Mental Wellness Linked With Heart Health

With the second week of February well underway, matters of the heart are flooding inboxes and media streams – both in terms of heart health month, as well as relating to the holiday of love. During stressful times, it’s more important than ever to properly manage mental wellness.  Psychological well-being can improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease, according to new research. 

During this short, but often cold and dreary month, raising awareness about cardiovascular health will help ensure adults and doctors are taking the right steps to protect heart health.  Researchers are learning more about the connection between psychological health and physical health, and according to the American Heart Association News, recent studies have established a link between depression and the risk for cardiovascular disease. 

The evidence of an association between optimism and a sense of purpose with a lower risk for heart disease and stroke is so compelling, the American Heart Association has published a statement in the journal Circulation that lays out the pathways that link mental wellness to heart disease.  By screening for mental health and depression as part of a cardiovascular evaluation, doctors can treat the whole patient, helping to improve outcomes and quality of life. 

Research demonstrates that adults who have a positive outlook and find meaning in their lives are more likely to participate in healthy activities such as staying physically active, stopping smoking, and controlling blood sugar levels.  Recognizing that a positive mindset and cultivating optimism, gratitude, purpose and resilience is linked with physical health is a game-changer. With a greater understanding of this connection, more adults will be able to access tools to manage their mental health and treat health-damaging issues like depression, stress, anxiety, hostility or pessimism. 

With better screening and interventions that may include psychotherapy or antidepressants, health care professionals can treat patients more holistically and improve mental health issues that left untreated can lead to an increased risk for heart disease.  Chronic stress, which many people are experiencing during the pandemic, can lead to inflammation in the arteries and changes in bone marrow, recent research finds.  By looking at the entire person, including mindsets and individual perception, healthcare providers can help improve patient care and health outcomes.