Depression and Heart Health: How Are They Connected?
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. The following will help you best realize when it’s best to seek treatment.
What is the Connection?
Heart disease and depression are linked in a number of ways. Some symptoms of depression, such as lack of energy, can make it harder to take care of your health. People who are depressed may be more likely to:
- Drink alcohol, overeat, or smoke to deal with feelings of depression
- Not exercise
- Feel stress, which increases your risk for abnormal heart rhythms and high blood pressure.
- Not take their medicines correctly
All of these factors:
- Increase your risk of having a heart attack
- Increase your risk of dying after a heart attack
- Increases the risk of being readmitted to the hospital
- Slow down your recovery after a heart attack or heart surgery
Signs of Depression
It is pretty common to feel down or sad after having a heart attack or heart surgery. However, you should start to feel more positive as you recover. If the sad feelings do not go away or more symptoms develop, do not feel ashamed. Instead, you should call your health care provider. You may have depression that needs to be treated.
Other signs of depression include:
- Feeling irritable
- Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling tired or not having energy
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much
- A big change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
- A loss of pleasure in activities you usually enjoy, including sex
- Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and guilt
- Repeated thoughts of death or suicide
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses and has several different treatment options that change from person-to-person. Treatment for depression may depend on how severe it is.
There are two main types of treatments for depression:
- Talk therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy commonly used to treat depression. It helps you change thinking patterns and behaviors that might add to your depression. Other types of therapy may also be helpful.
- Antidepressant medicines: There are many kinds of antidepressants. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are two of the most common used to treat depression. Your provider or therapist can help you find one that works for you.
If your depression is mild, talk therapy may be enough to help. If you have moderate to severe depression, your provider may suggest both talk therapy and medicine.
What You Can Do
Depression can make it hard to feel like doing anything. But there are ways you can help yourself feel better. Here are a few tips:
- Move more. Regular exercise can help reduce depression. However, if you are recovering from heart problems, you should get your doctor’s OK before starting to exercise. Your doctor may recommend joining a cardiac rehabilitation program. If cardiac rehab is not right for you, ask your doctor to suggest other exercise programs.
- Take an active role in your health. Studies show that being involved in your recovery and overall health can help you feel more positive. This includes taking your medicines as directed and sticking to your diet plan.
- Reduce your stress. Spend time each day doing things you find relaxing, such as listening to music. Or consider meditation, tai chi, or other relaxation methods.
- Seek social support. Sharing your feelings and fears with people you trust can help you feel better. It can help you better handle stress and depression. Some studies show it may even help you live longer.
- Follow healthy habits. Get enough sleep and eat a healthy diet. Avoid alcohol, marijuana, and other recreational drugs.
Sometimes, a depressed mood can prevent you from leading a normal life. It’s important to take care of your health because studies have shown that unmanaged stress can lead to high blood pressure, arterial damage, irregular heart rhythms, and a weakened immune system. We are here to help! Contact us for more information or to schedule an appointment.
(Some information provided by MedlinePlus).