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The human body is a complex soup of chemicals called hormones, many of which originate in the brain and travel throughout the rest of the body exerting effects on many major organs. Human nature tells us that the brain and the heart are interconnected through our emotions, feelings, and behavior, and the “how” involves chemical messaging between the two. If we know that positive feelings such as love can have an impact on both, what about negative emotions like stress and sadness? New studies are suggesting that chemicals that cause mental health issues may also induce cardiovascular problems.

 

Depression

 

We may not want to admit it, but many of us are comfort-eaters. When things get us down we reach for something tasty and definitely less than healthy to lift our spirits. It’s something many of us are guilty of; unfortunately, it’s a tough habit to break. And it can be a real detriment to our health. Obesity and diet are huge risk factors for the heart, but it can be tough to reach for the doorknob rather than the fridge handle when you’re feeling sad. If that gloomy feeling sticks around for more than a few days, it may be a good idea to seek help from a health professional. In the meantime, reaching for healthier options such as fruits and vegetables as well as increasing your activity level may have the desired effect of making you feel better now and in the future. Making small, gradual changes is a great way to start on bigger goals and not nearly as intimidating to master.

 

Stress and Anxiety

When we feel stress, our bodies release hormones such as adrenaline (the so called fight-or-flight hormone) and cortisol. In an emergency setting, like a car accident or while public speaking, these chemicals make us perform better and react more quickly to the demands we face. Our hearts beat faster and harder and we may sometimes feel stronger than we really are. But experts are beginning to believe that over time with constant stress and the resulting constant release of these chemicals we may be doing damage to ourselves and our bodies. There is no study to firmly link stress and heart disease at this time, but that may change in the future. We know that chronic stress negatively impacts sleep hygiene and mood, and increases fatigue. When you are feeling stressed, take a step back and try to decide where the source of your stress is coming from. Is it your job, your boss? A family issue? A relationship? Determine if the stress is something that you can change or not, then take action. Do something for yourself to break the stress cycle. Take a few minutes out of your day to do something healthy that you may enjoy, for instance taking a walk, or playing with a pet is an active outlet for pent up feelings of stress. Exercise is a well known depression and stress fighter!

 

For more information:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/How-does-depression-affect-the-heart_UCM_460263_Article.jsp

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/Mental-Health-and-Heart-Health_UCM_438853_Article.jsp

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