Did you know that common mental health disorders are linked to higher incidences of stroke and heart attack? Several correlations between mental health and cardiovascular health have been suggested. For example, stress and anxiety cause excess activation of your nervous system. In turn, stress hormone (catecholamine and cortisol) levels rise. These changes can lead to inflammation, metabolic changes, high blood pressure, and elevated blood sugar, consequently leading to the development and/or progression of Coronary Heart Disease (Hert et al., 2018).
On a brighter note, fortunately the influence your mental health has on your heart goes both ways! Research also suggests that working to improve your mental health can also improve markers of cardiovascular health (Gleeson, 2017)! Research has shown that improving your cardiovascular health through lifestyle changes (e.g. physical activity, improved dietary habits) can positively impact your mental health (Velten et al., 2014). It is bi-directional!
You can “Assess your distress” with the Kessler psychological distress scale (Harvard Medical School, 2018) at the end of the post. If you score high on the distress level test — or just feel depressed or anxious — don’t hesitate to seek help.
If you need immediate assistance, call the Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255 (for Military Veterans press 1 | for Spanish call 1-888-628-9454). The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.
Gleeson, J. (2019, November 5). Depression and Heart Health: A Two-Way Connection. Michigan Medicine. https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/heart-health/depression-and-heart-health-a-two-way-connection
Harvard Health Publishing. (2018, December). The head-heart connection: Mental health and heart disease. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-head-heart-connection-mental-health-and-heart-disease
Hert, M., Detraux, J., & Vancampfort, D. (2018). The intriguing relationship between coronary heart disease and mental disorders. Body-Mind Interaction in Psychiatry, 20(1), 31–40. https://doi.org/10.31887/dcns.2018.20.1/mdehert
Velten, J., Lavallee, K. L., Scholten, S., Meyer, A. H., Zhang, X.-C., Schneider, S., & Margraf, J. (2014). Lifestyle choices and mental health: a representative population survey. BMC Psychology, 2(1), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-014-0055-y