5 Ways to Whip Depression, Post-Heart Attack or Not
Is this Heart Disease Catch-22
Putting Your Life at Risk?
After a heart attack or stroke, you have three times higher risk for depression. It’s not your fault – it’s a matter of brain chemistry, a perfectly normal reaction to a stressful, life-altering event.If you or someone you love has had a heart attack or stroke, this edition of HealthEdge is for you.
The good news is, you survived. Many people return to normal or near-normal life after one of these events. The trouble is, depression after a heart attack or stroke puts you at higher risk of a second incident… and then your chances of dying go up.
In the case of stroke victims who experience depression, you are four times more likely to die of a stroke than someone who hasn’t had a stroke or experienced depression. So deciding to take action to banish depression is a life-critical matter.
Fortunately, you’re not alone or helpless. Many safe and natural methods will counteract your depression and get your overall health – both mental and physical – back on track.
5 Safe, Effective Ways to Beat the Blues
after a Heart Attack or Stroke
When you’re living with heart disease, you may already feel bombarded with prescription drugs. The last thing you want is to add one more – with all its risks and side effects – to your daily regimen.But unless your depression is severe, you can do a lot to put yourself in a healthier state of mind through natural means without turning to prescription solutions.
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Positive expectations: One thing that doctors found in interviewing patients post-heart attack is that those who live in fear of what happened tend to develop depression, while those who focus on recovery and seek out emotional support from family, friends, and even professionals are at a much lower risk. I’m no Pollyanna, but this is a clear-cut case for being an eternal optimist – or becoming one!Being fearful of a second heart attack may seem like a perfectly natural reaction, but you are better off redirecting those thoughts toward the positive. The moment you realize you’re thinking about a heart attack, it’s time to shift gears.
Think about something you’re doing to live a healthier life, or my favorite – think about something that you’re grateful for. I’ve written before about the benefits of having an attitude of gratitude. This is not just happy talk – it’s basically impossible to be depressed and grateful at the same time. Keep at it and eventually this kind of redirection becomes a habit that can help you stave off or even reverse depression.
Talk therapy: The formal name is counseling, but sitting down and discussing your depression with a professional is one of the most effective ways to work through what you’re feeling, according to multiple studies. Talk therapy can also help prevent mild to moderate depression from getting worse, and it may even help prevent recurrences of depression, which are typically pretty common. Simply ask your cardiologist or family doctor for a referral.
Exercise and Sunshine: After a trauma like a heart attack or stroke, it’s imperative that you get moving again. Exercise, even something as simple as going for a walk, is a very effective remedy for depression. Please don’t overlook this simple step! And get this – multiple studies have shown that exercise can be more effective than taking antidepressants.
When you exercise, try to do it outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Sunlight may actually increase your brain’s production of its own natural antidepressants.
Exposure to sunlight also triggers the production of vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D are known to cause depression. The key to vitamin D production is to go out into the sun without sunscreen. You don’t have to stay out in the sun for long – ten minutes a day three times a week will do the trick. If you’re concerned about unprotected sun exposure, head out before 10 am or after 2 pm standard time. You can also boost your body’s vitamin D levels by taking a cod liver oil supplement.
Increase Your Omega 3s: Another reason to take a cod liver oil supplement is that it will give your omega 3 essential fatty acid levels a healthy boost. In multiple studies, omega-3 supplementation has been shown to significantly ease the symptoms of depression, often making a noticeable difference in just three weeks. I don’t want to send you off with a shopping list of supplements, but in the overall scheme of things, you are way better off adding a few extra nutrients to your routine than ever having another heart attack or stroke.
Attend the Simple Things: Depression makes everything seem meaningless. It can make the simplest actions feel like they take too much energy to complete. Again, remind yourself that you are a survivor! Oftentimes you can counter depression by taking care of the daily routines in your life. It may feel like you’re just going through the motions at first, but many people find that the familiarity of routines helps to bring them out of depression. Also:
Make it a point to get dressed for the world every day – no lounging around in a robe!
Choose a relaxation technique like deep breathing or meditation and make a daily practice of it.
Think back on the hobbies and social activities you enjoyed before your heart attack or stroke, choose one that is appropriate to your current level of health, and rejoin the fun.
Make it a point to find foods that you enjoy that are also healthy and nutritious.
Just taking care of these simple things can help you regain your footing and focus on getting well without falling into depression.
Remember, depression after a life-changing event like a heart attack or stroke is common, and it is not your fault. But don’t accept it as the new normal in your life. And don’t feel guilty or embarrassed for feeling depressed.
Take charge of your life and your future by taking steps to overcome your depression so that you can heal fully, and get back to living the life you deserve. You are worth it!