I am
Mental health and heart disease
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Mental health and heart disease

Having a mental health condition can have a negative impact on your heart health and increase your risk of heart disease.

Key takeaways

  • If you live with a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, it can increase your chances of developing heart disease. 
  • Psychosocial stressors such as social isolation, loneliness and work stress can also affect your mental health. 
  • The good news is that anxiety and depression in people with heart disease can be managed safely and effectively. 

What is mental health? 

According to Beyond Blue, ‘mental health’ is often used as a substitute for describing mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. However, it refers to your level of health and wellbeing, or ‘wellness’, rather than meaning that you have an illness. 

There’s evidence that having a mental health condition can increase your risk of developing heart disease. Two conditions that can have a negative impact on your heart health, are anxiety and depression. 

What is anxiety?  

Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. Anxious feelings that you may get from feeling under pressure will usually pass once the situation is over or the trigger has been removed. However, for some people these anxious feelings can happen for no apparent reason or continue after the stressful event has passed. 

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. 

Living with heart disease is one of many things that can trigger anxiety, but there are many ways to manage and treat anxiety. If you’re suffering from anxiety, the sooner you get help, the sooner you can recover. 

Signs and symptoms of anxiety 

Anxiety symptoms can often develop gradually over time. There are many types of anxiety and a range of symptoms for each, but common symptoms of anxiety include: 

  • Racing heart 
  • Tightening of the chest 
  • Snowballing worries 
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 
  • Obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviour. 
  • Hot and cold flushes 
  • Excessive sweating.

What is depression? 

Depression is more than just a low mood – it’s a serious condition that has an impact on both your physical and mental health. 

While we all feel sad, moody or low from time to time, some people experience these feelings intensely for long periods (weeks, months or even years), sometimes without any apparent reason.  

Like anxiety, there are effective treatments available. Again, the sooner you get help, the sooner you can recover.

Signs and symptoms of depression 

Some common symptoms of depression can include: 

  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy 
  • Withdrawing from family and friends 
  • Being unable to concentrate and not getting things done at work or school 
  • Feeling overwhelmed, indecisive and lacking in confidence 
  • Increased alcohol and other drug use 
  • Loss or change of appetite and significant weight loss or gain 
  • Trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep and being tired during the day 
  • Feeling worthless, helpless and guilty 
  • Increased irritability, frustration and moodiness 
  • Feeling unhappy, sad or miserable most of the time 
  • Low self-worth, with negative thoughts such as: ‘I’m a failure’, ‘Life’s not worth living’, ‘People would be better off without me’. 

Some links between anxiety, depression and heart disease 

  • Anxiety, depression and coronary heart disease (CHD) are common conditions and often occur together 
  • Heart disease is the heart condition most closely linked with depression 
  • While less is known about the links between anxiety and heart disease, many people with anxiety also have depression 
  • Depression is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle and can affect the recovery of people with coronary heart disease and increase their risk of further heart problems, such as another heart attack. 

Around 3 million Australians are living with depression or anxiety. 

Mental health and social isolation 

Social isolation – or the state of having minimal contact with others – can also affect your mental and physical health and increase your risk of heart disease.  

Having social connections, healthy personal relationships and being part of a community are essential to maintain your mental health. They will also help with your recovery, should you become unwell. 

Where can you get support? 

A general practitioner (GP) is a recommended first step to discuss your concerns. Make sure that the doctor managing your heart condition knows if you have anxiety or depression. 

Other health professionals – with experience in mental health – who can provide a range of support include: 

  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Mental health workers, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health workers 
  • Mental health social workers 
  • Occupational therapists. 

For more information about mental health, treatment and management or to find a mental health practitioner in your area call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 now.

You might also be interested in

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril suffered a heart attack in 2015. Cardiac rehab helped get his life back on track. ...

What's your BMI?

What's your BMI?

What's your BMI?

Are you within a healthy weight range for your height?...

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Heart Health Projects

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Heart Health Projects

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Heart Health Projects

Projects aimed at improving the heart health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ...

Cholesterol and triglycerides action plan

Cholesterol and triglycerides action plan

Key steps that can help you manage your cholesterol and triglyceride levels....

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Every day, 20 women lose their lives to this condition....

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

This is a guide to how you might be feeling after a heart attack. ...

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Cardiac rehabilitation was a turning point for Kylie and essential to her heart failure recovery....

What is coronary heart disease?

What is coronary heart disease?

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease occurs when a coronary artery clogs and narrows because of a buildup of plaque....

Environment, climate change and heart health

Environment, climate change and heart health

Environment, climate change and heart health

Information on how air pollution, heatwaves and bushfires can impact heart health, and what you can do to look after yourself. ...

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Could you be at risk of heart disease? Get your estimated heart age now....

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Protein and heart health

Protein and heart health

Protein and heart health

What are the best sources of protein when it come to your heart health...

Q&A with Dr Lewan Parker

Q&A with Dr Lewan Parker

Q&A with Dr Lewan Parker

Identifying microvascular dysfunction as a novel mechanism of poor health in heart failure patients....

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

This is a guide to how you might be feeling after a heart attack. ...

Nutrition Position Statements

Nutrition Position Statements

Nutrition Position Statements

The Heart Foundation’s food and nutrition position statements have been developed to keep you informed about our position on a range of nutrition issues relating to heart health. ...

Coronary Angiogram Test

Coronary Angiogram Test

This is a common test done to find out angina symptoms, or during or after a heart attack. ...

Clinical guidelines and position statements

Clinical guidelines and position statements

Clinical guidelines and position statements

We have developed a range of resources for you to use as part of routine care. ...

Support after a heart attack

Support after a heart attack

Support after a heart attack

Many different thoughts may go through your head after a heart attack and you may be presented with complicated medical info. Know where to get support. ...

For professionals: Cardiovascular disease risk assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 

For professionals: Cardiovascular disease risk assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 

Recommendations for assessing Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ...

The NSW Cardiac Rehabilitation Working Group

The NSW Cardiac Rehabilitation Working Group

Vegetarian recipes

Vegetarian recipes

Vegetarian recipes

Search through our vegetarian recipes...

Absolute CVD risk charts

Absolute CVD risk charts

Absolute CVD risk charts provide a visual tool to calculate CVD risk for use in practice in Australia....

Aiming high after a stroke

Aiming high after a stroke

Aiming high after a stroke

Sami Kennedy-Sim is an Olympic freestyle skier specialising in Ski Cross. ...

Our strategy

Our strategy

Our strategy

Connecting Hearts Strategy 2021-2023...

What is heart valve disease?

What is heart valve disease?

What is heart valve disease?

Heart valve disease means that your heart valve or valves don't open or close properly....

What waist measurements mean for your heart

What waist measurements mean for your heart

What waist measurements mean for your heart

How your waist measurement contributes to your heart health...

Salmon primavera spaghetti

Salmon primavera spaghetti

Salmon primavera spaghetti

15 minutes
Serves 2

WEBINAR | Pressure rising: Clinical controversies and updates in hypertension

WEBINAR | Pressure rising: Clinical controversies and updates in hypertension

WEBINAR | Pressure rising: Clinical controversies and updates in hypertension

Absolute CVD risk assessment resources

Absolute CVD risk assessment resources

Resources and clinical information for health professionals...

5 heart-healthy breakfasts-in-bed to make Dad on Father's Day

5 heart-healthy breakfasts-in-bed to make Dad on Father's Day

5 heart-healthy breakfasts-in-bed to make Dad on Father's Day

Nutrition after a heart attack

Nutrition after a heart attack

Nutrition after a heart attack

Discover key information on heart-healthy eating and drinking....

The Heart Foundation Research Program

The Heart Foundation Research Program

The Heart Foundation Research Program

We are Australia’s biggest non-government funder of world-class research into heart health. Learn more about our high impact research. ...

Heart Week

Heart Week

Q&A with Dr James Nadel

Q&A with Dr James Nadel

Q&A with Dr James Nadel

The role of inflammation in the development, identification and treatment of unstable blood vessel plaque...

Benefits of physical activity for your heart

Benefits of physical activity for your heart

Benefits of physical activity for your heart

Physical activity and exercise can do wonders for your physical and mental health....

Cardiac arrest at 33: the challenges of restarting your life

Cardiac arrest at 33: the challenges of restarting your life

Cardiac arrest at 33: the challenges of restarting your life

Emma shares her story and opens up about her emotional struggles....

One pan honey mustard chicken

One pan honey mustard chicken

One pan honey mustard chicken

30 minutes
Serves 4

Heart disease and pregnancy

Heart disease and pregnancy

Heart disease and pregnancy

Pregnancy is often referred to as the “ultimate stress test” for the body....