Mental health disorders can disrupt one's social behavior and mood and can hamper their ability to function. Coupled with heart disease, the situation becomes even more dreadful. But studies show that there is a relationship between heart diseases and mental health disorders.
There's evidence that mental health disorders like anxiety and depression can result soon after a heart problem such as stroke or heart attack. Also, people with mental health disorders are more predisposed to suffering heart problems later in life than healthy individuals.
Sad, isn't it? But that's just one more reason why it's important to treat mental health problems consciously to reduce your risk of heart diseases later.
Common Mental Health Disorders Often Linked with Heart Disease
Mental health disorders commonly linked with heart disease include:
- Mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic stress
Although these are the common ones, other behavioral health disorders such as substance abuse may also be related to heart disease.
The Connection Between Heart Diseases and Mental Health Disorders
Many recent studies now show that mental health is linked with risk factors for cardiovascular diseases even before diagnosing a psychiatric disorder and during treatment. The connection is two-directional (each can lead to the other). The link can be through biological pathways and unhealthy lifestyle choices.
For example, long periods of stress and depression can cause physiological effects on the body. The effects may include:
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Reduced blood flow to the heart
- Increased levels of cortisol.
These effects may cause calcium to build up in the arteries, leading to metabolic and heart diseases over time.
On the other hand, depression, anxiety, and PTSD may develop after a person is diagnosed and undergoing treatment for cardiovascular disease. These psychiatric issues notably result from the trauma and pain, fear of disability, and even money problems associated with the long-term illness.
But that's not all.
People with mental health disorders like depression, stress, and anxiety often resort to smoking and alcohol use to feel better. Some may even get tired of taking their medications out of despair. These habits typically put the individual at risk of cardiovascular problems.
Who is at Risk of Developing Cardiovascular Disease from Psychiatric Disorders?
Some people are more likely to develop heart disease due to long-term mental health issues. Such persons include:
- Veterans, due to PTSD from war.
- Couples in which one or both partners have PTSD
- Racial and ethnic minorities. (Racial discrimination and poor socio-economic background could place this population at risk of depression, leading to hypertension and heart disease).
What Can be Done to Counter the Situation?
Since heart diseases can lead to mental health disorders and vice versa, we will have to address both issues early enough before they have a chance to spiral out of hand.
We can achieve this by providing easy access to support services and promoting healthy behaviors, such as avoiding smoking, drugs, and alcohol abuse. All of these will reduce a person's risk of heart disease.
Also, if you know any individual battling depression, anxiety, stress, or PTSD, offer help as soon as possible. Prolonged mental health disorders can make life miserable, but medications and therapies can help.
The sooner these mental health issues are addressed, the more fulfilling your life becomes, and the lower your risk of heart diseases.
Finally, healthcare providers should inform their patients about the connection between heart disease and psychiatric disorders, which may help them make better choices regarding their health and lifestyle.