Depression is just as treatable in people with heart disease as it is in the general population. But it doesn't go away all by itself. Getting treatment means learning the warning signs and, if they appear, finding out from your doctor what they mean.
How do you know if you're depressed? "A person who has a major heart event has ups and downs of energy and mood," says Dr. Jeffery C. Huffman, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "But those who feel mostly bad for most of the day for weeks or months, who lose the ability to enjoy life, these are the people we are talking about."
There are a number of good treatments for depression, and having heart disease does not make treatment more difficult. Treatments include:
Antidepressants. Most are safe to take with most heart medications. Sertraline (Zoloft ) has been studied extensively in people with heart conditions and, like other antidepressants in its class, it's been shown to be both safe and effective.
Psychotherapy. Several kinds of therapy are effective. "There are no side effects from psychotherapy, it can be individualized, and people can be taught new skills to battle depression-not just now, but in the future," says Dr. Huffman.
Exercise. An exercise program may be effective as an antidepressant in relieving symptoms of depression. This is a double benefit for people with heart disease because exercise helps both the heart and the mind.
Cardiac rehabilitation. In addition to a structured exercise program, cardiac rehab programs offer social support. Interacting with people in the same boat you're in as part of a cardiac rehab program can provide a mental and emotional boost.
Read the full-length article: "Treat depression, help the heart"
Also in this issue:
- Living with atrial fibrillation
- Benefits of getting and using a heart monitor
- Exercising 15 minutes a day boosts lifespan by three years
The Harvard Heart Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at www.health.harvard.edu/heart or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).
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