There are many ways of describing the ways that strong emotion can impact our overall health. Among them can be found “scared the life out of me,” “worried to death,” “sick with worry,” etc. While we generally consider these to be mere turns of phrase, those who have experience with moments like this can tell you the physical impact they can have. Experiences like these and the expressions that result from them have led to research into the effect that strong emotion can have on our overall health, and the results are revealing.
Exploring The Physical Impact Of Experiencing Strong Emotion
The outcome of some of this research revealed that extended periods of living with negative emotions could have a meaningful impact on the health of the heart. Anger, chronic stress, loneliness, and anxiety lead to increased risks of conditions affecting the structures of the heart, including heart disease. These emotions can also increase the severity of existing heart conditions.
- Broken Heart Syndrome – In the period following the loss of a loved one, research has shown an increase in the risk of experiencing a heart attack that is 21 times higher than outside this window. The emotional trauma we experience can lead to a form of heart attack known as stress cardiomyopathy.
- Chronic Stress – Those who live with chronic stress also experience increased blood pressure and a higher overall heart rate. The stress they’re experiencing results in the body being constantly saturated in cortisol, the hormone associated with stress. This hormone also shows potential for increased risk of heart attack and stress by altering how blood clots form.
- Lifestyle Changes – Stress can impact our health indirectly through lifestyle changes resulting from dealing with that stress. Increased alcohol consumption, smoking, reduced activity, and stress eating are all observed results of experiencing ongoing negative emotions. Each of these behaviors impacts the health of our hearts.
Depression and anxiety are emotional conditions that have been observed as resulting from learning one has heart disease. Sadly, this actually increases the risks of complications from the condition due to the mechanisms mentioned above. Without managing these feelings, those with anxiety have three times the likelihood of dying from a heart attack.
Depression, in particular, is dangerous to our hearts. This risk is particularly prevalent for those suffering from heart disease, with chronic depression resulting in a significantly higher risk of a heart attack. Even those who don’t have heart disease are at double the risk of experiencing heart-related illnesses when suffering from depression. This demonstrates an increasingly understood fact about our health. Maintaining our emotional and mental health is an intrinsic part of keeping our bodies and hearts healthy.
How To Reduce Risks To Your Heart From Emotional Stress
With the above information, it’s easy to deduce that taking care of our emotional and mental health is essential to promoting lifelong cardiac health. As we spend time caring for ourselves through doing things we enjoy and taking time to value ourselves, we help ease depression and stress. Connect with your community and support group and work with them to engage in more exercise, spend more time together, and get the support you need. Spend time focusing on the things you care about, and schedule an appointment with a mental health specialist to start seeking balance in your life that can protect your heart.