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Doctors Urged To Screen Heart Patients For Depression

The World Health Organization estimates that more than seven million people died from heart disease in 2005, making it one of the leading causes of death. Researchers also say that one side effect of heart disease is mental depression. Recently, the American Heart Association recommended that patients with coronary heart disease should be screened for depression. VOA's Melinda Smith reports.

The American Heart Association wants doctors to ask patients with heart disease some simple questions:

How often in the past two weeks have you had little interest or pleasure in doing things? And during those two weeks, how often have you felt down, depressed or hopeless?

The answers can range from "not at all" to "every day." If the response is in the affirmative, the Heart Association recommends asking further questions - about difficulty sleeping, feeling tired, eating poorly or trouble relating to others.

The AHA (American Heart Association) says studies have shown that heart patients experience depression at three times the rate of those in the general population. Research also indicates that patients who are not treated for depression are least likely to take their heart medicine or show up for cardiac rehabilitation.

Treatment for depression involves antidepressant drugs, talk therapy and physical exercise suitable to the patient's condition.

Cardiologists say a patient's life can be extended or perhaps saved by treating depression in its early stages.