Harvard Heart Letter

Different shades of gray for post-heart attack depression

Depression that develops for the very first time during recuperation from a heart attack affects recovery more than depression that started before the attack.

Recovering from a heart attack is tough enough without facing the fog of depression. Yet that's exactly what happens to nearly half of heart attack survivors. Depression is a painful, isolating, joyless state of mind that interferes with recovery and dulls life. It may even make it shorter "" people with post-heart attack depression are two to three times more likely to have another heart attack or to die prematurely compared with survivors who don't have depression.

Like a dreary artist's palette, the term depression covers everything from the light grays of mild depression to the dark blacks of a serious, life-threatening mental illness. It isn't just the severity of the condition that varies from person to person. Depression after a heart attack isn't a one-size-fits-all classification. Different variations have different effects on the heart and recovery. Developing depression for the very first time during recovery from a heart attack appears to be more cardiotoxic than depression that started before the attack.

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