The English language is full of phrases speaking to the effect that our emotions can have on our health. Consider for a moment “I was worried to death” or “Scared the life out of me,” for instance. While these phrases are largely mere turns of phrase, anyone who’s ever experienced heartbreak knows how physically painful it can feel. Expressions and experiences like these have led to studies into the effect that emotions can have on our health, and the results have been enlightening and sometimes surprising.
The Effects Our Emotions Have On Our Physical Hearts
One outcome of these studies was the discovery that certain negative emotions experienced over an extended period could actually have a detrimental effect on our hearts. Emotions like anger, loneliness, anxiety, and chronic stress have resulted in higher risks of heart disease and can make existing heart conditions more severe.
- Broken Heart Syndrome – When we lose a loved one, research has shown that our chances of experiencing a heart attack increase by 21 times. The technical term for a heart attack caused by stress is stress cardiomyopathy.
- Chronic Stress – High stress results in a spike in blood pressure and heart rate. Experiencing stress on a chronic basis means that you are constantly being affected by cortisol, the stress hormone. There has been additional research that shows that stress changes how blood clots, increasing the risk of stroke and heart attack.
- Lifestyle Changes – In addition to emotions having a direct effect on our health, they can also affect it indirectly. Stress eating, overindulging in alcohol, smoking, and getting a reduced level of exercise have all been tied to negative emotions. These, of course, have a noticeable effect on heart health.
One of the many problems that those with heart disease face is struggling with depression and anxiety. Clearly, this only makes their present problem worse as these experiences can exacerbate their health condition. Those who experience significant levels of anxiety are actually more likely to die within the three years following a heart attack. Those with depression are at a higher risk of a heart attack in any year in which they’ve experienced chronic depression. Depression is so bad for our hearts that even those who don’t have heart disease experience twice the risk of heart-related illness as those without it. Clearly, taking care of our mental and emotional health is as important as taking care of our whole body health when it comes to heart concerns.
What You Can Do To Protect Your Heart From Emotional Stress
One of the most vital things we can do for our cardiac health is to take steps to improve our mental and emotional health. Taking time for ourselves and doing things we enjoy are critical parts of keeping stress down and depression at bay. Connect with friends and family regularly, get plenty of exercise, and take time away from the things that cause you stress. While you’re at it, seeking the help of a mental health practitioner or holistic health specialist can help you find the balance you need. Try reaching out for a consultation today!