Published on May 17, 2021

Understanding the link between depression and heart disease

The link between cardiac events and mental health issues has been strongly supported by studies for decades. Depression and other behavioral health disorders are common among cardiac patients.

Jacqueline Madunic, LISWIn fact, more than 40% of cardiac patients experience some behavioral health issue whether from depression, anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Within the first weeks following a cardiac event, 15% of patients experience significant clinical depression and another 25% experience milder symptoms of depression and anxiety.

In a landmark study, the continued presence of depression after recovery increased the risk of mortality to 17% within six months after the heart attack (versus 3% without depression).

In the case of PTSD, there is a 55% increase in risk of cardiac-related mortality.

When treated for their PTSD, patients live approximately 3.5 times longer than those not treated.

Modification Program Available

Genesis Psychology Associates and Genesis Cardiac Rehabilitation have developed a collaborative care program to successfully manage psychiatric conditions in patients with heart disease, with beneficial effects on function and other outcomes.

Those with heart disease or certain risk factors for developing it, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, family history, or diabetes, may be advised by their doctor to make lifestyle modifications. At Genesis, a collaborative team of care works with heart patients to develop a tailored plan to help prevent heart disease or slow its progression.

Licensed clinical psychologists and social workers work with heart patients to make long-term lifestyle changes. Small, sustainable and manageable steps help patients follow a long-term plan.

The team provides care and support throughout the entire journey. The team helps patients develop healthy habits such as:

  • Getting more and better quality sleep
  • Practicing meal portion control
  • Improving diet plans, including eating more fruits and vegetables
  • Practicing mindfulness and meditation
  • Lowering body mass index
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Quitting smoking or drug/alcohol use

The care team also helps people with heart disease cope with the psychological issues that can accompany living with a chronic medical condition. Our psychologists help people:

  • Adjust psychologically and socially to having a cardiac condition or undergoing treatment
  • Manage emotional stress and reduce stress-related chest pain
  • Overcome PTSD or depression that stems from a heart attack

Accessible Care

Talk with your cardiologist, surgeon, or cardiac rehab provider about a referral to the cardiac behavioral health program. Referrals will go to Jacqueline Madunic, Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) or Genesis Psychology Associates. Once the referral is received, you will be scheduled for a visit with a member of the Genesis Behavioral Health care team.


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