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.
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 Dayton, Rogers, and Little Rock.