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Depression and heart disease

Some depression warning signs you need to be aware of

Depression and heart disease often go hand-in-hand. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, people with heart disease run such a high risk of depression that they should be screened for the condition.

As many as 15 - 20% of people hospitalized with a heart attack show symptoms of major depression. Those suffering from heart disease who are not hospitalized show depression rates of about 9.3%, compared with 4.8% of healthy people, according to the heart association. Other studies cited in From the Heart by kathy Kastan show even higher rates of depression - as high as 18 - 20% of those with heart disease and 40 - 65% of those who have had a heart attack suffer from depression. Regardless, these are all significant numbers - especially when you consider that millions of people across the world have heart disease.

Are you depressed?

Answer the following questions.

    1. How's your sleep? Have you been sleeping a lot more or less than usual?

    2. How's your appetite? Has it changed? Have you gained or lost a lot of weight unintentionally?

    3. How's your overall mood? Do you feel sad or hopeless?

    4. Have you lost interest or pleasure in all or most of your daily activities?

    5. Are you feeling fatigued? Do you feel tired and have no energy nearly all the time?

    6. Are you feeling anxious, agitated, restless, or slowed down? Are you feeling this way nearly every day?

    7. How's your ability to concentrate? Do you have trouble concentrating or making decisions?

    8. How's your self esteem?Do you feel worthless or guilty, or that life isn't worth living?

    9. Have you felt suicidal? Do you have dark thoughts or think about death or suicide attempts?

If you have 5 out of 9 of these depression warning signs for more than 2 weeks, you may be suffering from depression and you should seek the help of a qualified caregiver.

It's important to seek help if you are depressed. Studies show that those who are depressed are more likely to die after a heart attack than those who are not depressed. Depression and heart disease are treatable. They can be overcome.

Be Realistic

In the early days when you are recovering from a heart event, it's normal to go through some turmoil. You've just been through a profoundly life-changing experience. Your life has been disrupted, your self image has to be re-established, and your body needs time to heal. According to Dr. Beth Abramson of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, about 50% of patients experience blue moods post heart attack, especially in the first six weeks after treatment. In many people this is a passing thing and not unnatural. Just as when we grieve a loss we give ourselves time to heal, you need to give yourself time to heal physically and mentally from your heart event.

  • Increase your activities gradually. Don't try to do too much too fast.
  • Accept some help in the early days of your recovery. You don't have to do everything.
  • Listen to your body. When you feel tired - rest. Don't feel guilty about it - this is what you need to get well again.
  • Communicate with your loved ones. Tell them what you're feeling - physically and emotionally.
  • Learn to say no. It's important to set limits to protect your health. This was a big lesson for me.

But even if you do all these things, as the numbers above show, it's still possible to slip into depression. If you coped well initially but you find yourself battling complications in your heart attack recovery, if you've had heart surgery, or if you suffer another heart event, you may face depression.

What to do?

What can be done? Just as with any situation, awareness is the first step.

If you are suffering from depression and heart disease

  • Talk to someone you trust such as a family member, friend, or clergy person
  • See your family doctor

If you are feeling suicidal, here are some resources.

Suicide Prevention - Canada
Suicide Prevention - US
Suicide Prevention - UK
Additional resources for dealing with depression and heart disease that you may find helpful
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Recommended Reading:

Treating the Aching Heart: A Guide to Depression, Stress, and Heart Disease by Lawson R. Wulsin MD

From the Heart: A Woman's Guide to Living Well with Heart Disease by Kathy Kastan

Take a Load off Your Heart: 109 Things You Can Actually Do to Prevent, Halt and Reverse Heart Disease (Paperback) by Joseph C. Piscatella

Heart Disease (Advances in Psychotherapy -- Evidence-Based Practice) (Paperback) by Judith A. Skala

Have you suffered with depression and heart disease?

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