Heart disease: Treating anxiety, depression may reduce ER visits

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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Treating mental ill health may help improve heart disease outcomes. Image credit: MaaHoo/Stocksy.
  • While mental ill health can impact physical health, sometimes, the treatment of conditions such as anxiety and depression remains neglected.
  • Researchers are interested in learning how the treatment of mental ill health impacts physical health outcomes, such as cardiovascular outcomes.
  • One study found that the treatment of anxiety and depression was linked to a reduction in hospital readmissions, emergency room visits, and overall mortality among people with previous hospitalizations for ischemic heart disorders or heart failure.

Anxiety and depression are two prevalent mental health conditions. Proper treatment of these conditions is essential to well-being, and research is ongoing about how treatment benefits other health areas, including heart health.

A study recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association examined how treatment of anxiety and depression impacted heart health outcomes among people who had already experienced severe heart problems.

Including over 1,500 participants, the study found that individuals who received medication and psychotherapy for anxiety or depression were 75% less likely to have to stay in the hospital again, and 74% less likely to have to visit the emergency room.

The results highlight the importance of treating mental Health conditions to improve outcomes for people who already have heart problems.

Depression is a common mental health condition. People with depression can experience persistent feelings of hopelessness and energy declines. They may have difficulty with going about their everyday lives.

Anxiety is another common mental Health condition. People with anxiety can experience difficulty sleeping, persistent feelings of worry, and feelings of restlessness. People with anxiety can also be at an Health Organization" rationale="Highly respected international organization">increased risk for depression.

Poor mental well-being can negatively influence physical health. For example, people with depression who also have a chronic illness such as diabetes or heart disease may have worse symptoms from both conditions. People with anxiety can also be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

Cheng-Han Chen, MD, a board-certified interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Program at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, CA, who was not involved in the study, explained to Medical News Today:

“There is a very close relationship between mental health and cardiovascular disease, a relationship that has impact in both directions. People with disorders such as depression and anxiety can experience increased blood pressure and physiological stress that are risk factors for heart disease.”

“In addition,” he noted, “they may be more prone to adopt lifestyle changes, such as smoking and physical inactivity, that can further increase their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Inversely, patients who suffer from heart disease such as heart attack, stroke, or heart failure, are at greater risk to develop mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], after their stressful acute cardiovascular event.”

The exact relationship between mental ill health and physical conditions is not something that researchers understand entirely.

Researchers of the current study wanted to understand more about the relationship between certain heart problems, and anxiety and depression.

This study was a population-based, retrospective cohort study. Researchers included 1,563 participants using Ohio Medicaid data in their analysis.

Participants had coronary artery disease or heart failure and they also had anxiety or depression. They had also experienced their first hospital admission related to heart failure or ischemic heart diseases.

Researchers looked at treatment for anxiety and depression and how this related to hospital readmission, emergency room visits for heart failure and coronary artery disease, all-cause mortality, and heart disease mortality. They looked at if participants received psychotherapy and if they were taking antidepressant medication.

They noted and accounted for several covariates, including ethnicity, Medicaid eligibility, and biological sex. They ran various models that adjusted for different covariates.

The analysis found that people who received both psychotherapy and medication for depression or anxiety experienced the most benefits and the most risk reductions.

However, all groups that received some form of treatment saw benefits regarding rehospitalization and emergency room visits. Researchers did not observe significant reductions in risk for heart disease mortality for those treated for anxiety and depression.

Those who received both medication and psychotherapy were 75% less likely to be admitted to the hospital again, 74% less likely to have to go to the emergency room, and 66% less likely to experience death from any cause.

The results point to the importance of treating mental illness in people who have heart disease as a way to help improve heart disease outcomes.

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