A new study suggests that people who are affected with depression are more likely to die of a heart attack than those who are not depressed.Led by Dr. Robert M. Carney at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, the researchers concluded that depressed people tend to have poor heart rate variability (HRV).
Heart rate variability is the rythm of the heart and ability to contract, which can affect its ability to handle stress or exertion. These findings suggest that if depression can be diagnosed and treated, people who have a heart attack may improve their chances of survival.
The researchers monitored heart rhythm changes in 712 people after they were discharged from the hospital following a recent heart attack. Heart rate variability was significantly worse (as measured by a lower HRV index) in those who were depressed than in those who were not depressed.
People with poor HRV are more likely to die after a heart attack, and according to the researchers, experiencing a major depression can quadruple a person's likelihood of dying within 6 months after a heart attack. Although treatment of depression with medication or psychotherapy after a heart attack has not been shown to improve survival, the authors conclude that it can improve depressed patients' quality of life and should be included in routine care.