Your Mental Health & Your Heart: How Are They Related?
Mental health is an essential part of your overall health, affecting your psychological, emotional, and social behavior and well-being.
Mental health influences how you think and act. For this reason, a mental health issue may interfere with your ability to think, behave, and relate to others.
If left undiagnosed or not immediately addressed, mental health disorders, including stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma, can adversely affect the body, including your heart.
Examples of such effects include increased heart rate and blood pressure and reduced blood flow to the heart. Over time, these effects can develop into metabolic disease, calcium buildup in the arteries, and heart disease.
Many individuals commit to lifestyle changes to address their mental health issues to minimize the risk factors for heart problems. Others may consider alternative remedies to help manage anxiety and depression.
Various support groups and professional health workers can provide mental health assistance and promote activities to prevent the development of heart diseases.
Some health care systems and institutions provide services like radiology to help better understand the brain and how it affects your body.
Mental Health Issues Associated With Heart Disease
The following mental health disorders are closely related to heart disease:
- Anxiety disorders - People with anxiety disorders may experience fear or terror when faced with specific events. Examples include social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and various phobias.
- Mood disorders - Some individuals have bipolar disorder or major depression that significantly affects their mood. These disorders may affect their mental well-being on an almost daily basis.
- Chronic stress - Individuals with chronic stress disorders are often in a constant or long-lasting state of emotional stress.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - People who have experienced traumatic life events, such as natural disasters, war, or domestic abuse, may have PTSD.
What Groups are at Risk of Heart Disease From Mental Health Issues?
While mental health disorders and heart disease can potentially affect anyone, some groups are more vulnerable than others. The following groups of people have a high risk of developing heart disease due to existing mental health issues:
- Military veterans - Several studies suggest veterans who have PTSD resulting from combat are likely to have an increased heart disease risk.
- Couples with PTSD - One study mentioned that couples with at least one partner who have PTSD may experience less warmth and more significant couple conflict.
This behavior was characterized by increased anger levels and higher blood pressure. The researchers mentioned that such responses may contribute to coronary heart disease (CHD) affecting couples.
- Women - One study showed that women with high levels of PTSD and other associated symptoms are likely to be over three times at risk of developing CHD.
- Ethnic or racial minorities - Disparities in social determinants such as adverse childhood experiences, discrimination, and health may lead to anxiety, depression, and stress among minority groups.
These disparities can cause some members of these groups to experience a higher risk of heart disease, hypertension, cardiovascular reactivity, and poor health outcomes.
Addressing Mental Health Concerns
There are several support services and lifestyle changes that may help address mental health disorders and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Lifestyle changes include:
- Increasing physical activity
- Making improvements on diet quality
- Reducing or quitting smoking
Health care professionals can discuss the relationship between mental health and heart disease among individuals and their families.
Topics to discuss may include mental health screening, prescription of psychotropic medication, and treatments following a heart disease event.
Still, there is a great need for researchers to look further into the role of social determinants to improve their understanding of mental health and its relationship to heart health.
Furthermore, they also need to understand the relationship and impact of mental health on preventing and treating heart diseases and their risk factors.
Additionally, there may be a need to expand traditional risk assessments for heart disease to include mental health disorders.
One such evaluation tool that may utilize this new information includes the Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Risk Estimator.
Mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, stress, and trauma can cause adverse effects on your body, especially the heart. If not immediately addressed, these disorders may lead to heart disease and other complications.
Some lifestyle changes, such as exercise, proper diet, and quitting smoking, may help reduce your risk factors for mental health disorders and heart disease.
Consult your doctor, therapist, or health care professional for more information about mental health and heart disease. Talk to your family or join a support group for further assistance.
Stanley Clark is a community development volunteer and writer. He had worked on several commercials, events, and campaigns before writing full-time in the area of natural health and wellness.
- Heart Disease and Mental Health Disorders
- Posttraumatic stress disorder and responses to couple conflict: implications for cardiovascular risk
- A Prospective Study of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and Coronary Heart Disease in Women
- ASCVD Risk Estimator Plus