Harvard Health Letter

Yet another risk of heart failure

Men struggle with heart failure and depression.

Learning you have heart failure (HF) can be an emotional blow, since the disease can lead to significant health complications and poor quality of life. And while depression is more common in women with HF, a study presented at the American Heart Association's 2012 Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions found that the severity of the depression is much greater in men with HF. "Heart failure can make one quite physically weak, and this may hit men especially hard, based on their traditional views of masculinity," says interventional cardiologist Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a professor at Harvard Medical School. There is also growing evidence that depression can worsen heart disease. Depression may cause a person to stop taking medicine, exercising, or eating properly, which may hurt heart health. So depression after a diagnosis of HF can lead to a downward spiral. That's why it's so important for depression to be recognized.

Warning signs include loss of interest in activities, changes in weight and sleeping patterns, feelings of hopelessness, and withdrawal from friends or relatives. Dr. Bhatt says don't ignore any of these signs in yourself or a loved one. "Be honest and admit that depression might exist. Then ask for help, usually starting with the primary care doctor, and in really severe cases, seeking the help of a psychiatrist."

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