Depression and cardiovascular disease: a clinical review

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Abstract

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and depression are common. Patients with CVD have more depression than the general population. Persons with depression are more likely to eventually develop CVD and also have a higher mortality rate than the general population. Patients with CVD, who are also depressed, have a worse outcome than those patients who are not depressed. There is a graded relationship: the more severe the depression, the higher the subsequent risk of mortality and other cardiovascular events.

It is possible that depression is only a marker for more severe CVD which so far cannot be detected using our currently available investigations. However, given the increased prevalence of depression in patients with CVD, a causal relationship with either CVD causing more depression or depression causing more CVD and a worse prognosis for CVD is probable. There are many possible pathogenetic mechanisms that have been described, which are plausible and that might well be important.

However, whether or not there is a causal relationship, depression is the main driver of quality of life and requires prevention, detection, and management in its own right. Depression after an acute cardiac event is commonly an adjustment disorder than can improve spontaneously with comprehensive cardiac management. Additional management strategies for depressed cardiac patients include cardiac rehabilitation and exercise programmes, general support, cognitive behavioural therapy, antidepressant medication, combined approaches, and probably disease management programmes.

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