Mental health is an important and undeniable facet of overall health. It involves the way that we think, feel, act, and make choices. Trauma, depression, anxiety, and stress can have massive impacts on the physical body.
February is American Heart Month. Many public health efforts are focused on cardiovascular health this month, shining a light on hypertension and its risk for heart disease and stroke. As integrated care providers, Adult & Child staff know that these issues, along with mental health considerations, are particularly important for our patients and clients.
Mental health disorders have a link to heart disease and related risk factors including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, and chronic stress. Often mental health can be associated with the risk factors for heart disease long before a diagnosis of heart disease. People experiencing depression, anxiety, stress, and PTSD over a long period of time can experience effects on the body, such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure, reduced blood flow to the heart, and heightened levels of cortisol. These effects can lead to calcium buildup in the arteries, metabolic disease, and heart disease. Additionally, people can develop these mental health conditions after a cardiac event – patients struggling with their mental health may have fewer coping mechanisms, making it more difficult to make healthy lifestyle choices.
Do you know who has higher rates of heart disease as a result of pre-existing mental health disorders? Veterans, women, couples where one partner has PTSD, and the BIPOC community. Addressing mental health disorders early and working in multidisciplinary teams that include mental health and primary care professionals can mean the world of difference for our patients.
American Heart Month helps us to shine a light on these factors. At A&C, we have the tools to work together. When we added primary care to our services, we knew our patients needed a collaborative, whole health approach to become successful in their health journey. Working together, we aim to make a difference in the lives of those who come to us for help. This month, we encourage everyone to consider the relationship between mental health and heart disease and to get screened early and often.
Modified from a 2022 article in the Adult & Child News St&nd by Dr. Christine Negendank, Chief Medical Officer. Additional resources can be found at the CDC’s website here.