Heart disease and depression

Updated: Apr 22

It is common for you to feel sad or depressed after a heart attack, cardiac surgery or procedure, recent hospitalization, or new diagnosis of heart disease. These emotions may be the result of not knowing what to expect or not being able to do simple tasks without becoming overly tired. Temporary feelings of sadness are normal, and should gradually go away within a few weeks, as you get back to your normal routine and activities.

Sometimes, however, a depressed mood can prevent you from leading a normal life. When a depressed mood is severe and accompanied by other symptoms that persist every day for 2 or more weeks, treatment is necessary to help you cope and recover.

What is the role of depression in patients with cardiovascular disease?

Studies have shown that mental stress has a negative effect on a person’s heart health. In particular:

Unmanaged stress can lead to high blood pressure, arterial damage, irregular heart rhythms and a weakened immune system. Patients with depression have been shown to have increased platelet reactivity, decreased heart variability and increased proinflammatory markers (such as C-reactive protein or CRP), which are all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

For people with heart disease, depression can increase the risk of an adverse cardiac event such as a heart attack or blood clots. For people who do not have heart disease,


How do I know when to seek help?

If you’re recovering from heart surgery, a heart attack, or another heart condition, temporary feelings of sadness and a depressed mood are common for the first few weeks.

However, treatment is necessary when depression is severe and accompanied by other symptoms (including withdrawal from activities, not responding when visiting with family and friends, increased negative thoughts and tearfulness).

Without treatment, depression can become worse. For heart patients, depression can contribute to an increased risk of heart attack and coronary disease. Talk to your GP who can diagnose and start depression treatment with safe antidepressants. Your GP can refer you to a specialist when necessary.

When depression is negatively affecting your life — such as causing increased difficulties with relationships or performance at work or at home, it is important for you to get help to prevent things from getting worse.

More specific reasons to seek help include:

· Your negative feelings, such as low mood or lack of experiencing pleasure, persist daily for 2 weeks or more.

· You find it increasingly difficult to participate in your recovery from heart disease. It is not uncommon for patients participating in cardiac rehabilitation to experience emotional difficulties during their physical recovery. A lack of mental drive or motivation, as well as a lack of confidence may indicate that depression has settled in.

· You have significant difficulty with your daily routine, social activities and/or work.

· You don’t have anyone in whom you can confide. If you don’t have anyone to share your thoughts with, it’s hard to know if what you’re thinking makes sense. Depression also has a tendency to make people more withdrawn and isolated, making it harder to receive social support during difficult times.

· You have suicidal thoughts or feelings. Suicide is an irreversible solution to problems and causes permanent harm not only to yourself, but also to family members and friends. If you are having thoughts of suicide, call your physician or local 24-hour suicide hotline right away, or go to the nearest emergency room for help.

Depressive disorders result from a mix of factors

· A person’s family history, physical health, state of mind and environment.

· High levels of stress, life transitions, loss and many other factors.

· Imbalances in the chemicals that the body uses to control mood.


Tips for coping with depression

· Get dressed every day.

· Practice stress management and relaxation techniques.

· Get out and walk daily.

· Follow your prescribed exercise regimen.

· Ask your health care provider about a cardiac rehabilitation program.

· Resume hobbies and social activities you enjoy.

· Share your feelings with your spouse, friend or a member of the clergy.

· During your recovery from surgery or a recent hospitalization, visits with friends should be limited to 15 minutes at first. Then, increase the amount of time spent with visitors, depending on how you feel.

· Get a good night’s sleep.

· Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals and follow your prescribed dietary guidelines.

· Ask your health care provider about support groups that may help you cope. Support groups are available for patients who have had heart surgery and their families.

· Consider support from community support groups, either for the depressed person, or for you as the family member.

Joining a support group can help you vent your feelings and also be a great way to interact with other individuals.

Heart Support Australia runs monthly support groups in locations across Australia. To join call us at 02 62530097 or email at office@heartnet.org.au

(Please note : This article is credited to https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16917-depression--heart-disease and has been written by a medical expert)

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