Mental health is important to heart disease prevention and treatment

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In a new scientific statement, researchers suggest psychological health can positively or negatively impact one’s health and risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

The statement evaluates the link between psychological health and heart health, summarizing ways to help improve psychological health for people with and at risk for heart disease.

The research was conducted by a team at Baylor College of Medicine and elsewhere.

The team says a person’s mind, heart and body are all interconnected and interdependent in what can be termed ‘the mind-heart-body-connection.

Research has clearly demonstrated that negative psychological factors, personality traits and mental health disorders can negatively impact cardiovascular health.

On the other hand, studies have found positive psychological attributes are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.

Negative psychological health conditions include depression, chronic stress, anxiety, anger, pessimism and dissatisfaction with one’s current life.

These conditions are associated with potentially harmful biological responses, such as:

Irregularities of heart rate and rhythm; increased digestive complaints; increased blood pressure; inflammation; and reduced blood flow to the heart.

Negative psychological health is also linked to health behaviors that may increase the risk for heart disease and stroke, such as smoking, lower levels of physical activity, unhealthy diet, being overweight and not taking medications as prescribed.

The team says regular mental health screening for people with or at risk for cardiovascular disease is very important.

Programs that improve psychological health include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, collaborative care management approaches, stress reduction therapy and meditation.

On the other hand, studies have found positive psychological health associated with a lower risk of heart disease and death.

Positive psychological health characteristics include happiness, optimism, gratitude, sense of purpose, life satisfaction and mindfulness.

People with positive psychological health were also more likely to have health factors linked to a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease:

lower blood pressure; better glucose control; less inflammation; and lower cholesterol.

Positive psychological health is also linked to beneficial health behaviors such as smoking cessation, increased physical activity, heart-healthy eating, increased medication adherence and regular check-ups and health screenings.

One author of the study is Glenn N. Levine, M.D., FAHA.

The study is published in Circulation.

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