Can Heart Disease Cause Depression?
The physical challenges associated with heart disease are well documented. However, this is only part of the story for many people. It’s common for individuals with heart disease to also struggle with depression. Approximately 20% of individuals who have a heart attack develop depression shortly after, and roughly 30% of individuals with heart failure develop depression.
It’s critical to seek treatment for depression after developing heart disease. Unmanaged mental health issues can exacerbate your heart condition and potentially increase your risk of a future cardiac event.
Impact of a Heart Condition on Your Mental Health
When you have heart disease or undergo a significant procedure to address a cardiac event, it can impact your mental health in a variety of ways:
- Life routines change and there can be limitations on your lifestyle, leading to an increased risk of depression
- A diagnosis of heart disease can cause feelings of sadness, stress or depression
- You may lack confidence in your ability to be a dedicated parent or productive employee, which can increase your stress and lead to depression
- A sense of uncertainty about the future can result in a negative mental outlook
- Feelings of embarrassment and self-doubt may develop due to diminished physical capabilities
- Feelings of guilt about previous habits that may have increased your risk of heart disease can spiral into depression
In most instances, heart attack survivors are able to resume the roles and responsibilities they had prior to their cardiac event. However, when depression becomes debilitating, it can negatively impact your rehabilitation and your prognosis for a full recovery. For this reason, cardiac rehab often includes meeting with a therapist to help manage any bouts of depression that develop.
How Does Depression Impact Your Recovery After a Heart Attack?
Research has found that individuals who suffer from depression after a heart attack have a lower chance of making a full recovery and also experience a higher risk of death. There are several reasons why depression may negatively impact your recovery after a heart attack:
- Depression can decrease your motivation to follow healthy daily routines and result in avoiding exercise, eating an unhealthy diet, skipping important heart medications, and engaging in unhealthy habits such as drinking or smoking.
- Individuals with depression often have very sticky platelets (the small cells that facilitate blood clotting). When these sticky platelets develop in heart disease patients, it can accelerate the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and increase the risk of a future heart attack.
- Depression can cause changes to your nervous system and hormonal balance that can increase your risk of an irregular heart rhythm, called an arrhythmia. In addition, individuals who develop depression after a heart attack are more susceptible to developing potentially fatal heart rhythm abnormalities.
Seeking Support for Depression After a Heart Condition
If you’ve experienced a heart attack, heart failure or any other heart condition, it’s critical to seek out the proper mental health support to help you manage any depression you develop in association with your cardiac issue. This support can come in a variety of forms, including:
- Comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation plan – As part of your cardiac rehabilitation plan, your cardiologist should recommend supervised exercise plans and a nutrition plan specifically designed to facilitate a proper recovery. These efforts can help you return to normal activities as soon as possible, and this progress can significantly improve your mental health and confidence moving forward.
- Mental health professionals – If you feel like you’re experiencing depression after a heart condition, it’s important to work with a psychologist or psychiatrist who can help you navigate these feelings. While mild forms of depression can often be successfully treated by speaking with a psychologist, more severe bouts of depression may require antidepressant medication as part of your treatment plan.
- Social support groups – It’s common to withdraw or lose social confidence after suffering a cardiac event such as a heart attack, but making an effort to engage with your social network can play an important role in your recovery. Make sure you lean on family and friends for support during this time, and prioritize carving out time to socialize with friends throughout your rehab.
South Denver Cardiology Associates Can Help
At South Denver Cardiology Associates, we understand the importance of a positive mental outlook in recovering from a heart condition. Our Cardiac Rehabilitation Clinic provides the total wellness support services necessary to make a full recovery. Some of the mental health support services you can take advantage of include:
- Our Mind/Body Studio, which offers a variety of services to reduce stress and improve your mental health
- Our Health and Healing Center, which will help you create a customized treatment plan that focuses on your mental health as you recover from your cardiac event
- Our Medical Fitness Gym, which will help you develop a customized exercise regimen that will not only facilitate a full recovery, but also elevate your mood in the process
In addition, our cardiologists will closely monitor your mental health throughout your recovery and recommend the proper mental health professionals to provide the support you need if you’re struggling with depression.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation. South Denver Cardiology Associates serves patients in Denver, Littleton and the surrounding areas.
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As with any health concerns, your specific treatment program should be discussed thoroughly with your primary care physician as well as any specialists who may need to be consulted – like a cardiologist.Sign Up