When it comes to keeping your heart healthy, you’re probably aware that of the importance of exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and taking any supplements or medications you need to. But to make sure your cardiovascular system is in tip-top shape, there’s another aspect of your well-being you should also focus on: Your mental health.
While doctors and scientists already believe that there’s a connection between how you feel physically and psychologically, new research sheds light on just how much your mental state affects your heart health in particular.
How are mental health and heart health linked?
The American Heart Association (AHA) just published a statement in the medical journal Circulation alongside the Council on Clinical Cardiology, the Council on Arteriosclerosis, the Council on Lifestyle and Metabolic Health, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, and the Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing.
Together, they looked at 128 studies that investigated the links between psychological well-being and cardiovascular health. Their analysis found that various forms of emotional distress and mental illness, including anger, hostility, anxiety, depression, and trauma, could lead to a number of issues with the heart. Potential problems they saw were heart rate irregularities, reduced blood flow, and abnormal blood pressure.
On the flip side, the AHA analysis also showed that people with higher levels of happiness, mindfulness, purposefulness, and optimism were less likely to develop a stroke or experience a cardiac incident. They also generally had lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol, which are important to living a long, healthy life.
What can you do to improve how you feel mentally?
If you want to work on your mental health, there are so many simple ways to start. Staying off of social media and remaining present in whatever activity you’re doing are simple daily steps. Journaling and meditating have also been scientifically proven to ease feelings of emotional unrest.
Especially in the pandemic, it’s also important to look at how your home and work life might be piling on additional stress and how you can create more balance. For example, are there any flexible arrangements that’d work better for you with your job, or can you take a vacation day when you need to? These can contribute to better peace of mind.
However if you’re concerned that your psychological health requires greater attention, you can always talk to your doctor about treatment options, whether that’s something like therapy or medication. Now matter what, you deserve to feel your best both mentally and physically.