Posted on Mar 04, 2021, 5 p.m.
“Healthy mind, healthy heart” may now have even more relevance as a recent study published in the journal Circulation adds weight to the often dismissed platitude, as according to the American Heart Association positive mental health and generally staying optimistic about life can help to reduce the chances of developing heart disease.
“A person’s mind, heart and body are all interconnected and interdependent in what can be termed ‘the mind-heart-body-connection,’” says Glenn N. Levine, M.D., FAHA, from Baylor College of Medicine and the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. “Research has clearly demonstrated that negative psychological factors, personality traits and mental health disorders can negatively impact cardiovascular health. On the other hand, studies have found positive psychological attributes are associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.”
Staying positive was found to help improve lifespans, but on the other side of the gambit, negative psychological health can be as equally bad for health, with mental health conditions such as depression, stress, anxiety, and anger leading to increased risks of developing heart disease, according to the researchers.
Those dealing with psychological problems in this study were found to generally have higher risks of heart rate and rhythm abnormalities, high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, digestive issues, and less flow to the heart. These mental conditions can also have links to behaviors that can put patients at a greater risk for experiencing a stroke and/or heart attack. Those dealing with negative psychological health in this study tended to be smokers, overweight, physically inactive, or don’t take their prescribed medications.
For better prevention, according to the researchers, regular mental health screenings should be part of a standard checkup for cardiovascular disease, they noted that psychological therapy and similar programs can positively impact cardiovascular health.
Daily stressors, traumatic events, unhealthy habits, and a poor mental state were found to also lead to heart disease and stroke in this study. Those self-reporting having work-related stress and high stress, in general, were found to have a 40% increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
“Most studies of psychological health are observational, with many involving self-reporting from patients, which presents challenges to establishing specific cause and effect relationships,” Levine explains. “However, a preponderance of such studies is highly suggestive and allows one to make reasonable conclusions about an association between negative psychological health and cardiovascular risk.”
The researchers found a host of benefits apply when one is optimistic and looks on the bright side of things. Those with a positive mindset were found to be more likely to benefit from lower blood pressure, better glucose control, less inflammation, and lower cholesterol than those who are not optimistic. Additionally, those with a positive mental state are also more likely to quit smoking, become more active and maintain a healthy balanced diet.
Positive mental health is not just about how you think, it is also about how you behave, according to the researchers, those with better mental health also tend to have more positive social relationships and a bigger support network.
“The data is consistent, suggesting that positive psychological traits play a part in better cardiovascular health,” Levine adds.
“Wellness is more than simply the absence of disease. It is an active process directed toward a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life, and we must strive to reduce negative aspects of psychological health and promote an overall positive and healthy state of being. In patients with or at risk for heart disease, health care professionals need to address the mental wellness of the patient in tandem with the physical conditions affecting the body, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, chest pain, etc,” Baylor’s master clinician and professor of medicine concludes.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
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