Our overall well-being is like a puzzle, and mental and physical health are two important pieces that fit together. We often don’t realize how significant of an impact mental health can have on physical health – including heart health. Anxiety, depression, or chronic stress can have a significant impact on our bodies. On the other end of the spectrum, having a positive mindset can be like a shield, helping keep your heart healthy. This February during American Heart Month, it’s especially important to be aware of the correlation between mental health and cardiovascular health.

According to the CDC, research has shown that “People experiencing depression, anxiety, stress, and even PTSD over a long period of time may experience certain physiologic effects on the body, such as increased cardiac reactivity (e.g., increased heart rate and blood pressure), reduced blood flow to the heart, and heightened levels of cortisol. Over time, these physiologic effects can lead to calcium buildup in the arteries, metabolic disease, and heart disease.”

A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association also found that young adults, ages 18-49, who reported feelings of depression or poor mental health had higher rates of heart attacks, strokes and risk factors for heart disease compared with their peers without mental health issues.

Depression, anxiety and overall poor mental health can also lead to lifestyle choices that can have a negative impact on heart health. These lifestyle choices, which are all risk factors for heart disease, can include smoking, drinking, and being less physically active.

Fortunately, there are many ways you can make positive lifestyle changes to improve both your mental health and physical health to help reduce the risk of heart disease:

  • Exercise regularly.
    It can relieve stress, tension, anxiety, and depression. Consider a nature walk, meditation or yoga. Click here more information on building a fitness routine.
  • Make time for friends and family.
    It’s important to maintain social connections and talk with people you trust. Achieving a healthy work-life balance is key, to read more on strategies on how to accomplish this, click here.
  • Get enough sleep.
    Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night. For more information on how to enhance your sleep and be the most well-rested version of yourself, click here.
  • Maintain a positive attitude.
    Read more about the science of happiness, or how to change your mindset for success.
  • Practice mindfulness techniques.
    Mindfulness can be a great way to combat anxiety and depression. Learn some strategies to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine.

In the pursuit of a heart-healthy life, recognizing the link between mental well-being and heart health is a pivotal step. Adding stress-reducing habits and self-care practices into your already busy life can be challenging, but the benefits are worthwhile. On your journey to a healthier heart, you may encounter bumps along the way, or you may find that you need additional support beyond what your family and friends can provide. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your Employee Assistance Program or primary care doctor for the guidance and support you need, or check out our Member Resource Center for more information.