Depressed? Who, me? Myths and facts about depression after a heart attack


by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I have a friend who has a friend who’s been depressed, off and on, for years. During that time, my friend and I have done our fair share of eye-rolling whenever the subject of this person’s depression came up. We wondered why she just couldn’t pull up her socks and quit all this self-absorbed moping around.

Neither my friend nor I had ever had one nanosecond of actually experiencing clinical depression ourselves – which, of course, didn’t stop us from passing judgement.  Continue reading “Depressed? Who, me? Myths and facts about depression after a heart attack”

Design a beautiful day today

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Martin SeligmanRegular readers will already know that I’m a fan of Dr. Martin Seligman’s work. He’s the author of Learned Optimism and a number of other books I’ve found useful, especially for those of us who have been body-slammed by a life-altering medical diagnosis and are trying to somehow salvage some shred of sense-making out of the whole mess. 

Oh, sure. You may already be thinking: it’s so easy for healthy people to feel positive. But what about when you’re a patient living with debilitating symptoms, hospital admissions, fistfuls of meds, scary side effects, diagnostic tests, medical appointments, hospital re-admissions, and distressing procedures? Don’t you need to be healthy to be truly happy? Continue reading “Design a beautiful day today”

‘Women-only’ cardiac rehabilitation curbs depression for heart attack survivors

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

On any given day, women are vastly outnumbered by men at cardiac rehabilitation – when they show up at all. Female heart patients who do attend while recovering from a cardiac event often say they don’t like working out in the cardiac rehab gym alongside so many men – in fact, there’s usually a one-to-five ratio of women to men. To address this concern and attract more women heart attack survivors, some programs are now offering female-only cardiac rehab sessions.

This is a good thing, as we know that a cardiac rehab program can help survivors improve their physical fitness, learn about nutrition, meet other heart patients, and get support to quit smoking, lose weight or make other heart-healthy lifestyle changes to improve heart health. In fact, completing a course of cardiac rehabilitation can result in a 26%-40% reduction in cardiac mortality over the following five years.

But those improved odds are only possible if physicians actually refer their heart patients to rehab.

Yet referral rates remain shockingly low – it’s estimated that only 20% of all eligible patients are referred by their physicians.  See also: Failure to refer: why are doctors ignoring cardiac rehab?

Depression is another factor that can keep us away from cardiac rehab. 

Depression often follows a heart disease diagnosis (Mayo Clinic cardiologists tell us that up to 65% of survivors suffer depression, yet fewer than 10% are appropriately diagnosed).  Depression is also in general twice as likely to affect women as men. Depression interferes with how well we can stick with important lifestyle modifications following a cardiac event,  as well as our willingness to even bother showing up for cardiac rehabilitation.

It turns out that a major benefit of attending and completing a cardiac rehab program after a heart attack is that symptoms of depression actually improved among women who participated in a motivationally-enhanced cardiac rehabilitation program exclusively for women, according to a presentation at November’s American Heart Association’s annual scientific meetings.  Continue reading “‘Women-only’ cardiac rehabilitation curbs depression for heart attack survivors”

Forget Type A: a woman’s heart disease risk is higher for Type D personalities

woman sunglasses angry

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

According to the Harvard Heart Letter, if you are the kind of person who . . .

  • tends to sweat the small stuff
  • sees the glass as half empty
  • keeps your feelings bottled up inside

… then you might well be termed a Type D (distressed or distant) personality, and be at increased risk for heart disease.

Type D people tend to be anxious, irritable, and insecure. They keep an eye out for trouble rather than pleasure. They may experience high levels of stress, anger, worry, hostility, tension, rudeness and other negative and distressing emotions. Even if they lack a strong support network of friends or family, they go to great lengths to avoid saying or doing things that others don’t like. As a result of biting their tongues to keep their negativity to themselves, they often feel tense and inhibited around other people.

Does this sound like it might be you?
Continue reading “Forget Type A: a woman’s heart disease risk is higher for Type D personalities”