The Relationship Between Heart Health and Depression

February is the month that discussions about your heart health become most prevalent. The American Heart Association designated the second month of the year as Heart Month way back in 1964, and to this day, there are still countless activities and events that take place encouraging us to take better care of our hearts. While this crusade is great and has undoubtedly saved many lives along the way, there’s one heart conversation that doesn’t take place enough – depression and how it impacts your heart health.

According to Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, "A person’s mental health, in terms of their general health, is underestimated." This basically means that while we are so focused on getting a medical diagnosis on our health, we often don’t consider how our mental condition factors into what’s going on with our bodies.

Depression is a condition should be professionally diagnosed and treated, however, we all can notice certain things that cause us to feel down. For example, the loss of a loved one, divorce, break-up or stress on the job can obviously place one in a different emotional state. These types of life-altering occurrences may lead to over-eating, decreased appetite, smoking, alcohol consumption and other poor habits that ultimately impact the health of your heart.

"Other physiological things are happening in the body, including increased stress hormones, higher levels of cortisol and higher glucose levels," says Goldberg. "Taking care of your overall outlook and well-being is as important as taking care of your blood pressure and cholesterol."

It’s normal to feel down on occasion for a short period of time, such as a few days.  Try identifying what the issue(s) may be that are causing your stress and/or anxiety and take steps to eliminate the source. For example, if the job is stressing you out, perhaps a little time off may be in order. 

If feelings of depression become consistent for several weeks, then it’s time to seek some professional help.

I always recommend healthy eating choices and exercise, but going forward, don’t forget about your mental health. Engage in activities that make you happy, and surround yourself with people that do the same. A good laugh and a great time can go a long way when it comes to caring for your heart. And remember, #yourhealthmatters! 

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