Reducing Anxiety and Depression May Reduce Heart Problems

Many of us try to avoid illness by washing our hands, eating healthier foods, and trying to get more exercise, but there’s more to wellness and health than just taking care of your body; you must also take care of your mind, especially if you are trying to avoid heart disease.

A recent study (Park, Tahk, & Bae, 2014) showed that patients (ages 30 to 74) who had higher levels of depression or anxiety after angioplasty were more likely to have a coronary event, such as a heart attack or angina, within the next year.  Severe anxiety seemed to have a greater influence on whether patients had recurrent cardiovascular problems (7.44 times more).

This new study’s results are consistent with the findings of a much broader, earlier review of multiple studies (Hemingway & Marmot, 1999) linking anxiety and depression to heart problems, but that study also found anger and social factors to cause problems as well.

It is well known in the mental health community that anxiety and depression are both associated with stress, which has long been suspected of contributing to cardiovascular problems, so stress hormones and similar effects of stress may be the culprit.

How does this affect you?  If you’re feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, hopeless, or depressed, it may be a good idea to find ways to feel better.  This may involve changing your thinking patterns through counseling or therapy, changing your lifestyle, putting more distance between you and groups that stress you out, or building new supportive relationships.  If self-help books and positive thinking don’t seem to be enough to help you in this process, then seek the assistance of a counselor or other qualified professional trained to help people make changes that affect emotions.

References

Hemingway, H., & Marmot, M. (1999). Evidence based cardiology: Psychosocial factors in the aetiology and prognosis of coronary heart disease: Systematic review of prospective cohort studies. BMJ: British Medical Journal318(7196), 1460–1467. doi:10.1097/JCN.0000000000000143

Park, J., Tahk, S., & Bae, S. H. (2014). Depression and anxiety as predictors of recurrent cardiac events 12 months after percutaneous coronary interventions: The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 1. doi:10.1097/JCN.0000000000000143