Happiness and the heart

February 27, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

BY DR RAYMOND JAMES, D.O. – This month the Boca Grande Health Clinic has focused on heart disease – its causes and symptoms and ways to prevent it through healthy choices. In addition to the warnings signs you may be aware of like high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol and obesity – did you know that your mental health is associated with heart disease?

Depression, anxiety, stress, or posttraumatic stress disorder over a long period of time can create physiologic effects on the body, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, reduced blood flow to the heart, and increased levels of cortisol. Over time, these physiologic effects can lead to calcium buildup in the arteries and heart disease.

Feeling connected to others benefits our heart health.

Interestingly, studies also show that good connections and social support can improve health and increase longevity. It’s true that life in the times of COVID-19 make it more difficult to have the physical connections like greeting new people with a handshake or giving a friend a good hug. Many organizations and churches have embraced online forums to maintain connections for this very reason. 

Taking an online class that intrigues you, discussing the plot of a mystery novel with a book club, helping out a neighbor who can’t get to the grocery store, adopting a dog or cat (or even watching animal videos) – are all ways to connect and create serotonin, which we like to call the “happiness chemical.” Joyful moments release serotonin, which can aid digestion, blood clotting and bone density and increase feelings of well-being, confidence and belonging.

We all experience some worries in life. These long months of dealing with COVID-19 have created added stress in the form of worry for yourself and loved ones getting ill, frustration with the vaccination process, having to mask up, being stuck at home and missing your friends and families. There’s a reason they call it a “heavy heart.” 

Tune in to the Clinic’s upcoming webinar on Thursday, March 4 at 4:30 p.m. with Alexander P. Miano, MD, who will speak on identifying pandemic induced stressors and their effect on our daily life and finding ways to safely and effectively cope will be addressed during this free webinar. Register at bghc.org/events/.

The good news is that both heart disease and mental health conditions are treatable.

Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any of the signs of depression or anxiety.

Learn more: 

Center Heart Disease and Mental Health Disorders, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 

cdc.gov/heartdisease/mentalhealth.htm

How a happy relationship can help your health by American Heart Association News: heart.org/en/news/2020/02/05/how-a-happy-relationship-can-help-your-health

Tune in to the Clinic’s upcoming webinar on Thursday, March 4 at 4:30 p.m. with Alexander P. Miano, MD, who will speak on identifying pandemic induced stressors and their effect on our daily life and finding ways to safely and effectively cope will be addressed during this free webinar. Register at bghc.org/events/.