Influence of coronary artery disease on mental health and everyday life

Photo of an older couple sitting on a park bench (Frenk Kaufmann / Hemera / Thinkstock)

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a chronic condition, but it doesn't have to dominate your life. Being well-informed about the disease can help to manage the treatment and recognize potential problems in time.

People who have heart problems often receive a lot of well-meant advice, and may sometimes fell like they need to change their entire life. But that's usually unrealistic. If you want to make changes to your lifestyle, setting goals one at a time can improve your chances of success. Doing things step by step can help you achieve more than if you try to do everything at once.

It's important to know that there's no need to feel guilty about having CAD. Your individual lifestyle is just one of several factors that influence your overall risk of cardiovascular disease. Your genes also play a major role, for instance.

Emotional effects of CAD

CAD is often only noticed once it has led to complications, such as a heart attack. This is often a life-changing event. It is not uncommon for people to develop depressive thoughts afterwards. In fact, it is estimated that 20 out of 100 people who have hospital treatment for a heart attack will develop depression that needs to be treated. But heart attacks often have fewer serious long-term effects than people think. So it's important not to feel discouraged, but instead learn how to live with the disease. There are effective treatments for those who develop depression, including some types of psychological treatment. Cardiac rehabilitation programs will sometimes also offer psychological support.

It can be distressing for people who have angina (chest pain) to live in constant fear of having a heart attack. But good treatment with medication can reduce the risk as much as possible. The main thing is to be aware of the signs of a heart attack and unstable angina, and to seek immediate medical help in an emergency.

Sexuality

Many people who have CAD wonder whether they might have a heart attack if they have sex. Just like any kind of strenuous physical exertion, sex might increase the risk of a heart attack somewhat, but the overall risk is low. So there's no reason why people with CAD shouldn't have sex. Regular low-intensity endurance exercise could reduce the risk of having a heart attack after physical exertion.

Having a heart problem doesn't necessarily mean you can't use impotence medications such as Viagra. This will depend on things like which drugs you are taking for your heart condition. For instance, people are generally advised not to take impotence drugs if they are already taking nitrates. In order to avoid complications, it's important to talk to your doctor about possible interactions with other medications.