Mental Health and Heart Health

Close up of Multi-ethnic group of people talking in a circle. Therapy

For years, health care professionals thought the connection between mental health and heart health was strictly behavioral — such as a person who’s feeling down seeking relief by smoking, drinking or eating unhealthy.

That thinking has started to change. Research shows possible physiological connections, too. Increasing evidence shows that biological and chemical factors that trigger mental health issues may also influence heart disease.

Having mental health issues isn’t just about being unhappy; it’s having biochemical changes that predispose people to have other health issues, including heart problems. So the head-heart connection should be an important consideration in patient care.

Depression and Other Issues

Many forms of mental health issues can affect heart disease. You can have a temporary state of depression or a more severe, clinical case. You can also have varying levels of anxiety and stress, just to name a few of the most well-known problems.

Daily stressors, such as those related to work and traumatic incidents, can increase the risk of heart disease. Social isolation and loneliness — common sources of stress — are also linked to increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

Heart, Stroke Patients Must Be Wary

Heart disease or stroke can cause anxiety or depression. So it’ important to handle these in a healthy way.

It’s not just that people with heart disease or stroke want to smoke or eat to boost their mood. They may not have the energy to get out of bed, go to rehab and do things to regain their physical health.

Some might think, “I just had a heart attack, I should be depressed.” But minimizing their sadness, or dismissing it, could start them down a slippery slope.

What You Should Do

Start by discussing how you’re feeling — physically and mentally — with your health care professional. They can help or refer you to the most appropriate care or provide the best place to start.

You should monitor the physical and mental health of yourself and your loved ones, especially those dealing with heart disease or stroke.

Your health care professional may ask questions about your physical and mental health, such as:

  • Are you still smoking?
  • How are you doing with your diet?
  • Are you checking your blood pressure?
  • How’s your mood been?
  • Are you enjoying the same things that used to?

Remember, if you’re depressed, anxious or stressed due to heart disease or stroke, you may need follow-up care. So work with your health care professional — for the sake of your mental and heart health.

Self Care Tip from a Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest Survivor

Sharell Weeams - Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest Survivor and member of the 2023 Go Red for Women Real Women Class of Survivors

“Mental well-being can mean the difference between self-care and self-destruction…especially when it comes to caring for our health and our heart. Dancing helps me release stress, get exercise, express myself and feel extreme joy all at the same time. It’s my ultimate form of mental well-being.”

Real Women Class 2023 Sharell Weeams dancing