The Intriguing Relationship Between Coronary Heart Disease And Mental Health

Posted on May 24, 2019

Coronary heart disease is one of the most common health concerns worldwide. It comprises about 15% of the total deaths, making it a major source of death for both genders. Several studies have shown a significant connection between this disease and mental disorder. Medical professionals have also suggested a higher possibility of both diseases causing each other.

Studies have found that individuals with serious mental problems such as dementia, bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia are more likely to contract coronary heart-disease. Other conditions such as anxiety and intense, post-traumatic or persistent stress are also connected with the risk of having the disease, but to a limited strength. It is also evident by research that most mental symptoms or disorders are common to people suffering from heart disease. Probably, this is what brings about increased mortality and morbidity.

Scientifically, mental problems and coronary artery-disease seem to have a common set of causes. These include genetic, behavioral, and biological causes. Throughout this article, we discuss the intriguing connection between mental illness and coronary heart (or artery) disease.

Mental Illness and Coronary Heart Disease

Depression is a very common mental condition that affects the majority of people globally and has a crucial impact on people with heart disease. It’s associated with low mood (for over two weeks) and is known to interfere with almost every situation. In everyday activities, depression goes along with loss of interest, reduced energy, pain without cause, and low self-esteem. Hearing voices that are not there and also experiencing false beliefs is also common to depression patients. Individuals with this condition are twice more likely to succumb to a heart attack as compared to those without. This situation is known to increase the rate of death, more than suicide, in people having depression.

Heart disease is also common for individuals having severe stress. Stress is many times regarded as a part of life. Not only can it cause psychological and emotional problems when left unmanaged, but also physical problems like hypertension, arrhythmia, chest pains, and heart disease. Although scientists are not very clear about the effects of stress on heart health, it could be an important element that exposes people to other risk factors that might result in heart disease. These include high blood pressure and high cholesterol (a major cause of CHD). When one is having a lot of stress, the heart works faster increasing blood pressure. This prevents one from exercising. It also leads to behaviors such as overeating, drinking, or even smoking to minimize stress. Excessive stress also leads to overproduction of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which are very unhealthy to the body when in excess. Additionally, studies have disclosed that stress affects the normal clotting of blood. This can cause cardiovascular disease.

Dementia is another type of mental illness which is strongly related to cardiac activities. There are a number of conditions which can lead to this problem. Some include Parkinson’s, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and brain tumor. It worsens over time due to age, smoking, hypertension, and diabetes. A number of studies have pointed out that a complication in the blood vessels or heart can increase the chances of having dementia. Individuals with risk factors related to the cardiovascular system such as high blood pressure and blood sugar are more prone to succumbing to dementia. This chance increases with age. Pre-hypertension and cigarette smoking which are highly discouraged in patients with coronary heart disease also lead to increased chances of getting dementia.

Manic depression, presently known as bipolar disorder, is also linked to coronary heart disease. People with this mental condition can contract heart disease and atherosclerosis very easily. This may be evident as early as 20 to 30 years of age. According to past studies, young individuals with Manic depression have higher rates of raised cholesterol, blood fats, and blood sugar. Factors that are risky for coronary artery disease like smoking, diabetes, obesity, overweight, and metabolic syndrome are found in people with Manic depression the rest of the population. Choices to unhealthy lifestyle and risks such as the side effects of medicinal drugs like mood stabilizers and antidepressants, which are common to bipolar disorder patients, can have a great impact on the development of heart disease.

Although the relationship between coronary heart disease and anxiety has not been studied as much as that of heart disease and depression, it is evident that the mental condition, anxiety, can hinder the recovery of heart disease and also contribute greatly to its development. When anxious, a person’s heart is on great pressure and strain. This interferes with the normal functioning of the cardiovascular system risking dying from sudden cardiac arrest. It can also lead to decreased variability of the heart rate and increased blood pressure.

Diagnosis of Mental Illness in CHD Patients

Diagnosis of mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and chronic stress has never been easy since many symptoms of these conditions are also common with people with coronary heart disease. These symptoms include decreased energy and fatigue, tiredness, sweating, breathing complications, rapid heartbeat, and etcetera.

Many doctors will screen patients with mental disorders using interviews and questionnaires. This happens on the first day of the visit to the medical center. The screening will be done for about 2 to 3 months in cases your doctor suspects a possibility of heart disease. Long term diagnosis will then continue (can now be yearly). When severe of the disease, you will be required to wear a remote cardiac monitoring device or Holter monitor for continuous and close monitoring. ECG monitoring services may also be used to determine the general performance of the heart.

Being diagnosed early can detect many different problems which can be prevented or treated. Treatment of these conditions can be done in several ways. One is by exercising regularly, taking medications (antidepressants), psychological therapy, continuous medical care, and among others. After medications, it can take time to feel better. This can also be after two to three months of treatment. You will be advised to stop smoking, eating healthy food, reducing the intake of alcohol, and performing enjoyable activities.

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