Healthy Hearts and Healthy Minds

 

Keeping your body healthy is something that has been instilled in us all our lives. If you take care of your body, you can live longer and have a happier life. Your brain is one of the vital organs that relies on a properly functioning body to have the blood flow needed to perform its daily functions. When your mind has what it needs, you can better solve problems, pay attention, communicate, and more. February is American Heart Month, and your heart is the key to giving your brain the blood flow it needs, along with the rest of your body. Learning how mental health and heart health affect each other along with what easy, healthy changes you can make, are the first steps to live a healthier life.

Mental Illness and Heart Health

 

Many believe that the relief of symptoms of depression, anxiety, etc. through smoking, eating fatty foods, and drinking are the main contributing factors linking heart disease and mental health. However, there are biological and chemical changes in the body that can also trigger mental health issues and impact heart disease. For example, stress can affect your blood pressure and heart rate from the increase in specific hormones it causes.

Also, those who have mental illness may lack the energy to do the things they need to keep up with their physical health, like exercise.

Getting Healthy

 

The arteries from the heart are the highways that supply vital oxygen, blood, and nutrients to the brain. Plaque buildup and hardening of the arteries from food and lifestyle choices isn’t just specific to the heart; it’s everywhere in the body. Diet and exercise are the keys to getting your health back on track and maintaining it.

Here are some food choices that will pack a punch:

  • Fish- One or two (4 oz) servings a week can reduce your risk of dying from heart disease and can reduce inflammation in arterial walls, which keeps blood flowing to the brain. Salmon, mackerel, rainbow trout, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • A Glass of Red Wine- The compounds in red wine help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. They also help thin out the blood, thus helping prevent dangerous blood clots.
  • More Produce- Every serving of fruits and vegetables eaten improves blood flow helping to lower high blood pressure. Produce rich in potassium such as bananas, tomatoes, and artichokes may also help prevent artery walls from thickening.

Exercise is right for your heart and brain. It helps improve heart function, and some activities can give your brain a workout through rhythm, strategy, and coordination. Below are some fun ways to work up a sweat:

  • Walking, Jogging, or Running
  • Ballroom Dancing
  • Circuit Workouts

Continuing clinical research is needed to better understand the diseases of the heart and its relation to mental health. These efforts improve diagnostic and therapeutic options for those affected by mental illness. Click to learn more about upcoming mental health studies at our research sites in DaytonRogers, and Little Rock.

 

References:

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/brain-health

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/mental-health-and-heart-health

(http://www.eatingwell.com/article/42303/what-to-eat-for-a-healthy-heart-and-a-healthy-mind/

https://www.prevagen.com/brain-health-tips/healthy-exercises-for-heart-and-brain/

 


Could it be Anxiety?

Anxiety is a term that is used so often; it seems to have lost some of the credibility. Anxiety and stress share similar symptoms, so it is understandable why the two are interchanged so frequently. Chances are, many adults and children may have anxiety that they have brushed off as stress, or as a phase, missing valuable interventions. So how do you know if it is stress or anxiety? We have some clues that can help.

Stress Response

A stress response is a way the body protects itself from a real or perceived threat. For example, the car in front of you slams on their brakes, and you come to a screeching halt just in time. Your heart is beating fast; your muscles are tense. Your stress response is what enabled you to act precisely in the nick of time to avoid the real threat of crashing into that car.

Perceived threats also trigger the stress response, and these happen more often than the real ones. Examples for adults include stress from financial issues, relationship problems, and pressures from work. Examples for children include worrying about grades, family problems, natural disasters, and health. Common stress symptoms are:

  • Recurrent Headaches
  • Sweaty Palms or Feet
  • Sleep Disturbance
  • Excessive Worry
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty Concentrating

 

Anxiety

 

The stress response is a good thing when it helps us stay safe or meet that crazy deadline. However, your body is not meant to handle chronic stress, and health problems can occur. Generalized anxiety disorders can be triggered by chronic stress. Once the “threat” is solved, stress symptoms usually go away. With anxiety, the symptoms stay around, eventually disturbing work, social, and personal functions.

Anxiety is defined as excessive worry about any number of things and affects both adults and children. This feeling lasts more days than not for longer than six months and is not proportionate to the actual likelihood of the event occurring. Some additional anxiety symptoms are below:

  • Struggling to Control Worry
  • On Edge
  • Fatigues Easily
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle Tension
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Shortness of Breath, Excessive Sweating, Chest Pains

Children Get Anxiety Too

 

Anxiety is a normal part of childhood, and sometimes it is difficult to recognize the difference between a phase, or more. A phase is something harmless and temporary when an anxiety disorder cannot be resolved, no matter how much comfort and reassurance is offered. Children with anxiety disorders show persistent shyness and avoid places, activities, and people.

Stress is the New Normal

Everyone experiences the ebbs and flows of stress, so it is important to learn how to manage it when you can. If you feel you or your child is unable to manage stress or symptoms are interfering with your daily life, talk to your doctor. Treatments for anxiety include therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

Forty million adults and one in eight children suffer from anxiety disorders in the United States. It is the most common mental health issue. To learn more about what upcoming anxiety studies Evolution Research Group is conducting that are exploring new options, click here.

References:

 

https://www.psycom.net/stress-vs-anxiety-difference

https://adaa.org/sites/default/files/Anxiety%20Disorders%20in%20Children.pdf