Heart Health and Mental Health
By Heidi McNeil
Research on the link between mental health and heart health typically has focused on the effect of your “emotions” on your heart. Research now shows that there are true physiological connections between your mind and your heart!!
Often, the perception is that mental health problems are simply being “unhappy“. But research is proving that there are many tangible physical factors that play in to heart problems and heart conditions. While the extent of the relationship between stress and heart disease is still being discovered, it is no secret that anxiety and depression impact the heart. For those of you that have had a heart-related life-threatening medical problem, knowing how to cope is something that most are NOT prepared to do. Not only are you challenged to make changes (by doctors and everyone around you), but you probably also lack the energy to actually tackle the healthy changes.
Let’s look at some facts we can get our head around:
* 1 in 10 Americans (age 18+) report suffering from depression (that’s 10% of us!!!!)
* Around 33% of Americans who have had heart attacks fall ALSO report depression.
Look at it from this angle- if you are dealing with lots of stress, there is a strong likelihood that your glucose (blood sugar levels) and cortisol (hormones released in your body when you are stressed) production has increased, your blood pressure is creeping up, and your cholesterol is getting out of whack too. Finding time to squeeze in healthier eating choices and plenty of exercise to combat the increase in your body’s stress reaction may also just add to your feeling of stress. (Do you see the potential for a viscous cycle?!?!) So the reality we all have to face is that our mental well being is directly tied to our heart health.
DO NOT DESPAIR!!! Here are three great ways to help you cope with anxiety and depression, which in turn will help your ticker continue to… well… tick.
Journal. Write down what is causing your stress and anxiety. What do you do when it is occurring? What helps? What hurts? If you get stuck with this, find a trained therapist can help you find ways to help yourself. (Call us, we can help!!)
Healthy Habits. Slow and steady wins the race. If you have not been one that exercises, start off slow and walk during your breaks at work. Park a little farther away from the entrance of the grocery store. BOTH exercise and fresh air help your physical and mental well-being. When it comes to eating, make some small healthier choices. If you find yourself always on the run and grabbing convenience food, then plan ahead a bit (may putting a little pack of almonds or raisins in your purse/bag).
Keep it simple. Often when we think about making changes, we rush in and decide that we have to renovate all at once. Take it one step at a time. If you have goals that you would like to change (like to quit smoking, run a 5k, or lose 25 lbs), just remember to also celebrate your small victories along the way.
American Heart Association. (n.d.). Retrieved January 28,2017 from http://www.heart.org/