A Heavy Heart: Link to Depression and Anxiety

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A lot of patients that have a diagnosis of heart failure or a previous heart attack can oftentimes really stress out after they get that diagnosis. It's really common for patients to feel confused about why this may have happened or feel embarrassed or feel like something they may have done in the past may have contributed to that diagnosis. And there can be a lot of uncertainty about their future.

A lot of times patients can experience changes in their sleep. They can have low energy, low mood. The time that it can become problematic is if those type of feelings start to interfere with a person's daily activities.

We know that depression and anxiety and cardiovascular disease are linked. A lot of times it's hard to tell what comes first. Was it that a patient was depressed and anxious and then that led to their cardiovascular diagnosis? Or is it that they've had a heart attack and heart failure and then that makes them more prone to have depression? If a patient feels like there's changes in their mood, in their sleep, they just don't feel like themselves, to have the conversation with their physician and to even ask the question, do you think what I'm experiencing could be depression and anxiety?

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women here in the United States. And depression is far more common in women than it is in men. So I think for women in particular, having any signs or symptoms of depression or anxiety are paramount to treating their cardiovascular disease and really needs to be top of mind for both physicians and patients.

When it comes time to options to help treat a patient, there's a lot of things that we have available to us. So something that's very common is to make a referral to what's called cardiac rehabilitation. And what that is it's a supervised workout program for heart patients.

And so examples are patients that have had heart attacks or heart failure often go to these programs. And so there not only is a patient have the ability to work out and be physically active, but they also get that social support and meet other patients that are going through a similar experience as them.

In addition to that, also, some patients may need to seek psychiatric support or even be on medications. I think it's important that we remove the stigma of psychiatric disease and depression and anxiety and realize that we want to take good care of a person's heart health, that also means their psychological well-being.