Mental Health Support Is Essential for People with Heart Defects: Study

Cropped shot of an unrecognizable couple holding hands while at home during the dayAccording to a new statement, mental health support is essential for people with congenital heart defects. Researchers found that those who received mental health care were less likely to experience anxiety and depression and had a better quality of life. The findings underscore the importance of providing mental health support to all patients with heart defects, regardless of their age or surgical history.

More than 2.4 million people are living with congenital heart defects (CHD) in the United States. CHD occurs when people are born with structural abnormalities of the blood vessels involving the heart or with the heart itself. Catheter interventions and surgery are often required to address these issues, but it does not cure CHD. Most people with CHD need multiple operations and specialty heart care throughout life.


The new statement from the American Heart Association is the first of its kind to summarize the social and psychological challenges throughout life and to review age-appropriate mental health interventions to help improve quality.

According to the statement, children with more complex CHDs have a 5-times higher rate of receiving an anxiety diagnosis compared to children without CHD. For adults with CHD, the rate of experiencing anxiety or mood disorders is about 50%, compared to 30% of adults in the general population.

“It’s completely understandable to have a psychological reaction to living with a congenital heart defect. The condition presents numerous challenges throughout the lifespan and may include unexpected news—such as a person realizing they can no longer physically manage the demands of their job or learning that there are significant risks to pregnancy,” said Adrienne H. Kovacs, Ph.D., chair of the writing committee for the scientific statement.

“Many people with CHD have tremendous resilience in the face of these challenges. At the same time, we want to normalize psychological reactions and increase the prevalence of care for psychological well-being to help people with CHD experience a full and healthy life.”


The statement strongly suggests that mental health professionals should be integrated into the CHD care teams. Mental health care approaches should also be explained to CHD patients, including self-care strategies, relaxation techniques, and talk therapy. For those experiencing severe depression, heart-safe medication therapy may be needed under doctor supervision.

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Author Bio

Sarah began her interest in nutritional healing at an early age. After going through health problems and becoming frustrated with the conventional ways doctors wanted to treat her illness (which were not working), she took it upon herself to find alternative treatments. This led her to revolutionize her own diet to help her get healthier and tackle her health problems. She began treating her illness by living a more balanced lifestyle through healthy food choices, exercise and other alternative medicine such as meditation. This total positive lifestyle change led her to earn a diploma in Nutritional Therapy from Health Sciences Academy in London, England. Today, Sarah enjoys helping others by teaching healthy lifestyle changes through her personal consultations and with her regular contributions to the Doctors Health Press. Also, passionate about following her dreams in life, Sarah moved to France and lived in Paris for over 5 years where she earned a certification in beadwork and embroidery from Lesage (an atelier owned by Chanel). She then went on to be a familiar face sitting front row and reporting from Paris Fashion Week. Sarah continues to practice some of the cultural ways of life she learned while in Europe. They enjoy their food, and take the time to relax and enjoy many of life’s little moments. These are life lessons she is glad to have brought back home with her.


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