Depression and Heart Disease

Depression and Heart Disease

The first thing many people think about following a heart attack, heart surgery or stroke is the impact on physical well-being. But the mental and emotional toll heart disease takes on women is very real and should not be ignored. Getting past it can take time.

Women with heart disease tend to experience more depressive feelings than men. Safe and largely effective treatments are available, including medication and/or counseling along with care management. 

Signs you may be depressed

Depression doesn’t show up on an X-ray, but it is a serious medical illness. It’s more than a temporary change in mood, like waking up and feeling out of sorts one day and feeling better the next. It’s common to feel a lingering sadness with heart disease. It can be overwhelming to face limitations and concerns about both treatments and the future.

Depression can be detected through behaviors and attitude. Feeling indifferent, unmotivated or disinterested in things, but at the same time satisfied, is apathy. But if you’re sad, discouraged and hopeless about the future or suicidal*, those are signs of depression. 

If you have five or more symptoms of depression that last two weeks or more, there’s a strong possibility you may be suffering from depression. Schedule an appointment with your health care professional for an evaluation and to discuss treatment options.

How to handle depression

First, acknowledge that you need emotional support. Most symptoms will eventually improve, but connecting with others can help. Then reach out to your loved ones – they’ll want to support you.

Here are a few tips on how to cope:

  • Confide in someone you trust. Reach out to family members, friends or clergy. Those close to you may already know you’re depressed and want to help. They don’t want you to go through this alone, so let them in on how you’re feeling. They can even help lift your emotional burden.

  • Discuss treatment options with your health care professional. Recognize that depression may be a result of your heart condition. When you think of your overall recovery period, include depression as part of your treatment plan. Often the best ways to beat depression are counseling, medication or, in some cases, both. Your health care professional can help guide you on what’s best for you.

  • Unload your feelings. Talk about them, write them down or join a support group. Depression is a common medical condition, not a character flaw, and you shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it. Connecting with other survivors can also help with healing, especially when you may feel scared or lonely.

  • Stay active. Regular physical activity helps release endorphins that make you feel better. Physically active women have lower risk of depression and cognitive decline.

*The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the United States. Call or text 988 for help.