Feeling down definitely puts a damper on your ability to enjoy life. But it turns out that a low mood could also be affecting your ticker’s well-being. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that young adults who noted feeling depressed or were battling with other mental health problems were more likely to experience heart attack symptoms, strokes and the other warning signs of heart disease than those in a better state.
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Researchers looked at data on nearly 600,000 adults who participated in a survey conducted between the years 2017 to 2020. In the survey, participants answered questions about ther mental health, any heart attack symptoms and whether they were experiencing cardiovascular disease factors. Such factors can include high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, minimal physical activity, a bad diet and diabetes. Those who ticked at least two of these boxes were considered to have poor cardiovascular health.
Ultimately, researchers found that there was a strong correlation between mental health and heart health. The reason? The authors stated that when you feel anxious, stressed or depressed. You can enter into a state of panic, causing your blood pressure and heart rate to spike.
Bad Decisions and Bad Vices
Poor mental health can also lead to bad lifestyle choices. One study found that while the number of smokers across the world has declined significantly, those struggling with psychological issues were still reaching for cigarettes at a high rate.
However, tabacco is just one of many vices that could be putting a strain on your heart. For instance, mental health issues can make it difficult to bag adequate shuteye. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over time, a poor sleep schedule can have a knock-on effect on the rest of your life, leaving you more likely to opt for unhealthy food or less likely to be motivated to work out. Alcohol, a common coping mechanism for many struggling with stress, has also been linked with poor heart health and a range of other issues.
5 Tips to Fix Your Heart
With an estimated 25% of us currently experiencing depression, the study is a wake-up call to start focusing on your mental health. If you’re experiencing severe distress, depression or anxiety, connecting with a therapist could hit the brakes on a potential crisis. Alternatively (or, ideally, in combination with therapy), mindfulness, journaling and other self-care practices have been shown to be incredibly effective in relieving the symptoms of anxiety and other mental health problems.
And while you’re powering up your mind, don’t neglect your ticker; here are a few (new) steps you can take right now to ramp up your heart health:
1. Take a Plunge
A study published in Obesity found that men who burn just 50 calories a day with strenous workouts like hiking, swimming and running, are 62% less likely to die from heart disease and heart attack symptoms than those burning far more (up to seven times) tackling less taxing activites like golfing and walking.
2. Meditate for a Few Minutes
A study conducted by Thomas Jefferson University researchers found that a few mintues of zen can reduce your anxiety and depression by 25% or more. That emotional relief is crucial as a University of Florida study found that those with artery disease who experienced the most stress had triple risk of dying during the period of the study than those with clearer heads.
3. Drink Cranberry Juice
University of Scranton researchers found that those who drank a 240ml glass a day of this sweet sipper were able to cut down their HDL-cholesterol levels by 10%. That’s enough to reduce your heart-disease risk by almost 40%. Just make sure you’re drinking 100% juice with no pesky additives (look for a 27% cranberry threshold to bag this fruit’s big benefits).
4. Skip the Elevator
A study conducted by the University of Tennessee found that those who walked an extra 4,000 to 5,000 steps each day were able to lower their blood pressure by a significant average of 11 points. Going shopping? Got a few mintues free over lunch? Dog pining for an adventure? Take a walk. And always take the stairs.
5. Sip More Tea
One study found that men who drink two cups of tea every day were 25% less likely to die of heart-related issues than those who skipped their dail cuppa. Why? Flavonoids in tea can both help thin the blood to reduce clotting and improve blood vessels’ capacity to relax.