Harvard Mental Health Letter

Mind and mood after a heart attack

Could psychiatric treatment save the lives of heart patients?

A sad or broken heart can have more than one meaning. What research physicians call a cardiovascular event — including heart attacks, strokes, cardiac arrest, angina (severe chest pain), surgery involving the coronary arteries, and other cardiovascular problems — is also an event in consciousness, with emotional consequences. Heart disease can be depressing, anxiety-provoking, and traumatic. About 50% of patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease have some depressive symptoms, and up to 20% develop major depression. Depression may be even more common in survivors of strokes. In addition, a review of 25 studies found that 15% of patients developed post-traumatic stress disorder after a heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest, or cardiac surgery.

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