NHMH NO HEALTH WITHOUT MENTAL HEALTH A 501(c)(3) non profit   San Francisco - Washington DC Director’s blog


Published Wednesday 13 of August, 2014

Perhaps a part of the legacy of Robin William’s wonderful life and sad passing will be that the general public will gain a deeper understanding of the connection between ordinary heart disease and depression.

Mental health plays a role in heart disease. Depression has been found to be a risk factor for the development of heart disease, and can also play a role in post heart disease treatment.

Depression occurs in up to 20% of people with heart disease, and has been found to be a risk factor also for subsequent heart attack, the need for cardiac procedures, hospitalization and mortality.

The American Heart Association consensus panel has reviewed extensive data and found that there is extensive evidence that depression is a risk factor for development of coronary heart disease, as well as a risk factor for adverse outcomes once the disease is present.

The American Heart Association now recommends screening for depression in patients with heart disease. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/129/12/1350

Fortunately, depression in patients with heart disease responds well to treatment with either medication or counseling. But first we must be alert to possibility of depression occurring, and then insisting on treatment for it, along with our cardiac care.

It is most important for doctors, both primary care physicians and cardiac specialists, and patients, to be aware of this connection and for all to work towards integrating our physical and mental health care system-wide. So that when both physical and behavioral conditions arise, they are both addressed in a coordinated fashion by TEAMS of physicians and healthcare professionals working together.

Key federal health agencies have wisely recognized the heart disease-depression connection. In their Million Hearts public education campaign, targeted to inform the general population on heart disease, they specifically mention the role of depression. NHMH is proud to say we played a facilitating role in bringing about inclusion of behavioral health language in the Million Hearts website in 2013.

A fitting legacy for a much loved and appreciated American.

Florence C. Fee, J.D., M.A.

Executive Director