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Getting a call that a loved one had a heart attack sends our stomach into knots. We all want to avoid that kind of news and reduce the risk of cardiac crisis. Did you know that mental health and heart health are linked? Studies show that stress, anxiety, anger, and depression can raise your risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and other heart problems. And having a heart attack can lead to anxiety, depression, and PTSD.  

Understanding how mental and heart health are connected is key. It can help you take steps to improve both. Here are some ways they can impact each other: 

  1. Constant stress and worry can cause your body to release hormones that can damage blood vessels over time. This can also increase your blood pressure.  
  2. If you are depressed, it’s harder to stick to heart-healthy habits like exercising and eating well.  
  3. Heart-related diagnoses or procedures often lead to feeling more anxiety, worry, and even depression. 

The good news is you can strengthen your mind to take care of your heart. The more you look after your mental well-being, the more your heart will benefit. Here are tips to improve your mental health and heart health together: 

  • Try calming activities like deep breathing, yoga, or listening to music to lower blood pressure. 
  • Talk to supportive friends or family about your worries instead of bottling up stress. 
  • Set goals each day to stay motivated and build resilience against life’s challenges. 
  • Get enough sleep. This allows your body to rest and repair. 
  • Speak to a doctor if anxiety or depression symptoms are impacting your daily life. 
  • Consider mental health counseling or programs. 

Boosting your mental health reduces risks and helps you manage heart problems. Take simple steps each day to care for both your mind and your heart. 

Caring for Your Mind and Heart  

You can reduce your risk of having heart problems, or feel less worry, anxiety, or depression if you’ve recently been told you have a heart problem, in the following ways: 

Build resilience.  

  • Resilience is the ability to handle life’s challenges and bounce back from hard times. When you are resilient, you cope with stress better. This helps your heart because stress causes chemicals that can damage blood vessels over time. 
  • Gratitude, hope, optimism, and relationships all make you stronger. These tools lower blood pressure and inflammation too. 
  • Being resilient also means taking care of yourself. You can make healthier choices that protect your heart, like exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep. 

Get enough quality sleep. 

  • Your body repairs itself when you sleep. Lack of sleep raises risks for heart attack and heart failure. 
  • Learning ways to relax, having a bedtime routine, and dealing with your worries can help improve sleep. 

Learn to manage stress, anxiety, and worry. 

  • Learn how to use calming skills when you notice stress. This lowers your blood pressure and helps your heart. 
  • There are many helpful strategies to manage emotions in tough times. One tool called Present Awareness teaches mindfulness. It helps you observe thoughts and feelings without judgement. These skills reduce stress and medical risks from stress too. 

Take the time to address your mental health and associated heart health risk factors. If you are concerned about your heart health, having a conversation with your doctor is an important place to start. To focus on your mental health, consider Learn to Live’s free 5-minute assessment. Even if you have not shown signs of stress, anxiety, or depression, a quick screening can give you an overview of your mental well-being. This can help you decide what is most important to focus on right now.