Stress, Mental health & Heart disease

Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in stress levels that is responsible for increasing blood pressure and the risk for coronary heart diseases, writes Dr Sidharth Sheth

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About Author: Dr Sidharth Sheth, Consultant & Interventional Cardiologist Lilavati Hospital, Nanavati Hospital, Criticare Hospital, Mumbai.

Mental health can have a great impact of person’s physical health and vice versa. Mental health has been a major area of discussion over the past few years, but did you know that mental health can directly affect the condition of your heart?
Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in stress levels that is responsible for increasing blood pressure and the risk for coronary heart diseases. Heart conditions such as heart attack are very common in people dealing with mental issues like depression and anxiety as compared to those who are not. Apart from that, people suffering from mental health problems are more exposed to addictive habit like smoking and drinking which directly increases the risk of heart diseases. At the same time, mental problems also affect people dealing with heart condition to recover properly.
What kind of mental conditions affect heart health?
Mental health has an overall impact on the body and can alter the way one feels about themselves. Some of the mental conditions that directly or indirectly impact the condition of heart include:
  • Depression: It is a mental condition in which a person develops a constant feeling of sadness and negativity. Depression is one of the most common mental issues that can occur at any point in life but if this experience prevails for a long period of time, it may put pressure on the heart to work extra.
  • Anxiety: This mental condition occurs if a person is worried and anxious due to some reason. Not only that, this feeling is very easy to trigger but difficult to get rid off and control it.
  • Stress: It is one of the leading causes of heart ailment and can also trigger other health conditions like hypertension which can cause heart attack and strokes. Many people are experiencing high levels of stress while working from home, during the pandemic. Due to stress,a lot of people are indulging into negative and unhealthy lifestyle like smoking, drinking, lack of sleep which can directly impact heart health.
How does mental health affect heart?
When a person is suffering from any mental health issues, they are at a higher risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases as these conditions increases heart rates and blood pressure. At the same time, a person starts lacking motivation and energy to do any work and this may result in reduced blood flow inside the body. As a result, the body starts producing higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, calcium buildup in the arteries and metabolic disease which can further increase the risk of heart ailments. People suffering from mental problems may also develop an unhealthy lifestyle like smoking, drinking, lack of sleep and following a sedentary lifestyle. Not only that, depression, and anxiety can also develop after suffering from heart attack or strokes.
What can you do to manage mental health?
Though, mental issues can develop at any point in life, it is possible to manage it and an improve heart health. These include:
  • Exercising regularly: Doing some form of physical exercise, yoga or meditation helps in relieving stress, depression and anxiety. A simple walk in nature can not only help the mind to relax but also get fresh air.
  • Take out time for friends and family: while dealing with any mental issues, it is very important to stay close to friends and family with whom one can share their emotions and be understood. Having someone to depend on helps in developing trust and confidence.
  • Getting enough sleep: Lack of sleep is one of the major causes of developing depression and anxiety as it does not allow the body to relax. Therefore, it is important to have at least eight hours of sleep.
  • Positive attitude: It is important to have a positive and optimistic approach towards life. Even when a person does feel like staying happy due to some reason, they must have a positive approach. Practicing relaxation techniques, listening to music and finding a stimulating hobby can be an effective approach to distract a person from negative thoughts or worries.
However Cardiac care in India has witnessed some significant technological innovations in the past decade. In addition to the standard diagnostic tests, there is a much more definitive test called intravascular ultrasound that provides complete 3D view to the physician in the heart artery and helps him make critical decisions related to angioplasty procedure. While all these provisions are available to manage patients, who have coronary artery disease that could lead to the need for stenting, it is always advisable to make lifestyle modifications immediately and ensure that one goes for regular heart health check-ups for early diagnosis. Prevention is always better than cure.

Note: This article represents author’s views and is for educational purposes only. Kindly consult your doctor for better understanding of cardiovascular diseases.