Overall, it’s estimated that 18 percent of American women have depression, and women are twice as likely to have depression than men are.
When looking at people with heart disease, it’s estimated that 20 to 25 percent of all patients in a cardiac care unit are depressed at any given time — and if you also included those with symptoms of mild depression, that number goes up to around 50 percent. "Women are doubly disadvantaged,” says Sharonne N. Hayes, M.D., Director of the Women’s Heart Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, "because we’re more likely to have depression, and we’re also more likely to die of heart disease” when compared to men.
But why does it matter if you have heart disease and depression? "If you’re depressed, it’s much harder to make the changes you need to make to get healthier,” says Hayes. Researchers believe this may be the reason that depression increases the risk of heart disease. "Depression doubles the risk of having heart disease, and it also doubles your risk of having a negative health outcome,” says Kathy Kastan, L.C.S.W., M.A.Ed, author of From the Heart: A Woman's Guide to Living Well with Heart Disease, and president of WomenHeart's Board of Directors from 2003-2007.
The increased cardiac risk may stem from personality traits, like chronic anger or chronic anxiety, which can lead to depression. "The most toxic personality traits are anger, antagonism, picking fights, looking at things negatively, and anxiety,” says Hayes. "Those behaviors are not good for your heart.”
"We all have stress in our lives — bad and good,” says Kastan. "It’s how we deal with it that makes a difference. How do we manage our lives so that we’re more effective, and more tolerant to what’s going on?”