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Mental health is a major concern worldwide, and Indians are no exception. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), 7.5 per cent of the Indian population suffers from some form of mental disorder. Mental health also extends to emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing, affecting how a person processes emotions and functions in the privacy of their home and society at large.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) informs that, “mental health is linked with increased risk of developing heart diseases”, as people suffering from depression, anxiety, and stress, are susceptible to high blood pressure, reduced blood flow to the heart, and alarmingly high levels of cortisol. These factors, over a course of time, could block arteries, and cause heart ailments.
Some of the most common mental health problems may aggravate or induce heart problems:
1. Depression: Depression impacts the emotional, physical, and behavioural wellbeing of a person. Depression leads to an increase in the production of cortisol, a stress-causing hormone, and also boosts your heart rate. This adds pressure on your heart and could cause your heart to go into overdrive mode.
Depression also makes its patients find coping mechanisms in the form of smoking, alcohol and substance abuse, and overeating. These unhealthy lifestyle choices can increase the risk for heart disease. In fact, an investigative study by the scientific journal Atherosclerosis found that “people with high blood pressure and people who smoke, are associated with a greater risk of heart disease.”
2. Anxiety: Anxiety can cause massive fluctuations in the rhythm of the heart and blood pressure. Anxiety is often accompanied by fear, which causes cortisol to be secreted in your body. This stress hormone further aggravates the anxiety levels, causing heart palpitations, sweating, and even blackouts in certain cases.
People who suffer from recurring or constant anxiety could overtime experience heart problems. Harvard Medical School informs that, “a malfunctioning stress response promotes inflammation, which damages the artery linings and sets the stage for the buildup of coronary plaque.”
3. Stress: Stress is the body’s way of reacting to any circumstances that require an adjustment or response. During stressful events, the body releases a burst of chemicals, such as adrenaline, which in general, is helpful to provide energy to the body, but in the long term, this can lead to significant heart-related issues. Harvard Medical School informs that “stress from challenging situations plays a major role in heart-related disease and depression, anxiety, hostility, and even social isolation has an adverse impact on cardiovascular health.”
Stress is also known to be a contributing factor that promotes the buildup of plaque deposits in the arteries. University of Rochester Medical Center informs that, even minor stress could trigger heart problems like poor blood flow to the heart muscle, a condition in which the heart doesn’t get enough blood or oxygen. While long-term stress can affect how the blood clots, making the blood stickier and increases the risk of stroke.”
While seeking professional medical help is the most prudent way to manage both mental health and heart ailments, certain measures could be taken at your end to improve your wellbeing. Be it exercising regularly, meditating, or eating a balanced nutritious diet, these active steps help promote heart health and improve mental health as well.