Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Depression After a Heart Attack

What does depression have to do with my heart attack?

As many as 65% of people who have a heart attack report feeling depressed. Women, people who have been depressed before and people who feel alone and without social or emotional support are at a higher risk for feeling depressed after a heart attack.

Being depressed can make it harder for you to recover. However, depression can be treated.

What is depression?

Depression is a medical illness, like diabetes or high blood pressure. The symptoms of depression can include the following:

How will I know if I am depressed?

People who are depressed have most or all of the above symptoms nearly every day, all day, for 2 or more weeks. One of the symptoms must be depressed mood or loss of interest in daily activities.

If you have some or all of the above symptoms, see your family doctor. Your doctor will ask you questions about your mood. He or she may have you fill out a short questionnaire about how you are feeling.

How is depression treated?
Depression can be treated by a combination of three things:

  1. Medicine­ -- Depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Medicines can correct this imbalance. If your doctor prescribes an antidepressant medicine for you, follow your doctor's advice on how to take it. These medicines might take a few weeks to start working, so be patient. Also, be sure to talk to your doctor before you stop taking any medicine or if you have unusual symptoms.
  2. Changing Thoughts­ -- How you think about yourself and your life can play a part in depression. For example, you might become more depressed when you start to think negatively. Counseling can help you identify and stop negative thoughts and replace them with more logical or positive thinking. Many people and their families benefit from counseling or "talk therapy."
  3. Becoming More Active­ -- Many times people feel depressed because they're inactive and aren't involved in social and recreational activities. Your mood will likely improve when you begin a hobby or recreational activity. Interacting more with other people and beginning an exercise program will also help improve your mood. Many people who have had a heart attack benefit physically and mentally from a cardiac rehabilitation program. Talk to your doctor about the kinds of activities and exercise programs that are suited for you.

Does treatment for depression usually work?
Yes. Treatment helps between 80% and 90% of people with depression.

Web sites:
The American Psychological Association: www.apa.org
The National Mental Health Association: www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/depression.cfm
The American Psychiatric Association: www.psych.org