by Sophia Ruan Gushée
In February, we are pursuing a heart meditation. We will touch upon factors to help support the heart physically. But we will focus more on nourishing what the heart represents: love.
This article is intended to set the stage for upcoming content in February as we take the month to delve deeper into how to cultivate feel-good emotions.
Our hearts need more attention for effective care.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both the United States and worldwide—across varied ethnicities and for both men and women. This translates into about 610,000, or 1 in every 4, deaths from heart disease in the United States, according to the US CDC. Worldwide, about 17.9 million people die of heart disease, or 31 % of all deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
Cardiovascular, or heart, disease is a broad term that catches many different types. Of worldwide deaths from cardiovascular disease, 85% are from strokes and heart attacks.
Heart disease is more common in men: in 2009, more than half of the deaths due to heart disease in the US were in men.
Treatments for, and Prevention Strategies for, Cardiovascular Disease are Effective
Treatments have never before been more effective. While heart disease remains the leading cause of death nationwide, the death rate for heart disease has dropped significantly: by more than 60% since 1940. Those dying from stroke—the third most common cause of death—declined by 70% over the same time period.
Treatments (like drug therapy to open blocked arteries) and prevention strategies help. Awareness has increased that heart attack, sudden death, and stroke can often be prevented by quitting smoking, controlling high blood pressure, exercising regularly, and taking certain therapies (like aspirin and beta-blockers). Physicians and patients are increasingly intervening with effective prevention strategies for those that are high-risk.
In the video below, Dr. Oz shares tips for a healthy heart.
Emotionally, our hearts also need more care. And emotional, or mental, states—like depression and anxiety—may be a risk factor for heart health.
Affecting more than 300 million people, "depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease," according to the World Health Organization .
Depression affects women more than men.
While psychological and pharmacological treatments can be effective treatments for depression, depression and anxiety seems to be more common than ever. And affecting us at increasingly younger ages: Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.
In the article "Why So Many Teens Today Have Become Depressed" by Jean M Twenge PhD in Psychology Today:
The teen suicide rate tripled among girls ages 12 to 14 and increased by 50 percent among girls ages 15 to 19. The number of children and teens hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or self-harm doubled between 2008 and 2015. iGen'ers were experiencing a mental health crisis. As if that weren’t enough, no one seemed to know why.
Depression results from a complex interaction of emotional, mental, biological, and environmental factors. For example, major life events—like the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, etc—increase the risk of depression developing. And depression can make it harder to keep up with other responsibilities (like job performance or paying bills on time), which can create more stress and further exacerbate depression.
There is also a growing body of data that underscores the influence of social media on depression. From the same article by Jean M Twenge PhD in Psychology Today:
A third study .... randomly assigned adults to give up Facebook for a week, or not. Those who gave up Facebook ended the week happier, less lonely, and less depressed.
While the effects of depression are too complex to address in this article, since February is our heart meditation, I want to highlight that some experts believe that cardiovascular disease can lead to depression and vice versa.
Dr. Una McCann, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, believes:
It’s my view and my personal clinical experience that anxiety disorders can play a major role in heart disease,” says Dr. McCann. “I believe that a really careful look at anxiety would reveal the ways it can severely impact heart disease, both as a contributing factor and as an obstacle in recovery.
Anxiety may have an association with the following heart disorders and cardiac risk factors:
While there are many reasons to prevent and address depression and anxiety, another reason is to protect your heart health.
The video below discusses depression and heart disease, as well as the benefits of optimism.
We should consider our heart health not just physically, but also emotionally and energetically.
Physically, basic elements of a healthy heart lifestyle include a healthy diet, regular exercise, and no smoking.
During the rest of February, we will be exploring other aspects that are not as commonly considered:
Please subscribe to the email newsletter join the journey.
"Heart Disease Facts" by Centers for Disease Control, Page last reviewed: November 28, 2017
"Depression" by World Health Organization; 22 March 2018
"Cardiovascular Disease" by National Institute of Health; page last reviewed on October 7, 2015
"Cardiovascular Disease" by World Health Organization;
"Anxiety and Heart Disease" by Johns Hopkins Medicine
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