematic Review and Recommendations A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association.” Circulation, 24 Feb. 2014, doi:https://doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000019 Circulation. 2014;CIR.0000000000000019

  4. Litchman JH, et al. Depression and coronary heart disease: Recommendations for screening, referral and treatment. A science advisory from the American Heart Association Prevention Committee of the Council on Cardiovascular Nursing, Council on Clinical Cardiology, Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, and Interdisciplinary Council on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research: endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association. Circulation, Oct 21 2008. 118(17):1768-1775