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Published on February 13, 2014

Lift Up Your Heart

February 13, 2014

HeartAfter a heart attack or other cardiac event, it’s common to feel depressed. You may feel you've had a near brush with death, and you may be confronting your mortality in a new and intimate way. In a vicious cycle, depression can contribute to further illness and increased mortality in heart patients. Still, there’s hope. Cardiac rehabilitation, aimed at reducing the chance of a second event by slowing or turning around cardiac disease, can help heal your mind as well as your body.

A Turning Point

If you or a loved one is participating in cardiac rehabilitation, many techniques are available to complement physical activity and help manage stress and sadness.

“Meditation, yoga, and deep breathing are just a few examples,” says Faye Allen, RN, cardiac rehabilitation nurse with Kishwaukee Hospital. “Find a technique you are comfortable with and practice it until it becomes second nature.”

In addition, exercise itself has been proven to reduce depression. “If there is a ‘magic medicine’ in the world, it’s combining exercise with a healthy diet,” Allen says. “Exercise increases ‘feel-good’ hormones and decreases the immune system chemicals that contribute to depression and disease. It also helps improve your self-confidence.”

A Hand Up

Not everyone who feels anxious or depressed likes to share feelings. Sometimes, family members may not know what a survivor of a cardiac event is dealing with. There’s a good chance, even if nothing is said, that the person is working to come to terms with the diagnosis and what it means for the future.

“Encourage patients to express their feelings, worries, and concerns,” says Linda Myers, RN, psychiatric and mental health nurse at Kishwaukee Community Hospital. “Be a good listener, and be supportive.” 

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