It is widely known that diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity can lead to heart disease. But, heart disease is also linked to range of illnesses that people might not expect, such as rheumatoid arthritis and depression.

Lori Mackstaller, an internal medicine physician, provides primary care to patients with heart disease at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

She said people who have heart disease tend to be more depressed, and those who are depressed are more likely to suffer heart disease due to an increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, inflammation, and arrhythmia.

“A study done ten years ago …found (that) people who are depressed have higher markers of C-reactive protein,” she said. “Normal C-reactive protein should be less than one and diabetics have between three and four marker, which is an increase cardiovascular risk independently.”

Although medical communities still look for an answer to which comes first, depression or heart disease, Mackstaller said, there is something a patient can do reduce or prevent a risk of developing depression.

Walking can burn off the chemicals in the brain that cause depression almost as effectively as antidepressant medication, talking to friends or counselor, and then if that is not enough going on medication, she said.

People who suffer rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and Parkinson’s are also at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, Mackstaller said.

For example, “If you are diabetic, you have a first risk of having a heart attack as somebody who has already had a heart attack,” she explained.

In November 2012, The American Heart Association came out with new guidelines for cardiovascular prevention and its assessment.

To calculate your cardiovascular risk click here.