When people suffer from heartache — whether due to a breakup or the loss of a loved one — it’s commonplace to eat copious amounts of ice cream, snuggle under a blanket and lean on friends and family for moral support. This trope was reenacted in countless movies and appeared in various popular culture references.
So, why do people engage in all sorts of unhealthy behaviors when they are struggling emotionally? There are multiple reasons for this, such as attempting to increase serotonin. However, these choices affect many other parts of the body, including the heart.
Can Mental Health Affect Physical Health?
People often forget that our minds and bodies are intrinsically linked. That is why it is essential to address both mental and physical health in order to maintain overall well-being. However, there is a notable effect when one or the other suffers.
One way mental health can affect physical health is by linking stress and physical illness. Chronic stress can negatively affect the body through the release of hormones such as cortisol, which can increase blood pressure and heart rate, and also contribute to dermatological conditions such as psoriasis. A person at risk of dying from cancer is 50% more likely to pass away if they also suffer from depression.
Mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and anxiety, also affect physical health. People with these conditions may be more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking. Studies report that more than 80% of people with schizophrenia smoke, compared to only 12% of adults in the U.S. as of 2020. Other manifestations, such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease, are also linked to mental health disorders.
It is essential to take the connection between mental and physical health seriously and seek treatment if necessary. Various options, such as therapy, medication and lifestyle changes (e.g., exercising and eating a healthy diet), are available.
How Are Mental Health and Heart Disease Related?
According to the Psychological Bulletin, 1 in every 18 deaths in the U.S. is stroke related. Heart health is not something to be taken lightly. Now that it has been established that mental health does affect physical health, we can explore how it affects heart health and, subsequently, how it may lead to heart disease.
Evidence suggests that mental health can affect heart health. Studies have shown that people with mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, may be at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke.
How Different Mental Health Disorders Affect Heart Health
While the effects of mental health disorders are not completely understood in relation to heart disease, there are notable links between various mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and depression, to heart health. This is partly because mental disorders and heart disease share a similar etiology.
People with depression have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke. The link between lethargy and physical illness and the fact that people with depression may be more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as eating unhealthy foods and a lack of physical activity, are the potential reasons behind this risk.
Chronic stress, often a symptom of anxiety, can adversely affect the body. People with anxiety experience an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and heart palpitations.
People with schizophrenia are at risk of various heart health issues owing to the erratic mood changes that cause the body’s nervous system to panic and the heart to go into shock. The risk of heart disease is exacerbated by the poor lifestyle choices people with schizophrenia make, such as increased alcohol and drug consumption.
The relationship between mental health disorders and heart health is complex, and more research is needed to fully understand the connections between these conditions.
Can Poor Mental Health Lead To Heart Failure?
In severe cases, poor mental health can lead to heart failure. Chronic stress negatively affects the body by increasing blood pressure and heart rate and contributing to inflammation, a known risk factor for many physical health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
People with poor mental health may also be more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, unhealthy eating habits and a lack of physical activity. These behaviors can increase the risk of developing physical health conditions like heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Various factors, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, can cause it. Poor mental health may contribute to the development of these conditions, thus increasing the risk of heart failure.
Why Is Mental Health Awareness Important?
One of the main benefits of mental health awareness is that it helps reduce the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. When people are more aware of mental health issues, they are less likely to view them as taboo, making it easier for them to seek help and support and feel more comfortable discussing their mental health with others.
If there were a great understanding and acceptance of mental health, the positive effects would also be perceivable in the physical body. The healthier the mind, the healthier the body — the mantra of various cases, as reported in the UN AIDS Update in 2018, with a direct correlation between the mental well-being of a group and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
How To Manage Mental Health and Boost Heart Health
Mental health is an essential aspect of overall health and well-being. It is crucial in how we think, feel and behave. When people’s mental health is not optimal, it harms their physical health. So, prioritize your mental health and take care of it just like your physical health.