Heart attack at 45 and mental health - British Heart Fou...

British Heart Foundation

20,725 members14,076 posts

Heart attack at 45 and mental health


Hi - My husband aged 45 had a heart attack 4 weeks ago. He now has a stent in, is on a cocktail of medication and has gone back to work and telling everyone that he is fine.

Sadly though he is clearly not fine and we are all walking on egg shells at home around him. He has gone from a pretty cheery guy to a grumpy, angry, snappy, seemingly more stressed individual. When you challenge him on his behaviour, it is everyone else around him that is apparently causing his foul mood and he will not admit that maybe, just maybe this is all part of the rehabilitation of having had a heart attack and that mental and physical go together.

I would love some advice on how to get him to see that he needs to get his ego out of the way and face what is really going on and what has happened to him. To consider all this from a mental perspective.

Any thoughts please?

37 Replies

Hi, your husbands story is almost identical to my husbands. At 42 years of age he had a massive heart attack which resulted in cardiac arrest. I won't go into too much detail as its a long story!! However, he was seriously depressed afterwards & I actually overheard him telling his friends he was just waiting for the big one. Like you, I walking on egg shells, but us partners are also trying to process all that's happened. Fortunately, a nurse saw how depressed he was and got him into cardiac re-hab & that really was the turning part for him. He was with others who had also had a HA, they covered diet, exercise, etc & most importantly It showed him that there is life after a heart attack. If your husband hasn't been offered re-hab please ask about it, it is so worthwhile. Having been there, if there's anything I can help you with or if you just want to rant, message me, I'm always ready to listen.

Ps. My husband will be 63 this year, re-hab made him change his life around & though he does have other heart problems due to the damage to his heart, he's never had another heart attack!! Please remember to take care of yourself also, we tend to neglect ourselves at time like this.

BJoey in reply to Lezzers

Thank you so much for your reply, really helpful. My husband is doing all the rehab that has been offered to him which is great. I haven't gone with him to any sessions, but my worry is that they are only looking at physical aspect of things - diet, exercise and the mental side (judging on his terrible mood at home) is being igored. Perhaps I am being ignorant here though and they are dealing with the mental side too and I just have to play the waiting game while he processes (however slowly) what is going on. It's so frustrating as there is so much help out there to help one deal with these phsical incidences emotionally, but how do you get a locked door open and him to acknowledge that a heart attack is going to affect him mentally as well as physcially? I am finding it hugely stressful and end up in tears a lot, mainly because you feel helpless, frustrated, angry that you are being treated so badly and isolated as it feels like no one else is going through it as well! Thank you so much for reading this though and it has given me light that patience and time as ever will heal all of this too.

Lezzers in reply to BJoey

My heart goes out to you as you can't open that door, only your husband can do that. I know how frustrating & difficult it is to not be able to help him when you so want to but, though it will take time, it will happen. I think re-hab does touch on the mental health side of things but it builds confidence & that is a big step forward. Xx

BJoey in reply to Lezzers

OK, great, thank you. Let's hope he can face his fears as I know the sun will shine brighter for him when he gets there. HUGE thanks.

Lezzers in reply to BJoey

Just a thought but, why not attend some of the re-hab sessions with him? I attended some with my husband & discussed them afterwards, that may be a way to get him to open up.

BJoey in reply to Lezzers

I think you are right... I am going to suggest it to him, thank you

MydogBrandy in reply to BJoey

Hi , I did this, quite a few partners were there and my husband made a few friends as did I . Also gives you a chance to have a quiet word with the nurse whilst he is doing exercises , I found them really helpful in answering question I had .

I was talking to my wife, who is a counsellor, about how heart attacks sometimes bring about a marked personality change. With some people becoming anxious, short tempered, and much more sensitive (to the point of becoming tearful) when faced with any display of aggression, hostility, or unkindness.

She spent many years as both a bereavement and as a trauma counsellor, and she saw her father have multiple heart attacks. She conjectured that maybe some heart attack victims were grieving for a lost image of themselves? They previously regarded themselves as capable and secure, but following their heart attack they feel themselves to be in constant peril with little capacity to control their lives or influence events?

When people become stressed or anxious the first casualty is often civility and good manners. If someone was trying to escape from a burning building, they wouldn't waste time with "excuse me", they'd feel perfectly justified in shoving people to hurry them up. It's a similar situation here, your husband feels he's still responding to a crisis situation, and in his mind he's entitled to be curt and abrupt, he senses a clear and present danger which others, frustratingly, just aren't recognising.

The good news is that time is a great healer, the not so good news is that it may take months rather than weeks before your husband regains his confidence. Maybe if you could encourage him to post his story on this forum he might feel re-assured by listening to others who have experienced the same ordeal?

BJoey in reply to Chappychap

Thank you so much for your reply. Your wife is totally right and I am sure that my husband is grieving for a lost image, sees himself as a failure in some way and all those things. If only I could get him to acknowledge it then I would feel like we could all move on and that the whole experience of what he has been through could be turned into a really positive thing, as I believe these things so often can be. Sadly at the moment he is pretending/ignoring that the physical and mental are connected, or at least won't admit it to those closest to him. But I realise that it is still early days and I must just test my own patience with the whole experience and let him go through all the motions without trying to rush things, even if it would make my life easier/quicker!!! Huge thanks


I was very similar to your husband and was persuaded to go to Cardiac Rehab Physio and it certainly helped me a lot both physically and mentally.

BJoey in reply to Hidden

Thank you, perhaps it's just early days and I need to have more patience with how long this process takes before he will be able to see it all clearly for himself. Thank you

Hidden in reply to BJoey

Being female, at times I cried openly about the whole situation, along with a lot of “why me”... some men still cannot openly express themselves. My late husband was very much like that... even though he was dying of Pancreatic cancer, he never showed how he was feeling or discussed it. Yet my current partner, will comfortably show how sad he is feeling. Which initially was quite a shock, considering what he does for a living. Allow him some time to come to terms with what has happened, but not too long before commencing the proverbial “ kicking up the bum “ ! This community is wonderful and full of support, very much like the Cardiac Rehab. Good luck x

BJoey in reply to Hidden

Great, thank you. I will do and it's hugely heartened me that there is a community out there to chat too. x

Hi BJoey. I had a heart attack 18 months ago. I am of the belief that both patients and health care practitioners totally underestimate the psychological impact that a cardiac event has on the individual and their loved ones. On a daily basis I would sob cry shout swear! It’s so difficult to explain it’s the combination of shock and experiencing a traumatic event and in some instances near death experience (or perceived) as well as loss of confidence (huge) loss of previous self loss of self esteem fear of it happening again fear of dying just yet fear of anything and everything!! Also the whole issue of everyone telling me ‘you’re fixed now’ ‘you look fit and healthy ‘. I really have never looked back and said ‘if only’ or ‘I wish I had’ it has still had a big emotional impact. As someone has said Time helps and the good days outweigh the bad days but it has taken its toll. I was fortunate in seeking out help from both a health psychologist and counsellor which helped. I do know though I am different to who I was but that’s ok I’m adapting! My mantra is I cannot change my past but can control my future.

In all of this you need to look after yourself. It maybe worth talking to your husband ‘s GP not that they can discuss him with you but they maybe able to offer some suggestions in general terms to you as to how to address some of the issues with him.

It may also be worth thinking about saying to your husband that you know it’s a traumatic and difficult time but he might like to seek further support. But he has to want to and also acknowledge that he needs further support. The counselling was invaluable to me. The other thing that helped was a really good friend told me I had changed and was being negative and introverted so get over it!! I’m not suggesting it’s the way forward for your husband but it helped me. And yes she’s still a really good friend!

Take care of yourself it really is as difficult for loved ones as it is for the individual. Sending love hugs and positive thoughts to you both. Zena xx

BJoey in reply to Zena166

Thank you so much, this is all really helpful, not least seeing that there is light at the end of the tunnel. xx

Your husband is defanatly grieving for the old me it takes a long time to come to terms with I was so angry after my HA but 8 months later I am feeling so much better he should ask at rehab if they have a counceller it might help to talk to someone else. All I can say is try to be patient and I'm sure the old me will begin to appear in time he is probably still scared it's going to happen again I know I was and still am to a certain degree

Yasyass in reply to kizza67

I never had rehab faith helped me thru and family and it is so very difficult kp thinking and everyone says u ok but inside feel like another person and fears if happens again and every ache is fear if happens again I tried stop this feeling about 3yr then wh went gp said severe hf the fear emotions reappeared but I am really trying to overcome this and hope strength and faith will help me

Thank you so much, I will brave suggesting a counsellor, even if I get shouted down, it doesn't mean he won't hear it and it might just sink in! Huge thanks

I hear you, thank you very much, good advice, thank you

Hi there, I am very sorry to hear what happened to your husband. I am 48 year old female. I had a heart attack 8 weeks ago, had a stent fitted and on medication. I can totally relate to him. This is normal, its shocking especially to be so young and be diagnosed with a heart condition. Please speak to your GP, they should get you intouch with professionals who should help you get through it. I think it needs time to digest what has happened. Sometimes and in my case gp/cardiologist will change the medication, its still early days and he should push and see the gp. He will get priority but he must push. All the best of luck and let us know how it all goes.

Thanks so much. I hope that you are feeling better?

I am almost two years on from my attack and my husband says the same about me as you are about your husband! I never realized there were so many people feeling the same way. Went back to work, couldn't cope, left. Had a bit longer off and now feel the need to be working again. I am 59 and finding a job at this age and with medical history is virtually impossible. Sometimes I have days when I am absolutely raging, not sure if that is frustration from heart attack etc or rejection from the work sector. Whatever it is drives me to fury. I am struggling with physical stuff on a daily basis, but when in this raging mood could throw an elephant around the world! Did have some mental health help via doctor, but talking wasn't any help to me.

BJoey in reply to Forgotten1

I have found this forum really helpful already, as you say it is amazing to just be in touch with people who are in same same, albeit slightly different situations. It really proves that a problem shared is a problem halved! Great news that you are feeling ready to work again. x

LuciaV in reply to Forgotten1

Hi there. I understand your thirst for job to feel useful and also understand how impossible is to find one with the medical history. My Mum has a heart condition, she cannot work on the regular basis as she is soon tired and not everyday ready for an activity due to not enough sleep. However she is volunteering in a cat shelter which is absolutely filling her need to do something and also it makes her happy because she loves cats. She also does a lot of baking. You have to occupy your mind with something, find some hobby, perhaps do some handmade stuff which you can turn into income if you have need for a real job :-) or maybe a dog walking? My Mum said that employers are bothered about medical history, she struggled to keep and find another job due to this condition but if it doesn't go well that way, you may find it easier to be your own boss :-) good luck

Hi. I was diagnosed as having suffered a heart attack and having CHD a couple of years ago aged 45. It completely changed my long-term outlook and gave me very bad anxiety about what might happen. I found the cardiac rehab exercise helped initially and have used meditation tapes (muscle tensing/relaxing around body from head to toe) which have helped. It's also worth discussing things with your GP as counselling is available. Also if you keep asking your GP can refer you to a health psychologist.

BJoey in reply to Stu888

Great, thank you so much. That is really helpful.

Has he started cardiac rehab yet? The rehab nurse is probably best suited to talk to him about this. You could phone her/him or your GP and ask them to have a word. NO one has a heart attack, whatever their age without it coming as a massive shock and affecting them mentally. My husband just had a minor heart scare; there was actually nothing wrong but while he was waiting for tests you couldn't speak to him at all; nothing went in and I mean simple things like "Your dinner's ready". He was so totally absorbed in worry he didn't even hear you. Your huisband has to understand that he's been lucky. He's had a warning that many people don't get so he now needs to heed the warning and make big changes to diet, lifestyle and health. If he does that, there's no reason why he can't live a normal, happy life.

Thank you, what i'm gathering from all this is that it really is the long game. I guess it's taken a life time to have the heart attack in the first place, so whether mentally or physically it is going to take months for everything to settle again. Thank you for your message.

This was me last year after a heart attack and 3 stents fitted . It did t hit me at first I was fine with it , then wham , my anxiety level went off the board and I was a nightmare to live with , I finally went back to my drs and talked it through with him , he told me to be kind to myself and accept what had happened was a major event that would take time to get over , he offered me counselling but most of all a sympathetic ear ( I was in there half an hour ) and just talked to me , I’m not saying it gets better straight away, it’s hard sometimes to except your not as fit as you once was , my poor husband didn’t know how to help me . I’m still getting there , I wish you both well ..

Been following the conversations and do sympathise with what you are both going through. After my heart attack and stent at age 72 I went through a period, firstly of frustration that I had to rest and do very little for a week or so ( although being my husband’s carer).

Then there was a lot of anger particularly with my drs.who failed to diagnose that my heart attack was imminent. But my very understanding son who is a nurse talked with me and got me a book and cd on Mindfulness and I also had a session with a counsellor.

All this really helped and also the marvellous rehab. exercise and advice programme.

Heart attacks and strokes do affect the mind in one way or another and consideration should be given to this and allowances made. There is a marvellous book, if you can get hold if it from Amazon ( probably 2nd hand as it’s out of print) entitled “ don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff” by dr. Richard Carlson, ph.d It does help to get everything into perspective.

Do look after yourself. I wonder if you have a Carers Group or similar near you that you could join so that you have understanding friends to talk to. Or even a church? Try not to take your husband’s outbursts or rants personally. He most probably feels guilty about them afterwards but not easy to express what he really feels inside.

All the best to you both.

BJoey in reply to Camelliared

Thank you so much for your reply and I have ordered the book. Really helpful and having read some great messages I am sure my husband will get there and we will get there. It’s funny I always felt (clearly naively), a huge event event like this would really bring everyone even closer, but it has currently driven a huge wedge down the middle!

I had a heart attack 4 months ago even though I was fit, active, never smoked , moderate drinker and eat a Mediterranean diet. Chappychap's wife is right-it is a grieving process for the person you were and who you think has gone. It sounds strange but you feel like a failure and totally out of control. Your self esteem and confidence plummet and your anxiety levels soar. It really is an emotional roller coaster. I'm reluctant to say it in case it changes tomorrow, but I feel that I am slowly getting back to normal. The people on this forum have been part of my recovery and I would post on here whenever you need support. I also think it would be good for you to get some counselling because it's a protected hour a week when you can get rid of your worries, fears and frustrations.

lots of wise replies to your "sad story." Don't forget the depression side of things which might be one of the (main) reasons why he is acting the way he does. Depression is an illness and needs to be handled and treated. In my experience a good and regular (same) GP, an experienced Councillor and if necessary suitable medication (may be difficult with the medication for the heart issues but could be necessary). Also don't think of the problem as ego related. Telling someone who is depressed just to "buck up" or think of others isn't the route to getting better. Very difficult for you as well so don't neglect your own health and seek medical advice for yourself if necessary. Overall family and close friends support can be very important as well.

Hi Bjoey. I had a MVR in October. I went back to work after 6 weeks. Far too soon. I can relate so well to how your husband feels. I realised about 6 weeks ago that I was not fine mentally. This acknowledgement was a challenge itself. I was meant to be repaired by now but I am not. Your husband needs to be kind to himself and give himself time to repair. The physical repair is about 3-6 months and the mental one could be longer. I started councelling last week. I still suffer from tiredness and you have to accept that sometimes you just need a sleep. I never knew about the mental fall out I might feel. It seems it is very common. Just show your husband this tread and let him read the feedback. His situation is so common. As hard as it is to accept we are different now. But knowledge is everything. I now take medication to aid my mood and exercise and improved fitness are so important. But it will take time. He must be patiant with himself. Sharing how he feels with you is so so important. I wish you both good luck. He will get better in time. Just be kind to each other and you will find your own recovery solution Accept any help on offer

Trevor 1964

Hi - I’m 47 and mid rehab. No heart attack, but did have a blocked LAD and was very lucky to avoid one. Emotionally I’m still a bit all over the place. One of the worst things is everyone expecting me to be in some kind of straight line to full recovery. If you do anything worthwhile - everyone assumes you’re better. Deep down you feel that positive achievement is more of a one off event. I need people to understand that I’m not better. I might look ok and function during work hours - but it’s still a bit dark on the inside of my head. Whether that has any correlation to your husband - I don’t know. I feel pressure from everyone around me to be better - quicker than I know is realistic.’ At the same time I’m annoyed at myself for being a weight to everyone else.

Hi I had my heart attack 2016 with 4 cardiac arrest and 2 stent. They nhs do focus on your physical and diet but omit to help with emotional wellbeing. I had to contiously as for help with my mental health. Had to go to gp

Found your post as i have just posted with similar issues. I can relate to what you are saying about ‘ a huge wedge’ and I too am faced with anger and denial when I try to raise concerns and show care. How are things now? Have you been able to make any progress? Its hard to see someone you love behave so differently and hard to know what to do for best.

You may also like...