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Blog: Depression After a Heart Attack: Finding Hope and Healing

Depression After a Heart Attack: Finding Hope and Healing

When it comes to heart attacks, all of the information out there seems centered around preventing a heart attack and what to do if you believe you’re having one. This isn’t without reason — prevention is an integral part of any kind of medicine and the ability to recognize the signs of a heart attack can save your life.

But what about life after a heart attack? Sadness and depression often follow on the heels of a heart attack or other serious cardiac event. When you can’t escape feelings of sadness after a heart attack, there are resources out there to help you find hope and healing.

Are you experiencing symptoms of depression after a heart attack? If so, come see the team at Phoenix Heart. We were recently voted No. 1 in cardiology groups by Ranking Arizona magazine and we set the bar in cardiovascular care. Our medical team is dedicated to treating patients and their caregivers with the utmost respect, empathy, and professionalism. We are consistently at the forefront of adopting the newest and best technologies to advance the health of our patients.

The link between depression and heart attacks

Depression and heart attacks exist on a two-way street. According to the Johns Hopkins Heart and Vascular Institute, the relationship goes both ways: A percentage of people with no history of depression become depressed after a heart attack or after developing heart failure. And people with depression but no previously detected heart disease seem to develop heart disease at a higher rate than the general population.

It’s easy to see why cardiac events can lead to depression. After experiencing a heart attack, you may feel any of the following:

  • Worry
  • Embarrassment
  • Overwhelmed
  • Guilty for behaviors that may have increased your risk
  • Uncertainty about the future

 You may also feel less confident in your ability to fulfill your expected roles — as a father, productive employee, wife, provider, etc.

A look at the numbers

Despite the known link between depression and heart attacks, it’s hard to establish if heart attacks cause depression. Think of it this way – it’s almost impossible to know if a heart attack leads to first-time depression because many patients may have not been formally diagnosed with depression prior to the cardiac event. 

Despite this, the numbers are clear. About 50% of patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease have some depressive symptoms and 20% suffer from major depression. Additionally, one study found that 20% of post-heart attack patients could be qualified as in persistent emotional distress.

Depression symptoms

It’s normal to feel a temporary sense of sadness after a heart attack, but these symptoms usually go away as your resume normal activities. However, you may be suffering from depression if you experience a combination of the following every day for two or more weeks: 

  • Frequent feelings of sadness or emptiness
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Excessive crying
  • Thoughts of suicide and death
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
  • Irritability 

Talk to your Phoenix Heart doctor to determine if your depression is linked to a cardiac event.

Finding hope and healing

There are a few ways to recover from depression related to a heart attack. Cardiac rehabilitation is well regarded and will be recommended by your doctor. It has three main prongs: exercise counseling and training to get your body moving in heart-healthy ways; education on how to manage your risk factors and nutrition; and counseling to reduce stress.

Social support, from both friends and other survivors, can boost mood and improve your confidence. Therapy can also yield great results, whether it be with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychiatric social worker. 

Depression after a heart attack is normal, but treatments are out there. Phoenix Heart can help. Call or request an appointment at one of our Arizona offices today.

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