Recovering cardiac patients at greater risk of mental health problems

Heart Foundation

People are at greater risk of experiencing mental illness following a heart event, according to the Heart Foundation. Ahead of Men’s Health Week beginning tomorrow – the theme of which is preventing suicide together – the organisation is urging Australian men to get a Heart Health Check and avoid health problems on two fronts.

Queensland truck driver Dave Watene was only 43 when breathing difficulties took him to see his GP. Tests in hospital revealed that the left side of his heart wasn’t working properly, and doctors also found two blood clots – one in his heart and the other in his lung.

Dave eventually recovered but was unable to work for 18 months, He began struggling with depression. “It was financially stressful because I couldn’t contribute to the family. I’m lucky that they and my friends helped me pull through, and I got professional help, so finally things started to improve,” he said.

Heart Foundation’s Heart Health General Manager Bill Stavreski said that Dave’s story was all too common.

“A heart event is a major hit in anyone’s book,” said Mr Stavreski. “While only a minority of patients develop severe clinical depression after a cardiac event, many experience transient but significant emotional disturbance during convalescence that we sometimes refer to as the ‘cardiac blues’.

“Maintaining a healthy heart is therefore inextricably linked with good mental health.”

Truckie Dave urges us not to wait until it’s too late to get a Heart Health Check. “Put your health and wellbeing first – for yourself, and the ones you love,” he said.

Steps we can take to reduce the risk of developing heart disease

Get a Heart Health Check

A new Medicare-funded heart health check is available to all Australians. If you’re 45 or over, or 30 or over if you’re Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, arrange one today. Your doctor will look at a range of factors about your heart health and help you devise a plan to stay well.

Be more active more often

More than 81 per cent of Australian men do not meet physical activity guidelines. You should be active on most days of the week, and preferably all, aiming for at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.

Eat a heart-healthy diet

A healthy eating pattern doesn’t focus on one type of food or one particular nutrient. Heart-healthy eating relies on a combination of foods, chosen regularly, over time. A good pattern gives us food that is low in saturated and trans fats, salt and added sugar, and rich in wholegrains, fibre, antioxidants and unsaturated fats.

Quit smoking

Smoking is one of the major risk factors for heart disease, not to mention a host of other health problems. Take action now to quit.

Men’s Health Week runs from 15 to 21 June 2020.

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