Heart Health and Depression: What Men Need to Know
Depression and heart disease affect millions of American men—and many experience both at the same time. For Men’s Health Month, learn how heart health is tied to mental health, the symptoms of depression, and steps to keep your heart and mind healthy.
Nearly 1 in 10 men say they feel some depression or anxiety every day,1and almost 1 in 3 have gone through a period of major depression at some point in their lives.2
Everyone can feel sad or “blue” sometimes. But depression is when feelings of hopelessness, sadness, loss, or frustration cause trouble with daily life. Depression can last weeks, months, or even years.
About 1 in 13 adult men are living with heart disease, which is also their number one killer.3,4
Heart Disease and Depression: What Is the Connection?
Depression and heart disease can happen at the same time.
Some connections between depression and heart disease include:
- Depression that lasts longer than a couple of weeks can lead to certain behaviors, such as abusing alcohol or not sleeping, that put heart health at risk. Depression also raises the levels of certain hormones and proteins in the body that can cause inflammation (swelling) and high blood pressure—leading causes of heart disease and stroke.5,6
- People with depression are more likely to have other conditions that can lead to heart disease, including obesity and diabetes.7
- Men who have a heart condition are more at risk for depression than men without heart problems. Men may feel anxious or sad about how having heart disease will affect their lives and finances. They may be in pain or not feel up to starting healthy living habits that could improve their heart health and reduce their depression.8
How Do Depression and Heart Disease Affect Men?
Although both men and women get depression, men often have different symptoms than women, including:2
- Feeling angry.
- Acting aggressively.
- Abusing drugs or alcohol.
- Having trouble sleeping.9
These symptoms can put men at risk for heart problems by raising blood pressure and putting extra stress on the heart. Men may also be less likely than women to reach out for help with depression.9 The longer men stay depressed and don’t seek treatment, the worse it is for their hearts.
If you have any of the symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or counselor. Learn more about the symptoms of depression in men.
Protecting Your Heart and Mind: A Positive Spiral
The good news is that staying mentally healthy can help your heart. And staying heart-healthy through diet, physical activity, and other behaviors can help prevent or lessen depression.
For good mental and heart health throughout your life, try these steps:
See a professional. If you have depression but do not have heart problems, talk to a mental health professional about treatment for your depression. Treating depression can help your heart health in the long term and improve your quality of life.
If you have been diagnosed with a heart problem, talk to your doctor about any feelings of depression you have. Your doctor can talk to you about medicines and healthy living habits that can help both your heart and your mental health.
Stay physically active. Physical activity boosts your mood and keeps your blood vessels healthy and strong. Studies show that exercise may be as effective as medicine in reducing symptoms of depression.7 Learn more about physical activity.
Watch what you eat and drink. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. Avoid foods that may raise your blood pressure or keep you from sleeping at night, such as caffeine, foods high in sodium (salt), and alcohol. Learn more about how to lower your blood pressure with a special diet called DASH.
Do not smoke. Smoking tobacco is linked to both depression and heart disease.10 If you do smoke, learn how to quit.
Get support from loved one. Talk to trusted family or friends about what you are feeling. Loved ones can help support you in healthy habits, such as by going grocery shopping with you, being exercise partners, and reminding you to take your medicines.
- Healthy Is Strong —CDC Million Hearts®
- Men and Heart Disease Fact Sheet —CDC
- Brother You’re on my Mind: Changing the National Dialogue Regarding Mental Health Among African American Men —National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
- How does depression affect the heart? —American Heart Association
- Depression After a Cardiac Event or Diagnosis —American Heart Association
- Blumberg SJ, Clarke TC, Blackwell DL. (2015). Racial and ethnic disparities in men’s use of mental health treatments.[723 KB] NCHS data brief, no. 206. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.
- Martin LA, Neighbors HW, Griffith DM. The experience of symptoms of depression in men vs women: analysis of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(10):1100–6. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.1985.
- National Center for Health Statistics. (2016). Health, United States, 2015:[13 MB]: with special feature on racial and ethnic disparities.
- Benjamin EJ, Blaha MJ, Chiuve SE, Cushman M, Das SR, Deo R, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2017 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;135:e1–458.
- Prossin AR, Koch AE, Campbell PL, Barichello T, Zalcman SS, Zubieta JK. Acute experimental changes in mood state regulate immune function in relation to central opioid neurotransmission: a model of human CNS-peripheral inflammatory interaction. Mol Psychiatry. 2016;21:243–51. doi:10.1038/mp.2015.110.
- American Heart Association (AHA). (2017). How does depression affect the heart?
- Knapen J, Vancampfort D, Moriën Y, Marchal Y. Exercise therapy improves both mental and physical health in patients with major depression.[191 KB] Disabil Rehabil 2015. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2014.972579.
- Ziegelstein RC. (n.d.). Depression and heart disease.
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2013). Men and depression.
- Stafford L, Berk M, Jackson HJ. (2013). Tobacco smoking predicts depression and poorer quality of life in heart disease. BMC Cardiovascular Disorders. 2013;13:35.