National Wear Red Day: Depression, Women, and Heart Health

Many of us are wearing red today to raise awareness about women, cardiovascular disease, and I’m going to add mental health. Women are twice as likely as men to develop depression. Depression is a risk factor for heart disease.

While the exact relationship between depression and heart disease is still being studied, enough is known to raise awareness about the dangers of depression on heart health. Research shows that even mild forms of depression or its symptoms increase the chance of heart disease in women by two to three times.

Women are at greater risk for depression than men for a variety of reasons, including certain biological, hormonal and social factors that are unique to women. Research shows that people with depression are more likely to have poor heart health. A study by the American Heart Association found depression could be a barrier to living a heart healthy lifestyle. Some of the symptoms of depression make it challenging for women to take care of themselves and make healthy choices. Often, women with depression sleep too much or not enough, feel fatigued, have little interest in doing things and lack energy – none of which are conducive to sticking with a healthy diet or cardiovascular exercise program. In a large number of households, women are still the primary caregivers for children and the main source of house work and meal preparation, whether or not they work outside of the home.

Women may try to deal with their depression through self-soothing but harmful behaviors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or comfort eating. In fact, women with high levels of depression are more likely to be obese, abuse alcohol and other substances, or smoke.

Knowing the symptoms of heart disease in women can help especially in deciding when to seek medical care. Women often show a subtle presentation of heart related problems, including fatigue, aches and pains, headaches, nausea and stomach upset, and an overall feeling of malaise. Knowing the symptoms of depression is also crucial even though they may get less attention at first. It’s extremely important to be under the care of a physician or mental health professional who understands the interactive role of depression and heart health.

See goredforwomen.org for more information.
Also see my post about high functioning depression, a common phenomenon for women: Smiling Depression.

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