Belfast Telegraph

Almost 60% with heart disease suffer anxiety or depression, survey finds

The British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland said about 225,000 people are living with heart and circulatory diseases across the region.

(Ian Nicholson/PA)
(Ian Nicholson/PA)

Almost 60% of people living with heart disease experience anxiety or depression, research has found.

According to the UK-wide survey involving almost 5,000 people living with conditions such as inherited heart conditions, heart attack and heart failure, 58% reported feeling sad, down or depressed, and 59% had experienced feelings of anxiety, and fear or uncertainty about the future.

About 45% of those who had experienced feelings of depression said they have had a moderate or high need for help, but around four in 10 (39%) said they had received no help.

The British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland said about 225,000 people are living with heart and circulatory diseases across the region.

It said the survey results indicate that around 130,000 in Northern Ireland may have experienced sadness, depression or anxiety.

The charity is set to take the findings to the Department of Health to ensure support is provided to everyone living with heart and circulatory diseases.

Michael Harp, from Londonderry, was diagnosed with an inherited heart condition, and said the mental impact of such a diagnosis can cause feelings of anxiety.

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Michael Harp

“I went from being a fit fella who runs marathons to someone who might be worried about crossing the street,” the 39-year-old father of one said.

“Some nights it’s hard to sleep because you lie awake worrying about what might happen next or what impact it might have on my son or on my fiancee. It’s hard not to look up the condition online and read frightening stories about what happened to other people with the same condition.

“I am lucky in that the team in the inherited cardiac conditions service have been very supportive. I can phone my ICC nurse Tracy Jardine and she can offer me advice and reassurance. I tell myself to just listen to what she tells me rather than Googling.

“I think although the physical side of the diagnosis is difficult, how it impacts you mentally is also incredibly important because it changes your whole life.”

Fearghal McKinney, head of BHF NI, said a diagnosis of an inherited heart condition or suffering a heart attack or stroke can be devastating.

“It’s unacceptable that a large number of people affected are not getting the emotional and psychological support they so desperately need,” he said.

“Cases like Michael’s show the impact that heart conditions have on someone’s mental health and it is essential everyone should have access to the best available physical and psychological support, treatment and care.

“Health professionals involved in the care and rehabilitation of patients can help by identifying the signs of depression and anxiety, so they can advise patients to see their GP or give them information about what psychological support is immediately available.

“For anyone who has been diagnosed with a heart or circulatory disease condition, it is normal to feel low, worried or anxious. We would encourage anyone who is feeling overwhelmed to talk to a friend or a partner, or ask your GP for advice.”

The BHF provides support and information through its Heart Helpline. People living with heart and circulatory diseases can speak to a cardiac nurse by calling 0300 330 3311.

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