• Am I Stressed or Depressed, or Both?

     
     
    12/31/2014
    Neither stress nor depression is good for your heart. When you have heart disease -- and particularly after you’ve had a heart event, such as a heart attack or coronary artery bypass surgery -- it is common to temporarily feel sad or overwhelmed. Your emotions may stem from feeling powerless or frustrated at your limited physical capabilities. But they should go away within a few weeks after you are able to return to your normal routine.

    Unfortunately, stress you experience due to a heart condition can quickly turn into depression before you are even aware of it. This is concerning because depression is not only a medical condition that requires treatment, but it is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

    Heart Disease & Depression

    Here are some startling facts about heart disease and depression:
    • Even for people who do not have heart disease, depression can increase the risk of a heart attack and the development of coronary artery disease. And if you are depressed, you are more likely to die from sudden heart problems.
    • If you have heart disease, depression can increase the risk of an adverse heart event, such as a heart attack or blood clots.
    • If you have heart disease and are depressed, you are more likely to perceive a poorer health status, which decreases your quality of life.
    • If you have heart failure, depression increases your risk of being re-admitted to the hospital and it increases your risk of death. If you are recovering from heart surgery, depression can worsen pain and fatigue and cause you to withdrawal from your social support system. This increases your risk of surgery-related illness and even death.
    • If you have heart disease and are depressed, you are less likely to take your medications as directed. And negative lifestyle habits associated with depression -- such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, poor eating habits and lack of social support -- also contribute to your heart disease risk.

    Depression Is Not Uncommon: Know the Symptoms

    Up to 15 percent of people with heart disease experience major depression, whereas about 20 percent of people who have had a heart attack or coronary artery bypass surgery experience major depression. But many more experience some symptoms of depression, which may include:
    • Withdrawal from activities (for example, lack of motivation or lack of confidence in your cardiac rehabilitation program or another medical treatment program)
    • Lack of social support, or not responding when visiting with friends and family
    • Increased negative thoughts
    • Lack of experiencing pleasure
    • Tearfulness
    • Thoughts of suicide
    So, if you feel you may be depressed, speak to your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room, especially if you have thoughts of suicide. Before you can effectively cope with everyday stress, you might need psychotherapy or medication treatment for your symptoms of depression. The greater your depression is, the greater your risk of cardiovascular disease - so seeking treatment for depression as soon as possible will help your heart.