What’s the connection between mental health and heart disease?
People who live with anxiety disorders, chronic stress, and depression over time can experience increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone), and reduced blood flow to the heart. These physiologic effects can result in a build-up of plaque in the arteries. High cortisol levels can increase blood cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure- all considerable risk factors for heart disease.
Mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD can also develop after a heart attack or heart failure. The pain associated with the cardiac event and the fear that it may happen again can trigger these conditions. Financial worries stemming from the medical leave of a job can also be a huge factor.
People living with depression also have an increased risk of adopting unhealthy habits such as smoking, overeating, and not exercising enough, exacerbating the symptoms. In many cases, people living with depression don’t have the support or healthy coping strategies for dealing with stressful situations.