Most people know how the matters of heart and mind can become intertwined, but recent research shows this is true in medical matters as much as it is in emotions. Turns out, you really can die from a broken heart. Or at least be hospitalized longer for it.
A recent study by researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel found that mental health problems can interfere with heart health. Heart attack patients who also have depression are more likely to be readmitted after cardiac events such as heart attack and stroke, and tend to be hospitalized for 14 days longer than those without the mental health disorder, according to researcher Vicki Myers.
While medical professionals have been able to draw connections between anxiety and the immune system, this is among the first to explore the way depression and heart disease are intertwined.
In the study, researchers used data collected from 632 heart attack patients under age 65 admitted to hospitals in Israel between 1992 and 1993. The study's authors compared their recoveries using follow-up data through 2005. People who identified as at least mildly depressed during their first cardiac event and hospitalization were far more likely to be re-hospitalized later with more heart problems - whether chest pain or other conditions. Patients who rated their depression as high either spent 14 percent more time in the hospital than those with a low score, the researchers found.
Although the study was done on patients in Israel, it may have important implications for the U.S. healthcare system. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about one in 10 American adults has depression. This mental health condition, which is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness or loneliness, can also cause physical symptoms. It has been found to worsen symptoms in chronic conditions such as arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
The CDC reports that women between the ages of 45 and 64 are more likely to be depressed than other groups. Home care for people with depression may be particularly important after a cardiac event in order to reduce re-hospitalization.
Senior care for depressed individuals after a cardiac event may include treatment for this mental health condition. Lifestyle changes have been found to help in some people, while others benefit from a combination of medication and psychotherapy, The Mayo Clinic reports.