Mental, Heart Health Could Be Directly Connected
Monday, May 15, 2023
It's mental health awareness month and mental well-being is connected to a person's overall health, including heart health.
Dr. Jennifer Shalz is the medical director of Lifestyle Medicine at the St. Luke's Health System, and is joining the American Heart Association Idaho Board of Directors. She said mental and heart health may be directly linked.
"The thinking has really started to change," said Shalz, "and research is showing that there is most likely physiological connections - in that there are biological and chemical factors that can trigger mental health issues that can influence heart disease."
Shalz said stress is another factor affecting heart health. While research has not directly connected it to an increase in heart disease, it can impact blood pressure and heart rate.
She said there are ways people can reduce stress, such as exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.
Shalz also noted that heart attack and stroke patients can experience changes in their mental health.
"If you are the person that this has happened to and you're started to feel down or anxious," said Shalz, "really starting to discuss this with your health care provider so that you can be referred for the most appropriate care and/or have medications, if that's also appropriate."
At the beginning of May, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy raised the alarm about an "epidemic of loneliness and isolation" across the U.S.
Shalz said the surgeon general cited the health impacts of loneliness, including a 29% increased risk of heart disease and 32% increased risk of stroke.
"Just those numbers alone really should make us stand up and notice," said Shalz, "and do things that we can to build social connection."
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