Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common heart rhythm disorder. It can cause dizziness, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeats. It also increases the risk of stroke five-fold. Certain underlying conditions can increase the risk for AFib, like diabetes, hyperthyroidism and asthma. But many patients don’t know that mental health diseases like depression can increase the risk for AFib as well.

What is the Link Between AFib and Depression?

A recent American Heart Association study shows that depression may increase the risk of AFib. The study followed 6,600 participants for 13 years. These patients were from four ethnicities, had an average age of 62 and no history of heart disease. The participants who scored the highest on a depression clinical screening were 30 percent more likely to develop AFib.

While the exact reason for this correlation is still unconfirmed, there are several possibilities. There could be increased levels of hormones that affect the heart’s ability to maintain a constant rhythm. There could be higher levels of inflammation. Emotional stress is known to trigger AFib, and depression is essentially a period of prolonged emotional stress.

How Can I Reduce My Risk?

Because more than 16 million Americans suffer from depression, the correlation between depression and AFib is not something to take lightly. Thankfully, there are simple steps you can take to reduce risk.

Find a support system

Depression can make you feel alone—and make you want to be alone. But isolating yourself can worsen depression symptoms. Surround yourself with a strong support network of friends and family and join a depression support group. This can help you maintain a healing connection to people while you’re dealing with depression. Having supportive relationships can also encourage you to get the help you need to treat depression.

Support other people

When you’re depressed, it’s hard to feel good about yourself. We’re quick to see our own limitations and slow to remember our strengths. Turning our attention toward helping others, we make everyone feel better—ourselves included. We find not only relief from our depression and anxiety, but also improvements in our relationships.

Engage in physical activity

Exercise protects you from a variety of diseases, including depression and heart disease. When you engage in high-intensity exercises, your body releases chemicals called endorphins that make you feel good. In the long term, exercise releases growth factors that help your nerve cells grow, improving your brain function and making you feel better.

Get enough sleep

The relationship between sleep and depressive illness is complex. Depression may cause sleep problems and sleep problems may cause or contribute to depressive disorders. Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule by setting an alarm for the same time every day and using your bed only for sleeping.

Practice daily relaxation techniques

Activities such as yoga, meditation, or going for a walk in a peaceful setting can help you feel calmer and improve your mental state. By setting aside at least ten minutes for these activities, you will make taking care of yourself a priority.

Get professional help

Your doctor can screen your mental health and identify possible problems, and they can refer you to mental health professionals. A psychologist or licensed social worker can provide talk therapy to help you start thinking about your situation in a different light. A psychiatrist can prescribe medications. Because mental health and heart health are closely related, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist or cardiac electrophysiologist.

Talk to Your Doctor Today

Our team of electrophysiology doctors can answer your questions and help you manage your AFib. Schedule an appointment today to learn more.

About Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A.

The experienced electrophysiologists of Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A. have been serving West Florida including Sarasota, Venice, Tampa, Port Charlotte, and Sun City Center for over 15 years. Our specialty cardiologists, or EP doctors, help patients manage their abnormal heart rhythm conditions, whether they suffer from arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation (AFib), or other irregular heartbeats. Dr. Dilip J. Mathew, Dr. Antonio Moretta, and Dr. Rajesh Malik perform arrhythmia treatments like cardiac ablation, cryoablation, and implanting pacemakers or defibrillators. Dr. Mathew has performed nearly 5,000 complex cardiac ablations. View our office locations in Sarasota and Venice, Florida.