Patients with heart disease or who have had a heart attack often experience depression after being diagnosed or after undergoing a procedure. People who suffer from depression can experience excessive strain on their heart due to elevated stress levels. Therefore, both the heart and the mind need to be cared for diligently.
Heart disease or suffering from a heart attack can lead to depression. Research has shown that up to 33 percent of heart attack patients will feel some degree of depression during their recovery.1
“While about 1 in 20 American adults experience major depression in a given year, the number goes to about 1 in 3 for people who have survived a heart attack.”2
Being overly tired, as well as less capable of performing the simplest of tasks and therefore being more dependent on others for basic care needs can be some of the factors that contribute to feelings of sadness and despair. Also, studies indicate that almost 50% of heart patients experience serious cognitive problems after heart surgery and this may also lend itself to clinical depression for some. Finally, depression stemming from heart disease may make patients avoid rehabilitation exercises, taking their medication and socializing, all activities that would encourage and nurture their recovery.3
Having heart disease or a new cardiac event can affect many aspects of a person’s life, including:
- Attitude and mood
- Sense of certainty about the future
- Confidence in one’s ability to be productive
- Feelings of guilt about past habits that may have put them at higher risk for heart problems
- Embarrassment and self-doubt over diminished physical capabilities4
Most heart patients can return to life as usual, but if depression becomes debilitating, then recovery may need to include mental health support. “Depression is the estimated leading cause of disability worldwide, and heart disease is by far the leading cause of death in the United States. Approximately 1 in 3 Americans will die of some form of heart disease.”
Research has also shown that depression can make a person four times more likely to suffer a heart attack. One of the reasons is due to depression’s effect on self-care. People with depression are less likely to take the medications necessary to prevent or treat heart disease, as well as eat a balanced diet consistently, exercise regularly, and avoid cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol.5 Depression also can create an excessive release of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline from being in a “fight or flight” response which only increases stress on an already tasked heart. As both conditions share similar symptoms, like fatigue, lethargy, irritability, and insomnia, misdiagnosing or not recognizing depression is common and makes it even more challenging to treat heart patients while leaving them more vulnerable to recurring health issues or possibly death.
Studies have revealed that treating depression with talk therapy (also known as cognitive behavioral therapy) coupled with other preventative measures (like a change in diet and an increase in exercise) can significantly decrease the likelihood of a second heart attack and can protect the heart from further deterioration.
The simplest solution to becoming healthier, both physically and mentally, is to be active, [su_permalink id=”1579″ target=”blank”]practice mindfulness[/su_permalink] and be social. But from time-to-time, we can struggle with depression, anxiety or stress due to a medical condition or significant life event. At AbleTo, we help people by teaching them coping skills that make them feel more at peace and happier. Our program provides therapy and coaching sessions from the comfort, privacy and convenience of your own home at the time, day or night, that works best for your schedule. And, in many cases, AbleTo is covered by your insurance with little to no out-of-pocket expense.
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If you feel your depression is severe or if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, consult a doctor immediately or seek help at the closest emergency room. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255).