Heart attack survivors need to take care of their mental health

In a new study, researchers found that heart attack patients with chronic depression or anxiety are at a higher risk of death.

This was the first study to examine prognosis according to the duration of distress.

The research was conducted by a team from Uppsala University, Sweden.

Temporary mood swings are a normal part of life.

Feeling a little depressed after a heart attack might even be beneficial if it makes people withdraw a bit and get some rest.

However, previous research has shown that chronic emotional distress makes it harder to change lifestyle habits and improve prognosis after a heart attack.

Good lifestyle habits include quitting smoking, being physically active, eating healthily, reducing stress, and taking prescribed medications.

In the study, the team examined 57,602 patients who survived at least one year after a first heart attack.

Their emotional distress including depression and anxiety was measured at 2 and 12 months after the heart attack.

Patients were then followed-up for about 4 years.

The team found that chronic emotional distress over 1 year could influence prognosis, whereas short-term distress did not.

Compared with people with no emotional distress, patients who felt depressed or anxious at both time points were 46% and 54% more likely to die.

Patients who felt distressed only at 2 months were not at increased death risk.

The team also found that more than 20% of patients fell into the category of persistent emotional distress.

They suggest better resources in life including education and cognitive ability may help patients to handle difficult patches, while a good job with a good salary gives us more control over our circumstances.

They also say cardiac rehabilitation clinics may offer some kind of counseling and this could be a good opportunity for people with continual feelings of anxiety or depression to get help.

The lead author of the study is Dr. Erik Olsson from Uppsala University, Sweden.

The study is published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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