What does depression have to do with my heart attack?
As many as 65% of people who have a heart attack report feeling depressed. Women, people who have been depressed before, and people who feel alone and without social or emotional support are at a higher risk for feeling depressed after a heart attack.
Being depressed can make it harder for you to recover. However, depression can be treated.
What is depression?
Depression is a medical illness, like diabetes or high blood pressure. The symptoms of depression can include the following:
- Feeling sad or crying often (depressed mood)
- Losing interest in daily activities that used to be fun
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping
- Feeling agitated, cranky or sluggish
- Loss of energy
- Feeling very guilty or worthless
- Problems concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
How will I know if I am depressed?
People who are depressed have most or all of the above symptoms nearly every day, all day, for 2 or more weeks. One of the symptoms must be depressed mood or loss of interest in daily activities.
If you have some or all of the above symptoms, see your family doctor. Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms, your health and your family’s history of health problems.
How is depression treated?
Depression can be treated with medicine, counseling or both.
Depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Medicines called antidepressants can correct this imbalance. If your doctor prescribes an antidepressant medicine for you, follow his or her advice on how to take it. These medicines can take a few weeks to start working, so be patient. Also, be sure to talk to your doctor before you stop taking any medicine or if you have any unusual symptoms.
How you think about yourself and your life can also play a part in depression. Counseling can help you identify and stop negative thoughts and replace them with more logical or positive thinking. Many people who are depressed, and their families, benefit from counseling or “talk therapy.”
What else can I do to help myself feel better?
Many times people feel depressed because they are inactive and aren’t involved in social and recreational activities. You may find that participating in a hobby or recreational activity improves your mood. Interacting more with other people or beginning an exercise program can also help you feel better. Many people who have had a heart attack benefit physically and mentally from a cardiac rehabilitation program. Talk to your doctor about what kinds of activities and exercise programs are right for you.
Does treatment for depression usually work?
Yes. Treatment helps between 80% and 90% of people with depression.
Revision date: July 4, 2011
Last revised: by David A. Scott, M.D.