Published: Mar 11, 2015
Heart attack victims have two challenges during recovery: getting physically better and coping with the fear and stress that the heart attack itself creates. Sometimes this fear and stress are overwhelming and
can develop into full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When most people think of PTSD, they think of soldiers who have been affected by combat. Res
earchers, though, have gathered substantial evidence that victims of heart attacks
can also suffer from clinical PTSD, and those who developed symptoms of PTSD had double the risk of dying from a second heart attack during the three years following the first one. The lesson here is that it is critical that heart attack patients address the emotional side of the event if they want to improve their recovery rates.
Stress plays a critical role in all stages of heart disease, which can eventually lead to heart failure or heart attacks. In fact, it is a leading risk factor in developing heart disease. As people age, their chance of developing heart disease increases, especially for men. More than one-third of seniors suffer from heart disease, and heart attack is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. After a heart attack occurs, it is not uncommon for patients to feel additional stress and fear as they deal with their illness. The catch here is that stress can not only contribute to the circumstances that lead up to a heart attack but new stress can also be a barrier to recovery after a heart attack.
The good news is that seniors who have suffered a heart attack can take specific steps to reduce their stress levels and increase their chances for recovery. First, it is important that they have a full understanding of their disease. Discussing their condition with a medical professional can help lessen fears and give them an idea of what they can expect. Sharing their feelings of anxiousness and fear with friends, family, or a support group can also provide them with an outlet. Physical activity, as recommended by their doctors, can help alleviate depression and anxiety as well as improve their physical condition. Being active with the community can not only reduce loneliness but also help seniors develop a support network.
Some seniors may find many of these self-help techniques too difficult to do on their own, or they may be dealing with a severe case of anxiety or depression, such as PTSD. Seniors in this situation should seek the help of medical professionals who may recommend more intensive behavioral therapy or prescribe medicines to help them deal with intense emotions. It might also be useful for seniors to get help with daily tasks to relieve some of the stress of maintaining their homes or caring for themselves. In this case, having friends, family or a professional caregiver help can be a good solution and provide seniors with the resources they need to recover without feeling as though they have to do it all alone. For more information on how professional in-home care can help seniors during their recovery from a heart attack, contact your local Comfort Keepers® office today.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (June 2013). Statistical Brief #409: Heart disease among elderly Americans: Estimates for the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population, 2010. Retrieved from http://meps.ahrq.gov/mepsweb/data_files/publications/st409/stat409.pdf.
American Heart Association. (April 22, 2014). Coping with feelings. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/CardiacRehab/Coping-with-Feelings_UCM_307092_Article.jsp.
The Heart Foundation. Heart Disease: Scope and Impact. Retrieved from http://www.theheartfoundation.org/heart-disease-facts/heart-disease-statistics/
Parker-Pope, T. (June 20, 2010). Heart attack survivors may develop P.T.S.D. The New York Times, Well. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/20/stress-disorder-pervasive-after-heart-attack-study-finds/?_r=0.