Whole Heart

Treating Depression Can Help to Heal Your Heart

Treating depression will start your heart on the mend too.
Depression can sap the energy and motivation that people with heart disease need to get better. Studies show that depressed cardiac patients are less likely to take their medications, to quit smoking, or to attend cardiac rehabilitation—all of which are important for recovery and survival.

How mood blocks cardiac recovery
A patient's ability to recover may have as much to do with his state of mind as the health of his heart, according to a long-term study of heart disease and depression at the University of California, San Francisco.

"Depression isn't just debilitating, but it can also worsen chronic conditions," says the leader of the study, Mary Whooley, MD, professor of medicine and epidemiology at UCSF and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. In this video, Laurence Sperling, MD, a preventive cardiologist at Emory University in Atlanta, explains that depression combined with heart disease is physical as well as psychological.

Any serious illness can darken a person's mood, but heart disease seems to be especially depressing, says Wayne Sotile, PhD, director of psychological services at the Wake Forest University Healthy Exercise & Lifestyle Programs and author of Thriving With Heart Disease (Free Press, 2003). "It's one of the few diseases where people have a fear of sudden death," he says.

Many heart patients concur. "I thought a lot about dying. I'm 61 years old and wondered whether I'd wake up in the morning," says Barbara Forman of Englewood, Ohio. Five years after bypass surgery she still worries about her depression.

Next Page: Depression masquerades as fatigue

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