Helping Patients Overcome Depression Following a Heart Attack 

Senior man looking worried as wife tries to comfort
Heart attacks and depression often go hand in hand, but there are ways to prevent patient depression following a heart attack.

A heart attack is a life-changing event. Oftentimes, major lifestyle changes are necessary to maintain health. These changes and overall recovery can be quite overwhelming. Additionally, there is a heightened risk for depression following a heart attack. If a patient has a change in mood or behavior following a heart attack, it is very important for them to reach out to their doctor. Often, a change in medication or lifestyle can help, but other treatments may be required.

How to Recognize Signs of Depression After a Heart Attack

If a patient has recently experienced a heart attack, it is important to understand the warning signs of depression . Some general symptoms of depression include:

  • Fatigue
  • A lack of concentration
  • A deep feeling of sadness or worthlessness
  • Apathy
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite

Knowing these signs can help patients be more aware of their feelings so they can get help more quickly. If a patient experiences any of these symptoms, they should speak with their doctor about getting a depression assessment. During the assessment, they will be asked questions about their symptoms, such as:

  • When did your feelings of depression start?
  • How often do you feel sad or worthless?
  • How often do you feel tired?
  • Are you having trouble sleeping?
  • How is your appetite?
  • Have you had any thoughts of self-harm?
  • Are you taking any steps to treat your depression? If so, what?

What Can Patients Do to Recover From Depression After a Heart Attack?

With heart attacks and depression closely linked, understanding how to recover from depression is important.

  • Eat a healthy diet. Avoiding unhealthy foods is a must for someone who has experienced a heart attack. Patients will be instructed to cut out foods high in saturated fats and sodium. Sticking to a plant-based diet high in vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats like fish and olive oil can improve both health and mood.
  • Move more. The effects of exercise on mood are well documented. Exercise increases serotonin, the feel-good chemical in the brain. Once a patient has had a chance to sufficiently recover, they should talk to their doctor about an exercise program that will work best for both their body and their mood.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If the patient is overweight, losing weight will help prevent another heart attack and help alleviate depression. Patients should discuss a healthy weight loss program with their doctor.
  • Take medication if necessary. While lifestyle changes can go a long way to helping patients fight depression after a heart attack, there are times when antidepressants may be needed. Patients are advised to discuss the longevity and severity of their symptoms to determine if medication might be a good fit. If a patient starts taking an antidepressant, it is very important to give it time to take effect and also monitor how they feel as they are taking it. The doctor may need to adjust the dosage or change the medication if the one prescribed doesn’t seem to be working.

Following a heart attack, having assistance at home can also help patients recover and stay engaged. The Southwest Florida home health care team at Patients First Home Care can provide skilled nursing services and home health aides that help patients heal at home. Our medical social workers can provide referrals to counseling and community resources to ensure patients feel supported throughout their recovery. To learn more about our services and how our team of professionals can help patients recover after a heart attack or other cardiac event contact us or call the office location nearest you: Sarasota/Charlotte at 941-226-8484; Bradenton at 941-667-9103; Fort Myers 239-441-2610; Naples at 239-366-1620.