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The Mental Health and Heart Disease Connection
Imagine that you’ve just had a heart attack or another type of cardiac event. You’re in recovery, you’re shaken up, and you feel like your whole world has changed in an instant. You feel differently about yourself, your loved ones, about life in general. In other words, heart disease has rocked your world. Understandably, your mood is probably a bit depressed. Facing your own mortality will do that. But you can’t really be clinically depressed, right? Fast forward to two weeks later — you’re feeling the same. Your family is telling you that it’s normal to be depressed after an illness or heart attack. Your doctor is saying that it could be a side effect of the medications you’re taking. All you know is that you can’t seem to shake it.  Could it be depression? 

"Immediately after a heart attack, it can be difficult to determine what’s happening — whether [a depressed mood] is part of the normal healing process, or if it’s truly depression,” says Sharonne N. Hayes, M.D., Director of the Women’s Heart Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. "A total of five symptoms have to be present for two weeks to make a diagnosis.” These symptoms include: 

• Depressed mood
• Inability to enjoy usual activities
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Appetite changes – eating too little or too much, including changes in weight
• Behavior changes– either agitated or sluggish
• Decreased energy (fatigue)
• Sense of worthlessness or guilt
• Difficulty with concentration, indecisive
• Thoughts of suicide or death 

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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) patient advocacy organization with thousands of members nationwide, including women heart patients and their families, health care providers, advocates and consumers committed to helping women live longer, healthier lives. WomenHeart supports, educates and advocates on behalf of the nearly 48 million American women living with or at risk of heart disease. Our programs are made possible by donations, grants and corporate partnerships.

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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a founding partner of The Heart Truth Red Dress campaign. The Heart Truth and Red Dress are trademarks of HHS.