Women at Higher Risk of Depression Following a Heart Attack
There’s an unsettling relationship between heart disease and depression. On the one hand it appears that depression contributes to the likelihood of a heart attack and on the other the chances of depression increase following one; quite the vicious circle.
The term myocardial infarction (MI) refers to a heart attack. The most common cause is due to a blood clot forming inside the coronary artery or one of its branches. As we age the chance of a heart attack tends to increase and most will occur in people aged over 50. Although men are often thought more prone to heart attacks – three times more in fact – this only lasts for as long as female hormones protect the heart. After menopause the risk for men and women is the same.
Major depression follows a heart attack in roughly 18 percent of cases. In the latest report, Professor Pranas Serpytis, presenting findings to the annual meeting of the Acute Cardiovascular Care Association in Geneva, Switzerland, stated that patients with depression are six times more likely to die within 6 months after a heart attack. Of equal concern is the fact that women are more likely to develop anxiety and depression after a heart attack.
The study followed 160 patients admitted with MI. Patients were assessed a month after the heart attack where it was found that roughly a quarter were depressed. Current smokers (roughly 16 percent) experienced more anxiety but the team did not find any association between smoking and depression following an MI. Interestingly, 64 per cent of those who were depressed also admitted to inactive lifestyles.
It isn’t clear why women are more likely to develop anxiety and depression following a heart attack and more research is needed. The study seems to further endorse the need to quit smoking and increase physical exercise. Other risk factors for MI include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history, ethnic group, diet and diabetes.