You probably already know that maintaining good heart health entails maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, and managing well-known heart disease risk factors including high blood pressure. But did you know that heart health is also significantly influenced by your brain?
Researchers have increasingly discovered connections between poor mental health and an increased risk of heart disease in recent years. Given that mental health conditions can have an impact on your behaviour, this may not be shocking. For instance, if you’re feeling down, you could be less inclined to exercise regularly or more likely to consume too much alcohol. Additionally, some mental health problems and specific mental disorders may cause physical alterations in the body that increase the risk of heart disease in a variety of ways.
Long-term stress can increase blood pressure, decrease blood flow to the heart, lessen the heart’s ability to pump blood, cause aberrant pumping rhythms, and activate the body’s inflammatory response and blood clotting system. Surprisingly, research suggests that minor life changes may not be as bad for your heart as prolonged stress. According to a significant study, women who provided care for a disabled husband for at least nine hours per week had a higher risk of suffering a heart attack or passing away from heart disease.
Traumatic childhood experiences
Health professionals refer to adverse childhood experiences as traumatising childhood events such being ignored, experiencing physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or seeing violence at home. They may increase the likelihood of engaging in behaviours that are harmful to health, like substance use disorders. According to the study, those who had four or more traumatic childhood experiences were twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease and die young as those who had none of these distressing experiences.
Heart disease and depression are linked in a reciprocal fashion. According to one review paper, depression roughly doubles your chance of having coronary artery disease. According to other studies, those who already have cardiac disease are three times more likely to have depression than the general population. Up to one in five people who have survived a heart attack experience depression. Additionally, for those who have already experienced a heart attack, sadness alone carries a chance of having another one. This may be in part due to the fact that depressed people are less inclined to exercise, stop smoking, or take their prescription medications, even after a heart attack.
Hostility and anger
People who are frequently furious are two to three times more likely than other people to get a heart attack or other cardiac incident.
Living alone makes both men and women much more likely to suffer a heart attack or pass away abruptly from one. On the other hand, older persons who have a good social support system are much less likely to pass away during a 10-year period than those who do not.
Moving toward a healthier heart
There are things you can do to enhance your mental health and perhaps even your heart health if you’re dealing with any of these problems.
- A mental health professional can assist you in overcoming a variety of obstacles, including significant previous trauma. Medication and talk therapy, including cognitive behavioural therapy (which aims to disrupt negative thought patterns), are just a few of the potential solutions.
- Healthy nutrition and exercise might sometimes be neglected when you’re depressed or experiencing emotional difficulties. However, making modest, doable daily changes leads to improved general health. Even modest adjustments, such as increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables on your plate or taking short walks around the house, can help. Look for enjoyable physical activities that will keep you engaged.
- Your mental health can be improved by engaging in brain-stimulating activities. Take up a new pastime, attempt a novel walking route, or engage in an unique activity to bring some originality to your day.
- Most people nowadays find that reducing stress is a significant problem. Meditation, which promotes self-awareness and a present-focused attitude, is one tactic that can help control it. Stress levels can also be controlled through regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and enough good sleep.