How heart disease, anxiety and depression feed off each other

Anyone who lives with heart disease or heart failure can vouch that it takes a toll on your mental health.

Having to worry about your blood pressure, taking medicines, going to multiple doctor visits and even spending time in the hospital can skyrocket your anxiety level.

And the physical limitations that come with heart issues can leave you feeling depressed.

Yet, these are symptoms that the medical community tends to ignore – a mistake that could worsen your outcomes and even increase your risk of death.

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Poor mental health, poor heart health

Research from a team of scientists at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center may be the first to reveal the powerful connection between mental health and heart disease.

“Heart disease and anxiety/depression interact such that each promotes the other,” said lead study author Philip Binkley, MD.

“There appear to be mental processes that link heart disease with anxiety and depression that are currently under investigation. Both heart disease and anxiety/depression are associated with the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This is part of the so-called involuntary nervous system that increases heart rate, blood pressure and can also contribute to anxiety and depression.”

He and his team followed over 1,500 adults with heart disease for three years who had hospital admission for blocked arteries or heart failure and had two or more health insurance claims for an anxiety disorder or depression.

To see how treating their mental health might impact their heart health over that time, some participants received both antidepressant medications and psychotherapy, others were given psychotherapy or medication for depression alone and about a third received no mental health treatment.

The results were impressive…

Up to a 75% reduction in hospitalization and ER visits

The best results were achieved by patients who were given both antidepressant medication and talk therapy.

The study showed that compared to participants who received no mental health treatment, people who benefitted from this dual approach were:

  • 68 – 75% less likely to be re-hospitalized for a heart-related issue
  • 67 – 74% less likely to have to return to the emergency room for their heart
  • 67% less likely to die from any cause

Talk therapy alone reduced the risk of hospital readmission almost by half and reduced emergency room visits by up to 53%.

Medication alone was also successful, reducing hospital readmission by up to 58% and ER visits by up to 49%.

Clearly, caring for your heart means caring for your mental health.

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Simple tips to reduce anxiety and depression

So if you’re living with heart disease, it’s time to start addressing any feelings of anxiety and depression you might have. It’s something you and your doctor can discuss.

But remember that Dr. Binkley explained that heart disease, anxiety and depression are associated with activation of the sympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for the “fight or flight” response during any potential danger. On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system inhibits the body from overworking and restores the body to a calm and composed state.

Stimulation of the vagus nerve has been known to help restore that balance.

In addition, these practices could help:

  • Boost your dopamine levels – This happiness hormone is linked to the nervous system and low levels can result in depression.
  • Conscious movement – Yoga is a great way to reduce both depression and anxiety. Here are three of the most effective poses anyone can do.
  • Foods – Researchers have found that certain foods can help DASH symptoms of depression. So be sure to put the right diet to work for you. Foods that contain the prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharides (like legumes and nuts) are especially helpful at reducing anxiety levels.
  • Supplements – If you’re deficient in certain amino acids or minerals, it can amp up your depression. Two of the most important are arginine and magnesium.

Be sure to discuss any new supplements with your heart doctor.

Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!


Treating anxiety, depression significantly impacts heart disease outcomes — EurekAlert!

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.