American Heart Association explores close ties between mental, cardiovascular health

The American Heart Association (AHA) has published a new scientific statement examining the powerful impact a person’s mental health can have on their cardiovascular health.

The statement, published in full in Circulation, was written by a team of physicians representing the AHA’s Council on Clinical Cardiology; Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; and Council on Lifestyle and Metabolic Health.

“A person’s mind, heart and body are all interconnected and interdependent in what can be termed ‘the mind-heart-body-connection,’” Glenn N. Levine, MD, professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and chair of the document’s writing committee, said in a prepared statement. “Research has clearly demonstrated that negative psychological factors, personality traits and mental health disorders can negatively impact cardiovascular health. On the other hand, studies have found positive psychological attributes are associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.”

According to Levine et al., conditions such as depression, chronic stress, anxiety and anger are all associated with a heightened risk of experiencing “irregularities of heart rate and rhythm,” high blood pressure, reduced blood flow to the heart and other considerable health issues. In fact, the team recommends that any individuals at a high risk of heart disease or stroke seek out regular mental health screening.

“Most studies of psychological health are observational, with many involving self-reporting from patients, which presents challenges to establishing specific cause and effect relationships,” Levine said. “However, a preponderance of such studies is highly suggestive and allows one to make reasonable conclusions about an association between negative psychological health and cardiovascular risk.”

Positive psychological health, the team added, can even lead to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

The full scientific statement can be read here.