NASHVILLE – Valentine’s Day always has a bittersweet edge. It’s a celebration of love for some and an annoying, manufactured holiday for others. But the holiday is also a timely reminder that heartache and negative emotions can be bad for heart health.
“In terms of their contribution to heart attacks, negative emotions are on par with smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and cholesterol problems,” said Dante Graves, M.D., cardiologist at Saint Thomas Hospital. “Emotional stress constricts blood vessels, speeds up the heartbeat and puts you at higher risk for heart disease.”
Dr. Graves says studies show people who are lonely, depressed and isolated are more likely to get sick and die prematurely – not only of heart disease but other causes – than those who have a sense of connection, love and community.
“Depression in particular is now believed to be a risk factor for the development of heart disease,” says Dr. Graves, who points out that in heart attack patients who’ve had surgery to unclog blocked arteries, depression is also associated with poor outcomes, such as an earlier death or subsequent heart attack. “A person who recently had a heart attack is likely to say things like, ‘Of course I’m depressed, I just had a heart attack,’” Dr. Graves says. “But when we take a closer look, we often find the depression predates the heart attack.”
Dr. Graves says there’s not a magic bullet for helping people manage their emotions, but there are many resources available to help them figure out new ways to deal with life circumstances and improve their psychological state.
“A true physician-patient partnership is needed to identify and eradicate negative emotions connected with heart disease,” said Dr. Graves.
“Patients can help by being forthcoming about ongoing feelings of depression or stress, especially if you have a family history of heart disease.”
To learn more about heart health, call Saint Thomas Heart at 615-269-4545, or visit www.heartasone.com.