The Connection Between Mental Wellness and Heart Health

A “broken heart” might not be a medical diagnosis, but modern medicine has discovered that our emotions really are connected to our heart! Conditions like depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been shown to cause changes in our bodies that could result in several types of heart disease if left untreated. That’s why it’s more important than ever to understand the role that mental health plays in our overall wellness! 

The Chemical Connection between Head & Heart

Even though it may sound like it comes from a romance novel, there is a condition that doctors call “Broken Heart Syndrome.” Though it hasn’t been entirely explained, doctors have often observed it in patients who experience a traumatic and stressful event, such as the death of a loved one or financial troubles. What they’ve seen is that the normal function of the heart is disrupted by these events, and results in symptoms similar to a heart attack like a tight feeling in the chest, a rapid or irregular heart beat, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Researchers suspect that the body releases a wave of stress hormones in these situations, and the symptoms that result display in something similar to a heart attack. It’s so similar that they urge anyone experiencing these symptoms to call 911, in case they are actually in cardiac arrest. 

Broken heart syndrome is an extreme example of how stress and the hormones released by our brain in these situations such as cortisol can affect the rest of our body. People experiencing mental illness may have to endure these symptoms for long periods of time, which can cause calcium buildup in the arteries, metabolic disease, and heart disease.

Early Mental Health Treatment Saves Lives

There has been a lot of progress to break the stigmas that surround mental health in recent years. With one in six adults estimated to be living with a mental illness, it’s important that we urge our friends, family, and ourselves, to seek out treatment resources like therapy. As we come to understand the connection that our mental health has on our physical wellness, we should view treatment for mental illness as a regular part of a healthy lifestyle, rather than a source of shame.

 If helping someone with their depression, anxiety, PTSD or other mental illnesses can spare them from the effects of heart disease later on, it’s worth the investment of our time and resources. Don’t forget that Nutrien employees and their families can receive free counseling services through the EFAP. Learn more here: Free Counseling, Financial Guidance, and More for Nutrien Employees

The Mind as Medicine

We might have covered how our emotions can negatively affect our body, but it has positive effects that are just as powerful, too! This may be surprising, but one of the most powerful tools our mind has for healing is laughter. The reaction our body has to laughter is the complete opposite of our reaction to stress. A hearty laugh at a funny movie or hilarious joke brings more oxygen into your body, stimulates circulation, and releases the endorphins, which are hormones that reverse the effects of the stress hormone cortisol and help you feel content and relaxed. So, while mental health is no joking matter, enjoying a good laugh or two can help you feel better both mentally and physically!