People who are depressed are not only more likely to develop heart disease but they also fare worse than others once they are diagnosed with it. Depression is also more common in people with heart disease, and being depressed can increase the chance of dying in the months after a heart attack.
Aside from getting your depression treated, forcing yourself to engage in healthy behaviors like going for a brisk walk can ease depressive symptoms as well as help your heart health, Dr. Muskin says.
People with depression often have difficulty practicing healthy behaviors like eating right and exercising, which can raise the risk for diabetes. People with diabetes are also twice as likely to become depressed. Researchers don’t fully understand the relationship between the two conditions, but it’s clear that one condition makes the other worse.
“It works both ways,” Muskin says. “If you’re depressed, then you’re less likely to buy into the process of taking care of yourself.” The stress of managing diabetes may also trigger depressive symptoms.
Along with raising the risk for heart disease and diabetes, depression also makes people more likely to develop obesity and its associated health problems.
Muskin says that people, especially those with depression, have a hard time seeing see the long-term health benefit of healthy behaviors like exercise and limiting sweets. Instead, they tend to indulge in high-fat, high-sugar comfort foods and skip the gym. “When you’re depressed, getting on the treadmill feels like something you cannot do,” he says.
Older people and younger women with depression may be more likely to develop osteoporosis, and a broken bone may be the first and only symptom. Some studies suggest that depression may contribute to low bone mass by reducing the amount of calcium and other minerals that are redeposited in bones as you age.
Long-term use of some antidepressants also may add to the problem. Maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D from sun exposure or supplements and exercising regularly can boost bone health and help alleviate the bone mineral loss associated with depression.
“The misery that goes with depression may propel people to seek drugs to alleviate their symptoms, even though those drugs are not going to help them,” Muskin says. Tobacco and alcohol are the most easily accessible and most often abused drugs for people with depression.
About 20 percent of those with an anxiety or mood disorder, like depression, experience alcohol or substance abuse. Depression also increases the chance of relapsing after treatment for addiction. Treating both conditions together is usually needed to reduce the risk for relapse.