When it comes to protecting your heart, you know the drill: Eat well, don’t smoke, reduce stress, exercise, mind your alcohol, and manage other conditions like blood pressure and cholesterol.
High blood pressure and cholesterol are large contributing factors associated with heart disease and heart attack, so taking these two under control should be a part of every heart health strategy. But there is one more factor that makes you more likely to experience a cardiovascular event – yet it’s often overlooked as it’s a mental health matter.
Depression linked to a higher heart disease risk
A recent study, published in the journal Atherosclerosis, found that depression is just as dangerous for your heart as high cholesterol levels. German researchers analyzed data from nearly 3,500 men aged 45 to 74 over the course of 10 years. They focused on risk factors for heart disease such as depression, high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes. (This miracle fruit can help you lower your cholesterol.)
The researchers found that one’s mental well-being and physical health are equally important for the heart. In fact, depression was tied to 15 percent of heart disease deaths, putting it on par with cholesterol. Smoking was associated with 17 percent of deaths, diabetes and obesity came in just below 10 percent, and blood pressure was the biggest risk factor accounting for 30 percent of deaths. (Secret ingredient makes your heart stronger.)
It’s important to note that the study did not prove causality, but merely identified an association between depression and heart disease.
The American Heart Association suggests that depression may be linked to heart problems, because those affected generally tend to make poorer health choices such as not eating nutritious foods, not exercising, and not following treatment recommendations or medications. Depression is also linked to higher cortisol levels in the body which over time cause damage to the arteries and the heart itself.
While the study demonstrates that depression should be treated as a viable risk factor that puts the heart at risk, it also stresses the importance of weight control, blood pressure and cholesterol maintenance, and smoking cessation as effective strategies to prevent heart problems. And now taking care of your mental health has just made it to the list. (Are you missing this ‘miracle molecule’ that can help improve your health?)
Many people tend to dismiss their depression. If you are one of them, you need to know that there is a way out. But unless you speak to your doctor, you can’t receive the help you need. And as your state of mind is impacting your physical well-being, it only makes sense to address your mental problems just as you would any other ailment.
Related: Yoga for heart health: Yoga poses to reduce the risk of heart disease