Heart failure and mental health - British Heart Fou...

British Heart Foundation

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Heart failure and mental health


One of the most overlooked things about struggling with heart failure or any other debilitating conditions is the effect it can have on a persons mental health, I am 36 years old and in the past 3 years I have went from being a fitness instructor and in very good physical shape to almost house bound unable to work or have my kids alone overnight and on the transplant list for a new heart.

My biggest struggle has been the lack of activity that I was so used to, I was always used to being the strong, fit person of our group and going from that to needing help with most physical activities has been one of the hardest things I have had to deal with.

I urge anyone going through this to seek help from the outset and not leave it too late as I feel I did. It wasn't until after I had already slipped down a very dark hole and pushed myself emotionally away from all the people that loved and cared about me that I finally sought help. Even then it's been a hard long road that I am still battling now but making people aware of your thoughts and feelings throughout all of this will help you get all the support that is out there for you.

Best wishes to you all,


11 Replies

Your post has resonated with me. You are so right about getting help with the mental aspects of heart failure from the start. In fact, the reason I saw your post today was that I was looking to see if anyone had recommended any online courses to support both physical and mental recovery.

I was in good physical shape before my Heart Attack, training most days of the week (including boxing training 3 times a week) walking everywhere, really fit for my age (63)

It’s been the medication that has slowed me down. I had bad breathing problems from both Bisoprolol and ticagrelor AND a Ramipril cough. When I saw the dr yesterday and he listened and changed the meds, it was like a huge weight lifted. I hadn’t realised how low I’d become till I started coming out the other side. Like you, I pushed people away and was going into a dark hole.

I’m going to talk to my cardiac nurse and urge her to get more mental help elements incorporated into the rehab. And I’m still on the look out for online resources to keep me out of the black hole. But I’ll post my plea separately.

Thanks for sharing. This is a really important thing you’ve raised here.

Wow, what a heartfelt post. Thank you for your openness, honesty and courage in sharing. I hope things go well for you in future.

All the best to you and your loved ones.

For you to be very fit it must have been a shock to feel so ill and depressed, I felt like my body had let me down after my heart attack, I thought I was tough enough to beat anything but I was wrong. Getting help early is essential. Wishing you good luck.

Chris, great, thoughtful post! I see so many people here cite their fear of the open chest surgery (it is like getting hit by a lorry) and their post surgery depression. The mental health issues are enormous. I was fortunate to have a pre-surgery visit from a volunteer from Mended Hearts (US only?). He was an open heart survivor who spent a generous hour with me describing the difficulties of recovery. He talked about the inevitable depression which prepared me for my own episodes. Mended Hearts or something similar in the UK would be very helpful.

We are very lucky here in West Sussex, our cardiac department offers a cardiac phycologist. The mind is as important as the body when recovering!

Hi Christopher thank you for sharing. Following my heart attack I faced a black abyss. I was lucky enough to see a health psychologist and a counsellor. I think both health care professionals and patients totally underestimate the psychological and emotional impact of heart disease. Everyone thinks we’re fixed’ but don’t see the inner turmoil. Really important that you have raised this issue. Thank you and thank goodness for this site. Sending big hugs and lots of love. Wishing you all the best for your next steps in your journey. Take care. Zena x

Couldn’t agree more! I lived my life at 200 miles an hour before my heart attack...not overweight, never smoked, never drank, diet not great as would have a takeaway at the weekend and lived on quick and easy frozen fishfingers , eggs on toast and cheese on toast through the week, working full time, looking after my two children while my husband worked away Monday-Friday, caring for my Mum, infrequently exercising when I could, loved gardening and all the while, those around me would tell me to slow down...but, of course, I thought I was invincible! My mum sadly passed away at the end of July and I had a heart attack mid September. The HA and meds have slowed me down considerably but I’m so scared the same thing will happen again I’ve thrown myself into an extremely healthy diet (no biscuits, chocolate, crisps, cakes or takeaways) and exercising 5 days a week to hopefully help me regain some confidence and, fingers crossed, strengthen my heart and stop any further arteries clogging up! I’m nowhere near as poorly as others on this forum but the last seven-eight months have really messed with my mind! I feel scared, lonely, low on a daily basis with a dull chest ache most of the day which also plays mind games with me. Saying all of this, reading posts on this forum does give me hope and encouragement. If my post has anybody saying to themselves “me too!”, I’d love to hear from you xx

That's a "me too" from me on this. I get the impression we are mostly a self selecting group of posters who feel cheated because we have generally tried to live well, attended rehab etc. But "IT' still preys on our minds and our mental well being.

I've been reading quite a bit about our mortality and it seems that as Victor Frankl writes:

Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be.

Live as if you were living already for the second time.

The last of human freedoms is the ability to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances.


I've been and am struggling with the mental side but at least my physical side is improving, albeit slowly. On the physical side it's about calibrating (my) expectations and celebrating achievements - I can jog uninterrupted for 5km now. 4 days before my heart attack (four months ago) I ran a half marathon in under 2 hours and was fit (for a 59 year old). And I felt great and as you put it "invincible".

It's tough what we are all going through, and we understand one another on the forum - something well meaning folk can't appreciate.

And me!!I dont think anyone realises just how your mental side can get. I've cried I've chucked stuff through the air had mood swings and on the odd occasion thought of finishing myself off. I've always stayed reasonably fit at 65 enjoying hill walking gardening having a go at DIY etc. I neither smoke nor drink but at the start of this year due to some weird infection that doctors couldnt get to the bottom of 2 of my valves got damaged I had surgery in April which by all accounts went well and I'm slowly getting back into doing things and I've felt myself mentally improving too in small steps. But just a week or so ago a blood infection put me back in hospital an I had a bad session of af which is what the surgery left me with.whist in hospital my cardiologist dropped in my lap the affect diuretics were having on my kidney and I should consider transplant surgery.I immediately panicked saying I dont think I could take it at my age and disappeared into the loo to weep buckets immediately my black hole has returned I looked at what this would involve and didnt sleep for the rest of my time in hospital.I was discharged the other day and apart from the odd person I've hidden myself away and gone back to crying all of a sudden then I'm ok again. I took the decision not to have this surgery but to curb my activities eat healthy etc as I feel theres no way my mental state will take it.im on the edge of any decision made due to my age and my surgeon said that as heart patients go I'm quite well so would be at the bottom of the list if I got put on it at all. But all this has just put me back mentally nearly six month. We have this cardio rehab for our bodies but we need it for our minds sometimes even more

Hi Heartattackvictim.

It’s so good to hear how well you are doing physically. I also jogged 5k uninterrupted yesterday but on a treadmill as the cold atmosphere at the minute doesn’t seem to like me!! It took me 40 minutes but it’s a start and looking forward to getting out there when the weather improves!

Good luck with your recovery in mind, body and soul. It sounds like the body is well on its way and I’m sure the mind will catch up as you sound like a very positive person. Although, no matter how positive we are, the underlying fear can always jump up and bite you on the bum!! xx


You’ve written such an important post which will hopefully help others to talk about how they are feeling. I wish you well for the future and good luck with getting that transplant! Your post has inspired me and I’m sure others too xx

Hello, sending best wishes to you. Does your healthcare facility have a choir for patients? Singing in a choir had been shown to have benefits for mental and physical wellbeing.

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