Are you feeling down?

A heart attack or episode of unstable angina can be a shock. It’s common to feel very down or anxious afterwards, even if this is unusual for you. A British Heart Foundation survey found that over half of respondents with a heart condition had experienced anxiety or depression.1

There are lots of things you can do to get your mind, as well as your body, back on track

First, there’s the understandable fear of having another heart attack.1  It’s true the chances of this are higher than for someone who’s never had a heart attack, but on the plus side, the risk reduces significantly after 28 days.1  Then there’s the immediate impact on your health and lifestyle, including your ability to work. 1

Are you depressed?

Symptoms of depression vary and may include:2

- tiredness

- sadness that won’t go away 

- loss of confidence 

- difficulty concentrating

 - not getting pleasure from things you usually enjoy 

- anxiety

- avoiding friends 

- feeling helpless

- sleep problems

- loss of appetite 

If you experience any of the symptoms above, see your GP.  If you self-harm or are thinking about taking your own life then please seek help immediately. You can find details of where to find support here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/.

The mind/body connection

There’s some evidence that the connection between heart disease and depression may not just be psychological. Some research suggests that people who suffer from depression are more likely to suffer a heart attack.3

 If you are depressed you may be less likely to stick to your medication regime, which can also affect your recovery.

How to cope with anxiety and depression

So how can you find your way back to a positive outlook? Start with these suggestions…

  • Find out all you can about your condition. Attending Cardiac Rehab, understanding your medication and the lifestyle changes you can make will help you to feel more in control.
  • Chart your progress. Keeping a record of how you’re doing can help you to feel positive.
  • Get support. Local heart groups, where you can meet other heart attack survivors, can be great for emotional support. For more details, see The British Heart Foundation• 
  • Get moving. Regular exercise may lift your mood. Ask your doctor’s advice on when and how to get active.
  • Talk about it. If you find it hard to talk about how you feel to loved ones, try counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), where you learn to change how you think about yourself, the world and other people. Ask your GP to refer you or visit the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
  • Try mindful meditation. This combines meditation with yoga and CBT, and is recommended by government advisory body NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) for the treatment of depression. Visit www.bemindful.co.uk

‘Counselling helped me’ 

‘I felt like my life was over after I had a heart attack, but I was so scared of upsetting my family that I couldn’t talk about it. In the end, my doctor referred me for counselling. Somehow, it was easier to talk to a stranger because I knew they wouldn’t get upset. Slowly I began to force myself to do things. Within five months, I was back at work, which was fantastic.’ 

Sarah Benn, 69, Milton Keynes

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Exercise may help improve your mood. Read our guide to getting active.