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Anxiety, Depression May Triple Heart Patients' Death Risk

Researcher recommends stress-reducing measures

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Simon Rego, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said these findings show how mental health issues can complicate medical problems.

"These findings lend further support to the serious impact that psychological disorders can have on medical outcomes, and suggest that patients presenting with medical conditions and/or for medical procedures should be routinely assessed for both anxiety and depression," Rego said.

Patients with anxiety and/or depression should, at a minimum, have their symptoms closely monitored on a regular basis, and ideally get referred to a psychologist with expertise in treatments for anxiety and depression, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, Rego said. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a treatment that helps patients try to change their thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Whether treating anxiety and depression in these patients will reduce the risk of dying isn't clear, however, Fonarow said.

"Further studies are needed to determine if effective treatment of anxiety and depression can reduce cardiovascular risk," he said.

The authors acknowledge that one limitation of the study is that it did not account for substance use and abuse, which tends to be high in people with depression and anxiety disorders.

While the study found an association between an increased risk of death from all causes and having heart disease accompanied by anxiety and depression, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

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