Has heart disease stopped you in your tracks?

A doctor reviews data with a patient.

If you’ve been diagnosed recently with heart disease or had a heart attack or surgery, your body will need time to return to normal. Your emotions might need some recovery time too.

You might feel like you’re all alone. But you’re not. Many others have gone through what you’re facing. We’ve put together a collection of common emotional responses to a major health event, along with some resources that might be able to help you cope.

Fear: You may feel afraid and uncertain about the future. Some degree of fear is natural, but it’s important not to let it interfere with your recovery.

To lessen your fears, the American Heart Association advises you to get as much information as possible and to use “positive self-talk” whenever possible. Talk to your healthcare professionals about your concerns and ask them what to expect in the days ahead.1

Denial: According to the Mayo Clinic, we sometimes use denial as a coping mechanism to give us time to adjust to distressing situations, and it can serve a purpose initially. But staying in denial can interfere with treatment or our ability to tackle challenges.2

Anger: You may have limitations and have to adjust your routine. You don’t think it’s fair that this happened to you. If you have problems with anger and hostility, you can get help. The American Heart Association offers some tips, such as keeping a journal or stepping back from the source of the irritation.3

Anxiety: Perhaps you’re stunned to find yourself in this situation, overwhelmed by all the information you’ve gotten from your doctors, and worried about which activities you can still do and which ones you can’t. According to the Cleveland Clinic, you might be able to do more than you think. Rule number 1: Don’t stay in bed all day. Get up and get dressed.4

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your emotions, consider joining a support group. The American Heart Association has a support network where you can share your story with others, comment on others’ stories, get answers to questions and so on.5

Another group, WomenHeart, offers a range of support services aimed specifically at women heart disease survivors.6


  1. “Coping with feelings,” American Heart Association, last accessed Jan. 15, 2020, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cardiac-rehab/taking-care-of-yourself/coping-with-feelings, opens new window
  2. “Denial: When it helps, when it hurts,” Mayo Clinic, last accessed Jan. 15, 2020, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/denial/art-20047926, opens new window
  3. “Coping with feelings.”
  4. “Heart Attack Recovery & Cardiac Rehabilitation,” Cleveland Clinic, last accessed Jan. 15, 2020, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17055-heart-attack-recovery--cardiac-rehabilitation, opens new window
  5. Support network, American Heart Association, last accessed Jan. 15, 2020, https://supportnetwork.heart.org/, opens new window
  6. Find Support, WomenHeart, last accessed Jan. 15, 2020, https://www.womenheart.org/find-support/, opens new window