Should we take it literally when a loved one is suffering from a “broken heart”? With a potential link between negative mental health and heart disease, we might want to.
Depression is a mental health disorder that affects millions worldwide. It is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. However, depression, along with anxiety and stress, has even shown physical effects on the body, including an increased risk of heart disease and even heart failure.
The World Health Organization estimates that about 17.9 million people die of heart disease each year, and with these significant numbers, the probable link is not something we should ignore. We don’t want our loved ones to suffer anymore than they already are mentally, so what can we do, and how do we better understand the issue at heart?
How Does Mental Well-being Affect the Heart?
Recent research has shown that depression, anxiety, and stress have negative effects on your cardiovascular health, all of which can ultimately lead to heart disease over time:
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
- Increased inflammation.
- Increased risk of blood clots.
- Higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
- Reduced blood flow to the heart.
In worst case scenarios, these symptoms can result in fatal cardiac events, such as a heart attack or stroke.
According to a study, adults suffering from depression or its symptoms have a 64% greater risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD), and depressed CAD patients are 59% more likely to suffer from such a fatal cardiac event.
But while there is a correlation, most scientists can’t agree yet if depression is a direct cause of heart failure. The evidence points towards a positive relation, but more research is needed to understand the full extent of the link between depression and heart failure.
It’s also worth noting that depression can also make it more difficult for people to manage their heart disease, adhere to medical treatments, and make lifestyle changes that could improve their heart health.
How Do We Care for Our Heart and Mental Health?
If you feel overwhelmed at the odds stacked against those suffering from depression, don’t worry. For both heart health and mental illness, you can make proactive choices every day that will put you on the path of recovery and even thrive in the future.
Making the choice to reach out for counseling or simply talk with a friend for health is already a leap towards mental well-being. It won’t solve itself overnight, but that’s a step in the right direction.
As for your cardiovascular health, here are some simple lifestyle tips to follow for a healthy heart:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet, less processed foods and more fruits and vegetables.
- Stay active and follow a consistent exercise routine.
- Quit unhealthy habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol in excess.
- Manage your stress and don’t let it build up.
- Get annual health check-ups, because prevention is better than treatment.
That said, you can also take certain steps right now to minimize the risks of falling into depression and heart disease, and that is to analyze your DNA. It’s safe to say about 50% risk of developing heart disease is caused by genetics, after all.
It might sound complicated, but with CircleDNA’s genetic test, you can unlock a wealth of health insights just by taking a cheek swab at home. Some of these genetic reports include your predisposed risks to heart disease and depression. Plus, reports on your body’s stress and sleep response along with knowing your optimal diet and fitness routines let you have the final say in your overall well-being.
By understanding your genetic risk factors, you can take steps to manage your risk and improve your heart health with optimal lifestyle changes. Additionally, these reports can also help your healthcare providers give you better, more informed care.
- World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/health-topics/cardiovascular-diseases#tab=tab_1
- American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/how-does-depression-affect-the-heart#:~:text=Can depression cause heart disease,can lead to heart disease
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/news/2017/heart-disease-and-depression-two-way-relationship
- Nebraska Medicine: https://www.nebraskamed.com/heart/how-genetics-play-a-role-in-heart-health