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How Your Heart and Mental Health Are Connected

  • Category: LiveSmart
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  • Written By: Baldwin

graphic brain being plugged into a heart

The effect your mental health has on your heart health – and vice versa – is stronger than you think.

Did you ever think about whether your mental health has an impact on your risk of developing heart disease? Or how the health of your heart might affect your mental health? It may not be a connection that you think about often, but research shows that there is more of a relationship between your heart health and mental health than you may realize.

Here are some ways that your mental health may affect your heart health:

  • If you're feeling sad, depressed or anxious, you may turn to unhealthy habits, such as smoking, drinking, eating unhealthy foods or being sedentary. These habits can negatively affect your heart health.
  • If you experience stress, anxiety, depression or PTSD, it may cause physiologic effects on the body, such as increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, reduced blood flow to the heart and higher cortisol levels. These can all contribute to heart disease and a buildup of calcium in the arteries.
  • Chronic stress can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Social isolation and loneliness can also put you at a higher risk of experiencing serious heart issues.
  • Research is increasingly showing that biological and chemical factors that trigger mental health issues may also influence heart disease, according to the American Heart Association®.
  • Mental health issues may increase the chances that people with heart disease don't take their medications or follow doctor recommendations to manage their condition.

And here's how your heart health may affect your mental health:

  • Experiencing a heart attack, heart failure or stroke can cause anxiety or depression. This can be due to being fearful about your health or feeling sad that you may no longer be able to do things you used to do. It may also arise from financial concerns brought on by the cardiac event. By affecting your mental health negatively, you may not have the energy or desire to do the things you need to do to regain your strength and health, such as eating healthy or exercising, making it harder to fully recover.

Studies show that some people are at a greater risk of developing heart disease as a result of pre-existing mental health disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To protect your heart health, it is helpful to talk to your doctors about any potential heart conditions that may be affected by your mental health disorder and what you can do to lower your risk.

If you have heart disease or have experienced a cardiac event, it is also important to monitor your feelings and tell your doctor if you think your mental health has been affected. It is not uncommon for people with heart-related conditions to have issues with their mental health and the best thing you can do if this occurs is to get help in treating the problem.

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Date Last Reviewed: December 19, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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