From time to time, everyone feels down, worried, or nervous. But when feelings of mental suffering last a long time or are out of control, it may lead to heart problems.
A new study from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland found this out when researchers looked at the connection between upsetting feelings and heart attacks and strokes in more than 220,000 adults. The more of a load such bad feelings were on people, the greater their chances of having one of these problems.
The findings for men compared to women were a little different, but worth paying attention to. Women with high levels of mental distress were less at risk for heart attacks then men, but more at risk for stroke.
Women ages 45-79 had almost a 2 in 10 higher risk of heart attacks when feelings of upset were high, compared to those with few bad feelings. Women over age 80 were in the same boat, even after researchers considered things like high blood pressure and family history of heart issues. Men over age 45 who were very worried or upset had a 3 in 10 higher risk of heart attack than men who were not so worried.
When it came to stroke, researchers found that high levels of negative feelings were linked to about a one fourth higher stroke risk in men and a 4 in 10 higher risk in women. In women even medium levels of worry or sadness were linked with a greater chance of having a stroke. Risks got lower for men after age 80, but not for women.
More studies need to be done to see if there is a true link between mental distress and heart attack , but it’s still a good idea to get a handle on upsetting feelings. One of the best ways to change negative feelings is to see a counselor or therapist who can help you understand what makes you feel worried or depressed and find ways to reduce the burden.
Making certain changes in your life can have a big impact:
Many studies have found that exercise can help your mood and reduce depression. Mindful movement, such as yoga and tai chi, can help reduce anxiety. Physical activity can also help you feel good about yourself and what you’re able to do.
A heart-healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat is good for both your body and your mind. It’s also important to reduce the sugar in your diet. Research has shown that people who drink four or more cups of soda every day, especially diet drinks, are 30% more likely to be depressed. Alcohol also lowers mood. Consider cutting caffeine in your diet as well—it can make you feel jittery and nervous.
Too much stress in your life can make you more unhappy and worried. Try relaxation exercises like slowly breathing in and out for a few minutes and closing your eyes and seeing yourself in a peaceful place.
Having close bonds with friends and family members helps you cope better with stress and upsetting feelings. Take a class, join a group, volunteer, or bond with a pet. Even four-legged friends can help you feel calmer and happier!
And now if your heart health is of concern, you can know more about your personal risk of heart attack. See www.knowyourrisk.com for information about simple blood and urine tests.