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We have always known that our mental health can lead to other health issues if left unmanaged. An increase of stress, psychological strain, anxiety and depression can cause a variety of serious conditions in the body. Some of these might be more obvious while others are a little more surprising. 

In recent years, awareness has increased about the impact of mental health on heart health and the various effects things like stress and trauma can have on the body. 

As many people have suffered from periods of poor mental health due to significant life changes and concerns about the future, brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, we believe it’s more important than ever for people to be aware of all the possible consequences this can have on the body and heart. 

What are the most common mental health conditions?

The truth is that most people in the UK will have experienced periods of poor mental health or developed several mental health conditions in their lives. Everyone feels worried or concerned at times, but when this anxiety builds up over a long period of time, it can be a sign of a more deep rooted mental health condition.

Some of the most common conditions include:

  • Anxiety – An anxiety disorder is where someone will have the feeling of being worried for prolonged periods of time, which recurs regularly and is perhaps triggered by certain events or activities. It can feel much more intense for some people than others, and can lead to a lack of sleep and panic attacks in some cases. 
  • Depression – Characterized by low moods and feelings of despair and hopelessness for a long period of time. People who suffer from this may lack a sense of self-worth and find it incredibly hard to feel motivated. 

Other mental health conditions include personality disorders, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. While these are less common in the average person, a cluster of mental health problems and a build-up of anxiety can lead to more serious issues in an individual. 

Mental health and heart disease

Evidence suggests that mental health is associated with risk factors for heart disease. It may be more common for those suffering from one of the above conditions to have risk factors such as an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption, which can all contribute to certain heart conditions. 

These are predominantly lifestyle factors which can be seriously altered due to someone’s mental state and ability to look after themselves. It’s also worth noting that the situations that lead to poor mental health may make it harder for an individual to keep their heart healthy. 

For instance, during national lockdowns and periods of social restrictions recently, opportunities to exercise were reduced significantly, in addition to the increased temptation to eat comfort food. It’s clear that these things together if continued over prolonged periods could have increased risk factors for heart disease significantly. 

Depression and anxiety can also lead to an increased heart rate and blood pressure and changes in the release of cortisol (produced when someone is stressed). Over time these effects can cause calcium to build up in the coronary arteries, potentially leading to heart disease.

To look at this all from another angle, it’s also highly likely that someone will become vulnerable to various mental health conditions if they are diagnosed with a serious heart condition. 

Being told your heart is at risk or that you might need a certain type of pacemaker can be scary and life changing. The fear brought on by a heart attack can also be incredible. All of this can lead to the development of mental health conditions due to higher levels of anxiety and substantial changes to one’s lifestyle, potentially causing depression. 

Protect mental health and heart health

Protecting both your mental health and heart health is incredibly important. And as we’ve discussed, by protecting one you can also protect the other. If you suffer from anxiety or depression or an undiagnosed mental health condition and are concerned about its impact on your heart, we would recommend that you let a health professional know and seek support for both these issues.  We offer a number of cardiology diagnostic tests  and on-going support plans that may be able to give you the reassurance you need or a practical way to improve your heart health. We offer a private ECG in Cheshire, as well as a full consultation for individuals who want to gauge what their risk factors are for various heart diseases.