Depression and Heart Disease: Four Small Steps to Recovery

Melanie Thomassian Health Pro

    If you've suffered a heart attack, had heart surgery, or recently been diagnosed with heart disease, it is common to experience low mood or even feel depressed. 


    Sometimes feeling low can be the result of the "unknown" — you're simply not sure what to expect in the next few months, and you may be feeling overwhelmed by how things have changed since your diagnosis.


    Feelings of temporary sadness are quite normal. But, you can expect this to go away slowly, over the course of a few weeks. 


    However, if you feel depressed everyday for two or more weeks you should make an appointment with your doctor. Medical professionals are trained to help you make a full recovery, and to help you understand the things which are causing concern.

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    Getting treatment for depression is extremely important. Symptoms to look out for include:


    • An increase in negative thoughts or anxiety
    • Withdrawing from your usual activities or little interest in things
    • Increased tearfulness or irritability
    • Difficulties with your normal daily routine, such as eating and getting dressed
    • Thoughts of self-harm


    If you find it difficult to participate in your heart health recovery plan (such as scheduled clinics or your cardiac rehab program), do talk to someone, your heart health is extremely important too.


    What can you do to overcome depression?


    Friends and family members are often a good starting point. But, at other times you may prefer to talk to someone who is "separate" from your situation, and that's completely fine. 


    Whatever the case, sharing how you feel will help you work though your thoughts, perhaps make sense of things, and gain new perspective on your situation and health. 


    It really is important to talk, even if you feel it's a pointless exercise — try to keep the lines of communication open with someone you can trust.


    If you have suicidal thoughts please do call your doctor, or a good friend immediately. 


    Alternatively, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be contacted at:


    1-800-273-TALK (8255)


    This is a free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis, or emotional distress. 


    4 ways to help cope with depression

    Coping with depression isn't easy. But, it is entirely possible. Here are 4 small steps you can begin taking to aid your recovery:


    1. Start slowly

    The key to depression recovery is starting out with a few small goals, then slowly building from those early foundation stones. Focus on the day to day, rather than the longer-term issues.


    2. Find a support network

    Try to get support from the people around you, whether it's friends, family or a local support group. Use whatever resources you have access to, even if it's just picking up the telephone and calling a friend in another state.


    3. Filter out negativity

    You may have someone or something in your life that adds to your anxiety. Whatever it is, ask yourself "Is this helpful to my recovery right now?" If the answer is "NO!" is it time to draw back from that person or thing, perhaps for a short time, or longer? 


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    4. Focus on your health

    You may have very little energy to think about eating well or exercising right now, but these things are important for your long-term heart health, as well as your mental health.


    As I said above, start slowly — perhaps focus on eating small regular meals, cutting out caffeine, or taking a short walk everyday. 


    Small steps are steps in the right direction, and steps in the right direction will help you move towards recovery.


    While these things may appear small in the grand scheme of things, if you find time for them everyday, they will very soon add up. 


    Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian and author of She has a passion for helping others live healthier lifestyles. Why not follow her healthy eating blog?


Published On: May 13, 2010