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The Possible Effects of Depression and Heart Attacks on the Brain

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The Women's Heart Foundation notes that in the United States, 1.5 million heart attacks occur every year. MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health (NIH), explains that a blood clot blocking a coronary artery commonly causes a heart attack. When the blood clot blocks the blood flow, the heart does not get the oxygen it needs. That lack of oxygen causes cells to die. Overwhelming stress may also cause a heart attack.

The main symptom of a heart attack is chest pain, which ranges from mild to severe. MedlinePlus points out that women may have little or no chest pain when they have a heart attack. Some people may experience anxiety during a heart attack. Other people may have nausea, dizziness or shortness of breath. Other signs of a heart attack include sweating, fainting and coughing.

The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that one in three heart attack survivors have depression afterward. The organization adds that women also have a higher risk of depression after a heart attack. A mood disorder, depression results in frequent crying or a low mood. Patients can have problems making decisions and changes in sleep, appetite and weight. Patients may also lose interest in activities they enjoyed before the onset of the depression. Other symptoms of depression include loss of energy, feeling guilty, sluggish feeling and thoughts of death.

A new study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics suggests that persistent depression after a heart attack may relate to changes in the brain. The researchers gave brain scans to 22 participants three months after they had a heart attack. Fourteen of the participants did not have depression.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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