Pittsburgh / Allison Park Senior Care Blog

Depression After a Heart Attack

By Erin Carll

Many people who have a heart attack or other forms of heart disease experience major depression following hospitalization or surgery. Depression affects approximately one in every five cardiac patients. Sadly, cardiac patients who experience depression are two times more likely to die within ten years of having surgery or being in the hospital than those patients who do not suffer from depression. Because of the correlation between depression in heart patients and death, if your parent recently had a heart attack, you and your parent’s elderly care providers should be on the lookout for symptoms of depression.

The Link Between Heart Disease and Depression
Experts say that feeling sad following a heart attack is normal. After all, your parent is probably frightened and uncertain about the future. These feelings often resolve themselves within a few weeks, but sometimes negative feelings don’t go away. When that happens, your parent may be unable to resume their normal activities. Depression can keep heart patients from taking care of themselves because it robs a person of their energy. They may not feel like exercising, participating in a rehab program, or taking care of themselves. The fact that depressed heart patients may not take care of themselves as well as those who are not depressed is one of the factors that may lead to an earlier death.

Symptoms of Depression
Your parent might be sad and even a bit depressed for a few weeks after a heart attack without cause for worry. However, if signs of depression continue for more than two weeks, you should talk to your parent’s doctor as they may need help. Signs and symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling apathetic.
  • Irritability.
  • Lack of energy or feeling tired.
  • Sleep problems—either sleeping too much or being unable to sleep.
  • Not enjoying activities you once did.
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
  • Thoughts about suicide or death.
  • Difficulty being engaged in normal routines.
  • Problems with thinking or concentration.
  • Weight loss or weight gain due to a change in appetite.

Tips for Combatting Depression

If you suspect your parent is depressed, they should receive medical care. Treating depression often relies on medications and therapy. There are some things you and your parent’s elderly care provider can do at home to help them through depression. Some tips for combatting depression include:

  • Encourage your parent to be active. Exercise can help reduce symptoms of depression. Talk to a doctor about whether it is safe for your patient to return to physical activities first. Once your doctor has given the okay, your parent’s elderly care provider can help them engage in safe exercises like walking. Yoga and tai chi classes are great ways for your parent to be active and reduce stress at the same time.
  • Keep your parent involved in their recovery. Research indicates that patients who take an active role in their own recover and health feel more positive.
  • Help your parent seek social support. Having people to talk to about their feelings following a
    heart attack gives your parent an outlet for their emotions. Your parent may find it helpful to join a support group. If so, your parent’s elderly care provider can drive them to group meetings.

Your parent’s mental health following a heart attack is just as important as their physical health. Watch for signs of depression and take action to help your parent get the treatment they need.


If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring elderly care in Wexford, PA, please call the caring staff at Home Helpers. Call today (412) 201-0712.