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Depression After Heart Attack Means More Heart Problems

Depression following a heart attack indicates future heart problems, according to a study. This research appears in the Dec. 5, 2006 edition of the// Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

People who experience their first-ever bout of depression after having a heart attack are at greater risk for future heart problems and hence have to undergo new depression-related screening protocols and treatment strategies.

Known as the DepreMI Study, the research was conducted in the Netherlands at University Medical Centre Groningen, part of the University of Groningen. Lead researcher Peter de Jonge, PhD, said the team was seeking to determine whether all types of depression could be considered a direct cause of heart attack. What the group found was a bit surprising.

“We found that only incident (first-time) depression – no other type – was related to a poor prognosis,” said Dr. de Jonge, an assistant professor of internal medicine and psychiatry at the University of Groningen. “In other words, our findings suggest that patients who experience depression after a heart attack, but never before, are at particular risk for future incidents.

“Based on other studies, it appears that standard antidepressive treatment may not be sufficient for this category of patients,” Dr. de Jonge continued. “We feel that especially in these cases, antidepressive treatment should be integrated into cardiac after-care and made a prominent part of the rehabilitation program.”

Standard antidepressive treatment, which frequently includes medications to affect mood, may be insufficient, Dr. de Jonge explained, because incident post-heart attack depression is different than typical depression.

Patients with post-heart attack depression often have survived more severe medical emergencies than other heart attack patients, he said. As a result, these patients may be physically more exhausted and vulnerable than their peers.
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