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The Link Between Elderly Depression and Heart Disease

Updated: Apr 27, 2023





More and more recent medical studies have been showing strong links between mental and physical health in seniors as well as the general population. This, of course, is not a wholly new discovery, but we have developed, in recent years, a much better understanding of the psychosomatic nature of many common senescence-related illnesses and diseases. Geriatric care management is, at its core, a highly person-centered practice that aims to connect all aspects of senior care, taking a more holistic methodology that treats a person – not just a condition. With this said, families with aging parents or relatives often find themselves in need of hiring a Geriatric Care Manager due to simultaneous comorbidities being treated by separate specialists in facilities that have faulty lines of communication when, ideally, various providers must work as a unit to ensure a well-rounded treatment plan that covers all bases.


There is ample evidence of strong links between psychological illness and several primary diseases that frequently affect the elderly, such as cardiovascular conditions, Type II Diabetes, and hypertension. Mental conditions don’t only influence the likelihood of occurrence of the aforementioned morbidities, but the trajectory of their development as well, with many geriatric care professionals observing a cycle where the physical and mental condition of a senior continue to negatively impact one another in a loop.


The Journal of Clinical Neuroscience published an article in 2018 (Depression and Cardiovascular Diseases in Elderly: Current Understanding) explaining that cardiovascular disease may be impacted by depression in elderly adults due to some of the physical effects depression can have overtime. The reality is that, due to underdiagnosis and undertreatment of mental health problems in older adults, many seniors remain unaware of the very real physical symptoms and manifestations of psychological issues, such as depression, and their long-term effects on the body. For example, we now know that one of the somatic results of clinical anxiety is prolonged over secretion of Cortisol, a hormone that can drastically suppress the effectiveness of one’s natural immune system making them less likely to properly fight off common illnesses and infections. When it comes to depression increasing the likelihood and severity of cardiovascular disease, it may be due to the hormonal response caused by the mental condition as well, especially pertaining to its causing dysfunction with the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal secretions. A heart condition can also be exacerbated by depression causing long-term systemic inflammation, chronic heart-rate impairment, and damage to the endothelial cells which line the blood vessels.


But it’s not just about lasting depression.


The American Heart Association states that Broken Heart Syndrome, scientifically known as Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, is on the rise among elders, with the number of cases increasing steadily every year in the United States.


Broken Heart Syndrome remains a somewhat-mysterious condition where grief, mourning, or stress can cause the weakening of one of the heart’s ventricles, often leading to death. For older adults especially, the loss of a loved one, anxiety over physical health, or stress over an unwelcome living situation can trigger a morbid connection between the heart and brain, significantly increasing the risk of future heart disease.


As a geriatric care management team, Senior Steps aims to focus on overall health and take an educational, preventative, all-encompassing approach that coordinates care among different providers and advocates for timely, quality treatment. Our work with seniors and their families streamlines the caretaking process in all its logistics to decrease stress and burnout and build true well-being. If you are interested in consulting with us at no cost, book a call at https://www.seniorsteps.org/book-online.


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