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The Mind-Heart Connection

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — February 6, 2020 — 3 min read
The ties between mental and heart health can play an important role before, during and after heart disease diagnosis.

It might not be the most obvious connection, or even the most talked about topic, but it has been found that our mental well-being is closely related to our heart health.

Studies show that patients with heart disease are often sick and living under stressful circumstances. This can foster depressive symptoms. Depression itself is a risk factor for developing heart disease. Researchers are discovering similar links between cardiovascular disease and other mental illnesses like anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
 

Why is mental health so connected to heart health?

Caring for patients with both mental illness and heart disease is difficult. The treatment for one might worsen the other. For example, a patient exposed to the stresses of a heart procedure might experience more anxiety, depression or other psychiatric symptoms.

According to studies by the American Journal of Medicine, depression can increase the risk of an unhealthy lifestyle, and lead to habits like:
  • Smoking
  • Diet higher in calories, salt, and saturated fat
  • Reduced exercise and medication follow up
Each of these habits increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and worsens the outcome.

Heart issues also have significant emotional consequences. A heart disease diagnosis can be depressing, anxiety-provoking, and traumatic. About 50% of patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease have some depressive symptoms. Up to 20% of these patients develop major depression. A review of 25 studies found that 15% of patients developed post-traumatic stress disorder after a heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest, or cardiac surgery, according to Harvard Health Publishing

The American Heart Association and the American Psychiatric Association recommend routine screening of patients with heart disease for depressive symptoms. The American Heart Association also recommends that depression be recognized as a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, like diabetes, hypertension, and smoking.
 

Everyone wins with awareness and prevention

Today, better awareness of the connection between heart and mental health is changing the treatment of these illnesses. Taking a more holistic approach that integrates mental and heart health care can bring better outcomes for everyone. Here are examples of a holistic approach to mental and heart health:
  • People with mental illness and their doctors can help prevent cardiac issues by adding heart health monitoring to their care plan, if necessary
  • Cardiac patients and their doctors can add mental health management into their treatment, when needed
  • Mental and heart health specialists can work more collaboratively to identify the best treatment options; new findings point to treatments that can be beneficial for both the heart and the mind
  • Health care providers are promoting preventive measures known to benefit both cardiac and mental health such as exercise and stress management
Here are more tips that can support your heart and mental well-being.

Remember, to protect your heart, bring your mental health into the conversation with your doctors. As humans, our minds and bodies are connected, therefore, both areas need to be considered. During American Heart Month, let’s reflect on this fact and act on it.

 
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