A Happy Heart is a Healthy Heart: The Surprising Link Between Cardiovascular Health and Mental Wellbeing

In the world of health, our minds are often occupied with thoughts relating to our physical well-being: taking stock of cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and the number on the scale. While these are undoubtedly crucial indicators of our overall health, there’s an essential component that often gets neglected – our mental well-being. Research over the past few years has indicated a profound link between our mental and physical health – particularly with regards to our cardiovascular system. In this blog, we will learn more about the connection between happiness and heart health; delving into the ways in which cultivating our happiness can contribute to a healthier and longer life. 


The connection between heart and mind goes beyond a mere metaphor; it is a biological reality. Stress, anxiety, and depression can all take a toll on our cardiovascular system. Individuals with mental health conditions are more at risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases because parts of their lifestyle, such as diet, exercise, smoking, and alcohol consumption, are harder to look after when dealing with mental illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people experiencing mental health problems over an extended period of time may experience certain physiologic effects on the body, such as increased cardiac reactivity (e.g. increased heart rate and blood pressure), reduced blood flow to the heart, and heightened levels of cortisol. Over time, these can lead to calcium build-up in the arteries, metabolic disease, and heart disease.  


In the same way, the impact of ill-health and cardiovascular disease can drastically affect our mental well-being. In the British Heart Foundation’s ‘Heart Matters’ survey of 2,777 individuals with heart conditions, 77% of respondents reported experiencing anxiety and over half (51%) said they had felt low, depressed, or tearful. Despite these strong feelings, most people (67%) did not speak to anyone about the emotional or psychological impact of their condition. More worryingly, 40% didn’t speak to anyone as they did not believe anything could be done to help them, they did not know how to talk about it, or believed that other people would judge them. The good news is that, by increasing our knowledge and awareness of the link between mental health and cardiovascular disease, we can all play a part in reducing the stigma around seeking support and encourage those dealing with poor physical or mental health to receive the help they need.  


Now that we understand the profound link between happiness and heart health, the next question is: how can we cultivate happiness in our lives to benefit our cardiovascular well-being? One way is to practice gratitude regularly, keeping a gratitude journal to focus on the positive aspects of your life which can boost your mood and reduce stress. Connecting with others is also very important, as maintaining social connections and spending time with loved ones can stave off stress and depression. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can also help reduce stress and improve heart health. However, if you’re struggling with chronic stress, anxiety, or depression, don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional.  


By addressing mental health disorders early on through seeking services and support, individuals can lower their risk of heart disease through receiving personal support to increase healthy behaviours such as physical activity, diet quality, and reduced smoking. Mental health professionals can guide individuals on how to build and maintain healthy habits, provide personalised support and recommendations, and provide a non-judgemental listening ear where you can air all of your worries and grievances without fear of pushback. Remember that you are not alone in dealing with poor mental or physical health, and that we are here to support you. 


In the pursuit of a healthy heart, it’s essential not to neglect the well-being of your mind. If you’re currently experiencing a mental health problem or cardiovascular disease, Takalam’s certified counselors are here to help. Contact us today to begin a journey toward a mental well-being and remember that a happy heart is indeed a healthy heart.