Mind and Heart Health are Connected


It’s February, which means it’s also World Heart Health Month. While you can fully expect to get some heart health information, tips and recipes this month, we also want to share something especially important for all to understand.

Your heart health is directly impacted by your mental health.

The connection between head and heart health should be part of your discussion with your provider, as these two parts of your overall well-being do not live in a silo; they impact each other. For example, stress can increase the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which directly impact your blood pressure and heart rate. For those who already have genetic predisposition to heart issues, such as heart disease, your risk factors can be increased by your mental health.

The flip side of this, is that if you or someone you love has a heart attack or a stroke, feeling depressed can be a natural part of the recovery process, as patients often have to modify habits and be patient with the healing process. That certainly doesn’t mean you minimize those feelings because they are a normal part of the journey. Rather, it’s even more important to pay attention to depression or anxiety that may arise in recovering, talk about and normalize those feelings, and emphasize the importance of raising those red flags with a health care provider who can help provide the proper tools and tactics so a person doesn’t stay “stuck” in those feelings.

When we talk about World Heart Health Month, we must let go of the traditional thoughts around what it means to be heart healthy. While it’s imperative to focus on exercise, eating healthy and not smoking, there is much more to it. Heart health also includes paying attention to your stress levels, learning ways to incorporate mindfulness to help reduce stress, and understanding the connection between mind and body and what you can do for optimal health.

So, what can you do for optimal Mind-Heart health? Here are three tips:

  • Learn and understand your family medical history to know what risk factors you may genetically predisposed to when it comes to heart disease. Talk with your family, take notes, and share them with your PCP so they are part of your family history within your medical chart.
  • Eliminate risky behaviors for both your heart health and your mental health. What does that encompass? Make consistent healthy food choices, incorporate exercise as a regular part of your daily routine (it helps reduce bad cholesterol and increase endorphins), eliminate recreational drugs/alcohol – for your heart and to keep any addiction issues at bay. By reducing risky behaviors and focusing your time and attention on healthy behaviors, you increase your potential for better overall health.
  • Pay attention to your stress levels. For some that may mean journaling, while others may benefit from being part of a group where they can share their stressors and feelings. Maybe that means taking up yoga or making time for mindfulness and meditation each morning. Dedicating time for your mental health will also contribute to an overall healthier you.

Most importantly, if you feel that your health – mental or physical – is struggling and you need assistance, talk with your health care provider. They can listen, help answer questions, and provide tactics, resources or even treatments to help you become the best, healthiest version of yourself.

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