Depression One Year After Heart Attack Increases Premature Death

It is common for people who have suffered a heart attack (myocardial infarction [MI]) to become depressed. Quality of life, physical health, and income can be drastically affected. Surviving a heart attack can require that people change many things about their previous way of life. Giving up things that they enjoyed, whether they were good or bad, can lead to isolation, sadness, and even depression. The negative effects of depression can exacerbate health conditions that result from the heart attack and can put additional stress on the body. Many studies have suggested that depressive symptoms after MI can increase the risk of premature death. But until recently, few studies have looked specifically at the onset and persistence of depressive symptoms following MI as a predictor of mortality. Sidsel Bekke-Hansen of the Department of Psychology at Aarhus University in Denmark sought to address this issue in a recent study. She examined 2,442 MI patients who had developed depression and examined them for levels of somatic versus cognitive depression immediately following the heart attack and again 12 months later.

The results of the study revealed that cognitive depression did not increase premature death in the participants. The study also showed that somatic depression that developed within weeks of the MI was not predictive of mortality. But somatic symptoms of depression that were persistent at 12 months follow-up directly increased the risk of cardiac premature death. Additionally, somatic symptoms of depression that were present 1 year after MI also increased the risk for overall mortality, regardless of the cause. Bekke-Hansen believes the findings of her study demonstrate the importance of interventions aimed at decreasing depressive symptoms in patients recovering from a heart attack. She notes that treatments should be focused on addressing the somatic symptoms and should be offered for durations of at least 6 months in order to reduce the chance of symptom persistence. Bekke-Hansen added, “Although psychosocial interventions aimed at cognitive symptoms of depression are not likely to improve post-MI prognosis, quality of life independent of cardiovascular prognosis may be enhanced by such interventions through improved mood and psychosocial functioning.”

Bekke-Hansen, S., Trockel, M., Burg, M. M., Barr Taylor, C. (2012). Depressive symptom dimensions and cardiac prognosis following myocardial infarction: Results from the ENRICHD clinical trial. Psychological Medicine 42.1, 1-60.

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  • lillian

    March 15th, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    This is so scary! Just having a heart attack is going to affect your longevity, and then add to that whate damage depression can do and that is a little overwhelming to me, as I am at an age where a heart attack could be a reality! Are cardiologists doing any kind of networking so that heart patients are reciving referrals to counselors or someone who could better help them adjust to life after the life changing even that a heart attack could be? Or are they ignoring this fact?

  • Lou Ann

    March 15th, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    I watched my own mother go through this very thing several years back. She had always had some health problems and finally it all caught up with her and she had a pretty serious heart attack.

    The doctors said that she would make a full recovery, but it went very slowly because she got so down about the things that she felt like she couldn’t do anymore.

    I think that honestly she was scared about losing her independence, and losing her ability to do anything for herself. That took her a while to come to terms with the fact that just because this made life a little different for her, it did not mean that it was taking anything away. But believe me, it was a struggle to finally get her to see that.

  • howard

    March 15th, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Had a heart attack but does not mean I am givin up on life- it gave me a second chance

  • Space Bus

    March 15th, 2012 at 9:56 PM

    Way to go howard! I’ve survived an attack myself and couldn’t think differently than you..No offence but a lot of people just get themselves into a quicksand situation if you ask me..if you had an attack it’s not the end of the world.

    Life is a precious gift,be happy for a second chance and do everything you can not to blow it-with a happy face and mind.coz that will in fact improve your health n satisfaction levels..much of how we feel is in our control!!

  • Sonia

    March 16th, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Maybe the rehab places where some patients have to go after a heart attack or surgery could start getting someone in there to help with these issues before they become big ones.

    You know like having occupational therapists and people like that work with them before they go home to show them the things that they can do instead of focusing on the stuff that they can no longer do. Pr just show them a different way to enjoy the things that they miss.

  • Linda N

    March 17th, 2012 at 7:39 AM

    I have had to change a few things in my life, mainly my diet and unfortunate cigarette habit, but other than that everything is the same. I wa skind of like Howard. I was getting the chance to make a change in my life. What was I going to be depressed about? I was given a wake up call that I was living in a way that was not going to keep me around for a long time. And I wanted more time! So I took that chance and ran (ok walked) with it! I am happier than I have ever been. I am sorry that their are those who can’t get past the scare that that brush with death gave them. But for me I have been there and done that and decided that I would much rather give up a few “things” in life rather than giving up on life itself.

  • Mae

    March 18th, 2012 at 6:02 AM

    @ Linda N, you rock girl!
    That is awesome that you saw that those changes that you needed to make were but small sacrifices to be able to continue living and given that gift that life is!
    I am going to spread your little blurb at the hospital I work in because I know that the power of those kinds of positive words coming from an actual cardiac paitient could have a huge impact on some other patient’s life.

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