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Emotional Support

If you are diagnosed with coronary heart disease (CHD), 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. Unfortunately, studies have shown that mental stress can have a negative effect on heart health. Stress may play a role in causing CHD. Stress can cause narrowing of the arteries, rasing blood pressure and your risk for a heart attack. People who are depressed are two to three times more likely to develop CHD than people who are not depressed. And, depression is twice as common in women as in men.

Stress and depression are often associated with unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking and eating an unhealthy diet. All of these habits increase the risk of CHD and can interfere with treating cardiovascular disease.

Treating emotional issues

If you have feelings of sadness or depression that persist beyond a week or two, it's important that you talk to your doctor first, then consider taking 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.

Join a support group

If you have been diagnosed with CHD, 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
  • WomenHeart Community support groups around the U.S. for women with heart disease, and an online forum for discussion