Sad or SAD : How to recognize when your mental health is becoming a burden on your heart ?

What is health? The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This means that if we’re not mentally and socially well, our physical health can suffer too.If any of these areas are neglected, maintaining good physical health becomes challenging. Physical well-being is closely tied to having a good life, which relies on a healthy state of mind. The heart, a crucial organ for our well-being, faces various challenges like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder, putting considerable strain on it. It’s important to realise that heart health isn’t only about having a fit body but also about having a healthy mind and emotions.

Currently, in India around 200 million people are dealing with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. This emphasises the need for open discussions about how mental health affects heart health and when it’s crucial to seek professional help.

How mental health impacts the heart?

  • Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and chronic stress can have profound effects on heart health.
  • These conditions lead to physiological changes in the body, including increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, inflammation, and altered immune function.
  • Over time, these changes can contribute to the development or exacerbation of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, and arrhythmias.

Mechanisms of Impact:

  • Depression and anxiety activate the body’s stress response, leading to the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
  • Chronic stress triggers inflammation in the body, which can damage blood vessels and contribute to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
  • Persistent high levels of stress hormones and inflammation can strain the heart and increase the risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes.

Emotional Factors:

  • Mental health issues can also impact behaviours that affect heart health, such as smoking, unhealthy eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, and poor medication adherence.
  • Additionally, individuals with mental health disorders may experience social isolation, lack of social support, and difficulty accessing healthcare, further increasing their risk of heart problems.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):

  • SAD, a subtype of depression that occurs during specific seasons, particularly in fall and winter, can also impact heart health.
  • While the exact mechanisms linking SAD to heart health are still being studied, research suggests that disruptions in circadian rhythms, altered serotonin levels, and increased production of inflammatory markers may contribute to cardiovascular risk factors.

Impact on Heart Disease:

  • Individuals with mental health disorders are at a higher risk of developing heart disease and experiencing adverse cardiovascular events.
  • Depression, in particular, has been linked to a two to four-fold increase in the risk of coronary artery disease and a higher likelihood of heart attacks and strokes.
  • Moreover, mental health disorders can worsen the prognosis and outcomes of existing heart conditions, leading to higher mortality rates.

But how can we tell if it’s just sadness or something more serious? There are physical signs that can help us understand whether it’s just a passing feeling or if our bodies are trying to tell us something important.

When to seek help?

Here are some physiological symptoms that may indicate it’s time to seek professional help:

  1. Fatigue or low energy levels
  2. Changes in appetite or weight
  3. Insomnia or sleeping too much
  4. Headaches or migraines
  5. Muscle tension or body aches
  6. Digestive issues such as stomach pain or nausea
  7. Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
  8. Shortness of breath or chest pain
  9. Dizziness or lightheadedness
  10. Sweating or trembling

Knowing when to seek help for mental health issues that may impact heart health is crucial for early intervention and prevention of long-term complications.
In the fight against mental health challenges, staying vigilant and recognizing the signs is crucial. Regularly monitoring your heart’s health and understanding its fluctuations is essential. HeartTarang Portable ECG can serve as your dependable heart health partner.