Healthy Living

The Heart-Mind Connection is Stronger Than You Think

10 March 2023

While sometimes challenging, adding new habits into your daily routine, like remembering to take prescribed medications, being more active, eating healthy foods, or quitting smoking are always worthwhile when it comes to taking care of your heart. But what about mental health? Did you know mental health conditions like stress, facing adversity, or experiencing depression and/or anxiety are major factors in heart health and stroke prevention?

As proud supporters of the American Heart Association (AHA) we are committed to bringing you whole-person care including ways to manage heart health and mental well-being. The heart-mind connection is stronger than you think!

How Mental Health & Heart Health Intertwine  

While we’ve talked a lot about how mental health can directly impact your overall physical health, the lesser-known fact is the direct tie between your heart and mental health. According to a recent report published in the AHA’s journal Circulation, there is increasing evidence that psychological health may be causally linked to biological processes and behaviors that contribute to and cause cardiovascular disease (CVD). The study also suggests psychological health should be considered in the evaluation and management of patients at risk of or living with CVD.

The AHA also found negative mental health conditions like chronic stress are associated with potentially harmful physical symptoms, including:

  • Irregular heart rate and rhythm

  • Increased blood pressure and cholesterol (which can lead to increased risk of stroke)

  • Reduced blood flow to the heart

  • Increased digestive issues

How To Care for Your Heart and Mind

There are lots of ways you can improve your mental health and protect your heart: 

  • Make time for friends and family, even if it's virtually. It’s important to maintain social connections and talk with people you trust.

  • Get enough sleep. The American Sleep Foundation recommends adults get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

  • Find a new hobby. A stimulating hobby, like building puzzles and painting, are fun distractions and can relieve your stress, anxiety, or fears.

  • Get regular exercise. Regular physical activity has been shown to relieve stress, tension, anxiety, and depression. Consider meditation or yoga as well. Even regular stretching can help reduce stress!

  • Eat food with a variety of nutrients. Studies have suggested a relationship between diet and mental health conditions. What you eat can affect your mood, your ability to learn, and your capacity to remember what you’ve learned.

  • Quit smoking. Studies have proven that stopping smoking can help lower anxiety and depression. The highly addictive chemicals in cigarettes may temporarily make you feel more relaxed, but they stimulate parts of your brain that can cause anxiety and depression to worsen. Check out Providence’s tobacco cessation program here.

  • Give back to the community. Volunteering may improve your heart health by lowering your stress levels, lowering your blood pressure, and boosting your mood. Studies show in some cases, volunteering can help decrease depressive symptoms over time.

    • During Heart Month consider donating blood, as the American Red Cross needs 13,000 donations a day to maintain an appropriate blood supply. One donation can save a life!

    • Learn hands-only CPR to save lives. You never know when you may need to use it!

Mental health challenges influence all areas of our lives, can derail our goals, and make it more difficult to heal, particularly for those who want to stay heart healthy. It’s time we give the heart-mind connection the attention it deserves. To talk with a licensed professional, check out the Behavioral Health Concierge, a free telehealth service, and learn more about risk factors and prevention methods for heart disease through the AHA’s website.

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