Mental health screening may help detect heart disease risk

Credit: Unsplash+

A recent study highlights the efficacy of psychological distress screening as a means to assess a patient’s risk for cardiovascular disease.

This method, which utilizes brief questionnaires, can provide valuable insights into a patient’s mental health risks and their associated risk of developing cardiovascular issues.

The research suggests that clinicians can incorporate this screening process into routine visits to better manage their patients’ cardiovascular health.

These findings have significant implications for healthcare providers and their ability to enhance patient care.

The Intersection of Psychological Distress and Cardiovascular Health

Psychological distress, characterized by elevated symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and psychosocial stress, has long been associated with cardiovascular disease risk.

However, translating this knowledge into practical clinical applications has been challenging.

Additionally, it was unclear whether brief screenings for psychological distress could effectively predict cardiovascular disease risk.

Most previous research on the link between psychological health and cardiovascular disease focused on individuals who already had a cardiovascular disease diagnosis.

The study aimed to fill this gap by exploring how psychological health in individuals without prior psychiatric diagnoses could indicate future cardiovascular risks.

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 28 studies involving over 600,000 patients.

These studies assessed psychological distress in adults without prior psychiatric diagnoses using brief screeners for depression, anxiety, PTSD, stress, or general mental health symptoms.

The participants were followed for over six months to determine their risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. The analysis included a majority of women (58%) and a total of 658,331 participants.

The meta-analysis revealed that individuals reporting high psychological distress had a 28% higher risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those with low or no distress.

These brief screeners, widely recognized and easy to administer, provided valuable insights into cardiovascular disease risk, complementing standard assessments like blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Expanding Cardiovascular Health Checklists

These findings align with updated guidelines from the American Heart Association, which emphasize various factors contributing to optimal cardiovascular health.

While “healthy sleep” was added to the checklist, the importance of “managing stress and mental health” was not included.

The researchers argue that the checklist should be expanded to encompass good mental health as a crucial component of cardiovascular health.

In practice, brief screenings for both depression and anxiety can offer a more comprehensive evaluation of psychological distress.

Recommendations for Healthcare Providers

The researchers, who specialize in cardiac rehabilitation, emphasize the significance of supporting psychological health to promote cardiovascular health.

They recommend that all healthcare providers, including primary care and specialty providers, integrate brief psychological distress screenings into their assessments of cardiovascular risk.

Such screenings can be conducted efficiently and provide valuable information for patient care.

Additionally, they encourage healthcare providers to make brief recommendations to patients based on screening results, such as pointing them toward freely available mental health resources.

In summary, psychological distress screening, when combined with actionable recommendations, has the potential to enhance patient care, better manage cardiovascular risks, and improve overall health outcomes.

If you care about mental health, please read studies about 6 foods you can eat to improve mental health, and B vitamins could help prevent depression and anxiety.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about how dairy foods may influence depression risk, and results showing Omega-3 fats may help reduce depression.

The research findings can be found in the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention.