How Mental Health Affects Your Heart

There’s stress, and then there’s helping your mother recover from a stroke while taking care of your four children. nine months pregnant.

That was life for Nefertari Williams, 48, of Willingboro, New Jersey, who was 34 at the time. “I was dealing with a mother who recently had a massive stroke that made her unable to move or speak on her right side,” Williams said. “I was also a married mother of four children.” Stressed out, she didn’t begin to explain how she felt as she prepared for the birth of her fifth baby.

Then its a heart attack.

After a sad handful of days when it seemed like neither she nor her unborn child would make it, Williams gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

“I found the strength to open my eyes and saw a smaller version of my face,” she said. “We were both alive – and it was my mother’s birthday.”

Williams is so thankful he’s alive to tell his story, but others aren’t so lucky. cardiovascular disease This number one killer of womenIt causes one in three deaths each year.

Although less known about risk factors such as smoking and high doses cholesterol, chronic stress, and other mental health problems are closely linked to cardiovascular disease. Understanding the link can help you reduce your risk.

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Stress hits the heart hard

While Williams was extremely stressed at the time of her heart attack, she may even have “normal” levels of stress and anxiety. causes heart problems. Anxiety and stress cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Dr. Nieca GoldbergMedical director of Atria New York City and professor of clinical medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and a member of the Healthy Women’s Association Women’s Health Advisory Council. “People can also experience heart palpitations when they’re feeling stressed or anxious.”

Goldberg added that anxiety and stress can affect a person’s lifestyle in ways that make it difficult for them to maintain healthy habits, which can further increase their risk of heart problems.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted everyone’s psychology, women were disproportionately loaded. Balancing the demands of work and family while isolated from their communities and support systems, many women found themselves dealing with unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety – and much less time for self-care practices like good nutrition and exercise.

cases broken heart syndrome (Takotsubo cardiomyopathy)a type of heart disease triggered by intense stress, Increased among women during the pandemicBased on data collected by medical centers in the United States. The data also revealed that cases of broken heart syndrome were increasing. 10 times faster more in older women than in other demographics.

Experts predict the effects pandemic stress Women’s emotional and physical well-being will continue to increase their risk of heart problems, an especially troubling prediction considering heart disease is already the number one killer of women.

Goldberg said who experiencing cardiac symptoms If you have a rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, sudden onset of chest discomfort, or severe shortness of breath, seek immediate medical attention.

“You shouldn’t just write it down as stress. You should call an ambulance,” Goldberg said.

Depression can lead to heart problems and vice versa.

The link between depression and heart problems is so well established that the American Heart Association (AHA) all heart patients will be screened for depression. A meta-analysis of 124,509 people across 21 studies found that depression was associated with an illness. 80% increased risk For coronary artery disease.

The relationship between depression and heart disease is bidirectional; Up to 30% of people with heart problems develop depression, which can further affect their heart health. Depression strongest predictor of death People with heart disease who are diagnosed with depression and within the first 10 years after being diagnosed with heart disease are twice as likely to die from heart disease as those without depression.

Like stress and anxiety, depression can prevent people from living a healthy lifestyle. “So it’s not just the physiological effects of depression, but the external effects of not being able to do the things that need to be done to promote heart health,” Goldberg said.

For women, postpartum depression seems to pose a unique and surprising cardiovascular disease threat. A study involving nearly 2 million women, postpartum depression almost had 70% higher risk Heart attack, stroke, and heart failure within about five years of birth, even after adjusting for other risk factors such as preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), smoking, and diabetes.

African-American black woman on the front porch in the underprivileged part of a small town in rural productions

Who is most at risk?

According to research, certain groups of people may be more affected by mental health-related heart problems. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These include women and veterans who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Couples who include a partner with PTSD may be more likely to develop heart problems because of the way PTSD affects the relationship.

The interaction between socioeconomics and mental health also influences heart disease risk. Inequalities in access to health services, systemic racism and childhood traumas make ethnic and minority groups more vulnerable to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety – which in turn increase the risk of heart disease. Poverty pose similar threats to mental and cardiovascular health.

Protecting your heart and mind

Approximately 80% of cardiovascular diseases are preventableand there are steps people can take to support their heart health. Goldberg recommends the following:

  • Take time to exercise consistently shown to reduce stress and improve your mood while keeping your heart strong. For those who have a hard time finding the time (AKA we all), just seven minutes one day may be enough to be physically and mentally fit.
  • Prioritize rest. Sleep It’s essential for heart and overall health, but it can be difficult to get enough of it when you’re stressed, depressed, or anxious. Focus “sleep hygiene” (good sleep habits) and establishing a calming bedtime ritual can help keep insomnia at bay.
  • Look for support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, whether it’s from a therapist, a friend, or an online support group. And when your to-do list threatens to overwhelm you, don’t be afraid to ask people to intervene. “Learn how to delegate,” Goldberg said.

helping others, finding peace

These days, Williams supports her mental health by helping others. “I’m a heart health advocate and I find this very helpful,” she said. Grateful for giving herself and her baby a second chance, Williams is determined to raise awareness about the importance of protecting your heart.

American Heart Association/Go Red for Women

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