You look healthy. You feel healthy. You must be healthy, right?
Unfortunately, what goes through your head is not always aligned with your heart—more specifically, your heart health.
We know that heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., but did you know that heart health is also strongly associated with depression?
According to PsyCom, “The relationship between heart disease and depression is bidirectional, meaning that each can increase the risk of developing the other. People with no history of depression are at increased risk after a heart attack, and people who are depressed develop heart disease at a higher percentage than the general population.”
What are the signs?
Depression is difficult to diagnose. It is even harder to separate “normal” feelings after a heart attack or surgery from depression. MedlinePlus identifies nine persistent signs and symptoms to look for:
- Feeling irritable
- Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling tired or not having energy
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- A big change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
- A loss of pleasure in activities you usually enjoy
- Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and guilt
- Repeated thoughts of death or suicide
As you recover from a heart attack or surgery, these symptoms should improve. However, as Cleveland Clinic notes, “treatment is necessary when depression is severe and accompanied by other symptoms (including withdrawal from activities, not responding when visiting with family and friends, increased negative thoughts and tearfulness).”
How to treat depression
Depression looks different for every person. And so does treating it. There is no singular way to confront depression—the important thing is that you do it.
PsyCom identifies action steps and treatment options for anyone struggling with depression:
- Socialize with friends and family
- Develop and practice health habits
- Talk to your doctor and get medication, if necessary
- Find a support group or rehabilitation program
- Consider talk therapy (psychotherapy)
Getting started is the hardest part
Whether you are experiencing feelings of depression and worried about the toll on your heart or your heart health is leading to depression, there is hope.
If you recently had a heart attack or surgery, don’t downplay persistent post-op symptoms. And, if you are struggling with depression, don’t wait until it’s too late. Heart health is important—and so are you.