Research Highlights:

  • There is a strong link between the level of a person’s depression and their odds of having heart disease or stroke, according to new research.
  • Researchers say by understanding the impact of the link, providers can help a patient’s overall health by addressing mental health and heart disease together.

Embargoed until 4 a.m. CT/5 a.m. ET Monday, Nov. 11, 2019 

DALLAS, Nov. 11, 2019 — The severity of a person’s depression may increase their odds of having heart disease or stroke, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019 — November 16-18 in Philadelphia. The Association’s Scientific Sessions is an annual, premier global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians.  

“Cardiovascular diseases are impacted by and related to a variety of aspects of health and well-being including mental health,” said study author Yosef M. Khan, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., national director of Health Informatics and Analytics for the American Heart Association in Dallas, Texas. “We found that the level of depression was strongly tied to living with heart disease and stroke, even after accounting for other factors that could impact risk, including the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 and variables of age, income, education, sex and race/ethnicity.”  

Researchers examined the connection between depression and non-fatal heart disease such as heart failure, coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack or stroke in U.S. adults age 20 years and older. Using depression questionnaires completed in National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), more than 11,000 adults diagnosed with depression were identified. This represents 231 million adults in the general population. Of these, about 1,200 people (translated to 20 million in the general population) said they had been diagnosed with heart disease or stroke.  

An analysis to quantify the link for depression and non-fatal heart disease and stroke found that the odds increased by 24% with each additional level increase of depression — mild, moderate, moderately severe or severe. 

“The implications of such an increase are vast,” Khan said. “By understanding the relationship and degree of impact we can properly identify, prevent, treat and create policies and strategies to help decrease cardiovascular diseases and improve lives by tackling mental health and heart disease together.”  

More studies are needed to determine if depression causes cardiovascular disease or cardiovascular disease causes depression, according to the authors.   

Co-authors are Remy Poudel, M.P.H., M.S., and Kim Stitzel, M.S., R.D. Author disclosures are in the abstract.  
Additional Resources:

Statements and conclusions of study authors presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the Association’s policy or position. The Association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The Association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific Association programs and events. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations and health insurance providers are available at 

The American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions is a premier global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians. Scientific Sessions 2019 is November 16-18 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. More than 12,000 leading physicians, scientists, cardiologists and allied health care professionals from around the world convene at the Scientific Sessions to participate in basic, clinical and population science presentations, discussions and curricula that can shape the future of cardiovascular science and medicine, including prevention and quality improvement. During the three-day meeting, attendees receive exclusive access to over 4,100 original research presentations and can earn Continuing Medical Education (CME), Continuing Education (CE) or Maintenance of Certification (MOC) credits for educational sessions. Engage in the Scientific Sessions conversation on social media via #AHA19.  

About the American Heart Association

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