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Emotional Support

If you are diagnosed with coronary artery disease (CAD), you might feel a range of emotions. It's normal to be concerned about how this condition may affect your future when you're first diagnosed, but sometimes feelings of depression and anxiety don't go away. That's when you need help coping with these feelings.

How depression and anxiety can affect the heart

Having heart disease can lead to depression and anxiety. In fact, up to 15% of people with heart disease experience major depression. Unfortunately, studies have shown that mental stress can have a negative effect on heart health. A Johns Hopkins study has shown that men with clinical depression are more than twice as likely to develop CAD as men without depression. In fact, clinical depression appears to be as significant a risk factor for CAD as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Depression is often associated with unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking too much, and eating an unhealthy diet. All of these habits increase the risk of CAD and can interfere with treating cardiovascular disease. In addition, depression and stress may adversely affect your relationships, your work, your leisure activities, and your overall outlook on life.

Treating emotional issues

If you have feelings of sadness or depression that persist beyond a week or two, it's important that you take the following steps:

  • Talk to a mental health professional. This may be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication if needed. Talking to a counselor can help you deal with your feelings so you can enjoy your life again.
  • Don't isolate yourself—stay connected to family and friends.
  • Talk about how you feel with someone close to you. Sometimes just sharing your concerns can help you feel better.
  • Recognize that having heart disease is not a sign of weakness. Heart disease affects millions of Americans each year, and is due to many factors, some of which you have no control over, such as heredity.
  • Eat a nutritious diet and try to get some exercise every day.
  • Learn a stress management or relaxation technique.
  • Continue taking part in the social activities you enjoy.

Joining a support group

If you have been diagnosed with CAD, joining a support group may help. Talking to others who are experiencing the same things as you can give you practical advice and help you feel less alone. Ask your doctor about support groups in your area. You may also want to look into online support groups and message boards for people with heart disease and their families, including the following:

  • Daily Strength Online discussions about the issues of living with heart disease
  • Women Heart Community support groups around the U.S. for women with heart disease, and an online forum for discussion

Learn more about the importance of nutrition if you have CAD.

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