These two conditions are described by the World Health Organization, as likely to be diseases one and two in terms of their frequency and impact on health by the Year 2020. In fact, research indicates that each condition increases the risk of the other as a complication.
It is estimated that one third of people with heart disease will develop depressive illness as a complication. While the temptation is to believe that every mental and physical symptom you have is due to your heart disease or due to its treatment, it is worth keeping in mind the high rate of the development of depression. Treating depression as well as treating the heart disease will produce the best quality of life for you, and for those around you. You may find it useful to complete the questionnaire on depressive illness on this website, and bring it with you to your doctor, to discuss the possibility that you have developed depressive illness as a complication of your physical condition. It is far better to have a trial of one or two antidepressant treatments rather than to assume every symptom is an unchangeable result of your heart disease.
You also need to know that if someone close to you has had a heart attack, and if they then develop depression also (or had depression at the time of their heart attack), their risk of death in the 18-month period after their heart attack, is multiplied by 2 – 4! Clearly, it is vital in this situation to ensure the depression is diagnosed and effectively wiped out.
The onset of heart disease and its diagnosis, are usually sudden and frightening events. While modern medicine has many very effective medical and surgical treatments for heart disease, the emotional impact of the disease on the sufferer, and on his or her partner, are often under-recognised or under-treated.
Being told that one has heart disease is undoubtedly a major stress. For people who may always have been somewhat anxious, or pessimistic people, the impact of the stress is magnified. If at all possible, it helps to be as logical as possible about the problems and the fears, and seek assistance from family, friends and doctors in working out what solutions are available. Very often, writing down the fears, and the options available for solving them, will lessen the impact of the stresses.
For people who have always been perfectionists and set very high standards for themselves and for others, it can be even more frightening to find they have a condition over which they cannot exert the control they have always sought in life in general. Reminding oneself that the treating professionals are highly trained and highly responsible individuals may make it easier to accept being at the mercy of professional skills and judgement. For many people, and especially for perfectionists, clear-cut explanations are important, rather than vague possibilities and vague hopes being expressed by the treating doctor.
For very many people, learning relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, tai chi etcetera, all help considerably in staying as calm as possible in the face of the stress of having heart disease. Keeping anxiety levels low, either using these techniques, or by taking antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications, markedly reduces the risk of developing depressive illness. It is likely, but not yet conclusively proven, that staying free of anxiety and depression also increases the physical outcome of your heart disease.
Important Disclaimer: This site is medical information only, and is not to be taken as diagnosis, advice or treatment, which can only be decided by your own doctor.