Mental state can play a crucial role in physical health. New research from Tel Aviv University suggests poor mental health can interfere with the heart.

Study author Vicky Myers and her team found that heart attack patients who also suffer from depression are more inclined to be readmitted for cardiac events and chest pains in the future. Myers gathered data from 632 heart attack patients under the age of 65 admitted to Israeli hospitals between 1992 and 1993 while comparing their recoveries using follow-up data through 2005.

The researchers found people identified as at least “mildly depressed” during their first hospital stay were far more likely to be re-hospitalized later with further cardiac health problems. Patients with a higher depression score spent 14 percent more time in the hospital than those with a low score.

Myers said the likely cause is lifestyle choices. Most heart attack patients are offered rehabilitation services, and are advised to change their lifestyle to include exercise, diet, and smoking cessation programs. Depressed patients are far less likely to avail themselves of rehab services, or elect to make life changes themselves.

Overall, depressed patients were 20 percent less likely to be physically active after suffering a heart attack, 26 percent less likely to participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program, and 25 percent less likely to quit smoking.

“This message is that doctors cannot ignore psychological factors in patients who have had a heart attack. Patients who exhibit signs of depression need to be followed more closely, and may need extra help in following lifestyle recommendations. Ignoring this problem weighs heavily on health services,” Myers said.

Study findings were published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research.

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