Depression and Heart Disease: Awareness and Treatment

Depression is actually a fairly common condition among people who have had a heart event. As many as one in three of us who’ve had a heart attack report feelings of depression. Women, people who’ve already experienced depression, and people without a social network or emotional support are at higher risk for depression following a heart event. Depression isn’t a character flaw, nor is it something you can just shake off or snap out of. It’s a serious condition that requires medical care. And treatment works. Here we review symptoms and treatments for depression that you should know.

Be Aware of the Symptoms of Depression

It’s normal to feel sad on occasion. But sometimes you may feel sad for extended periods of time, with or without a reason. If these sad feelings interfere with your daily activities, this could be depression. Here are the definite symptoms associated with depression:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood, including crying
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Noticeable changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Feeling agitated, cranky, or sluggish
  • Not seeing a clear, purposeful future
  • Losing energy
  • Feeling guilty or worthless
  • Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Having thoughts of death or suicide

Depression is often described as having symptoms from this list nearly every day, all day, for two or more weeks. That’s part of what distinguishes the symptoms of depression from ordinary feelings of sadness. The first two symptoms are especially common in people with depression. For patients who’ve had a heart event, the symptoms of depression can be more severe. That’s why it’s especially important to seek treatment if you believe you are experiencing depression.

Know the Effects of Depression

Depression affects everything in your daily life, including your recovery from a heart event. In fact, depression can make recovery more difficult because it can lead to the following conditions:

  • A lower desire to follow the treatment plan
  • Greater likelihood to smoke and drink
  • Greater risk for another heart event
  • Lower desire for physical activity
  • Bad eating habits
  • Anxiety
  • Problems at work or school
  • Family and relationship problems
  • Social isolation
  • Suicide
Get Diagnosed

See your health care team if you suspect you are depressed. Prepare to answer some questions about your symptoms. It helps to write down basic information beforehand, such as:

  • Any symptoms, even if they don’t seem related to the depression
  • Personal information, such as major changes in your life (including your heart event) or anything that is causing you stress
  • Medications, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements

Also note questions to ask your health care team. Inquire about symptoms, treatment options, and anything else you need clarified.

To diagnose depression, your health care team will probably conduct a physical exam and take a medical history. In some cases, a blood test or other lab procedure may be the next step. You will probably be asked about your thoughts and feelings, what you’ve noticed about your own behavior patterns, and whether you’ve had such symptoms before.