April's Wellness Topic: Stress Management
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Dr. Susan Lehmann
Stress Management

Motivation for Change
by Susan Lehmann

From ancient times, the heart has been considered the seat of human emotions. Now, recent studies indicate that emotional wellbeing is indeed linked with heart health. Under extraordinary circumstances, extreme emotional stress has been known to cause impaired functioning of the left ventricle, even in people with no prior history of heart disease.

More commonly, depression, anxiety and negative emotions can worsen outcomes for individuals with known histories of heart disease. In fact, depression is three times more common among people with coronary heart disease than among the general population. Depression has been found to be an important risk factor for causing coronary heart disease, quite apart from the risks posed by high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Depression also increases the risk for future adverse cardiovascular events for individuals who have heart disease.

The explanation of how depression promotes cardiovascular disease is not well understood but the answer seems to be related to both biological and behavioral mechanisms. People with depression, for example, seem to have more active platelets in their bloodstream, which may increase their chances of developing damaging clots. Depressed individuals are also less likely to adhere to the lifestyle regimens that are most conducive for good cardiovascular health, such as a low fat diet and regular exercise.

The first step is to recognize significant symptoms of depression. If you have become aware that you have little interest or pleasure in doing things, or if you have felt down, depressed or hopeless most days over the past two weeks, then it is time to talk with your physician about your mood. The good news is that many treatment options for depression are available that are safe and effective for patients with heart disease. The bottom line is, taking good care of your emotional health goes hand in hand with taking care of your heart.

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