"The heart of the matter." "A change of heart." "It’s what my heart tells me." While the heart is only one of many organs in the body, just hearing common clichés and colloquialisms proves that many think the heart is the most important of them all. A beating heart signals life, and a “broken heart” symbolizes great sadness. So it should come as no surprise that heart health goes hand in hand with other ailments and issues in the body. Realizing the importance of the body as a whole system can lead to better overall health. Additionally, recognizing the interplay between different parts of the body may help us deal with certain health problems before they become serious. Sometimes the links between conditions are obvious, but other times, the connections are a bit more obscure. Let's take a look at the relationship between the heart and other diseases.
Heart Disease and Depression
Illness rarely affects only one part of the body, regardless of whether the illness is mental or physical. Depression, or more accurately, major depressive disorder, disrupts the individual’s ability to live a normal life. It affects many people and brings with it a slew of symptoms, including:
- Aches and pains
Curiously, depression often shows up in people with heart disease more often than in healthy people, and depression also increases the chance of developing heart problems. A Baltimore study began with a pool of more than 1,500 individuals who did not have heart disease. Over the next 14 years, those with a history of depression were four times more likely to have a heart attack than those with no history of depression.1
The exact causative relationship between depression and heart health remains unclear. People suffering from depression often experience rapid heartbeat and increased blood pressure. Depression causes stress, and stress may lead to heart damage or poor rejuvenation of heart tissue. Any of these factors may increase the risk of heart disease.
A Concordia University study reports that people with depression take more time to recover from exercise, suggesting the presence of a problem with the body’s stress system. The study sought to evaluate the fight-or-flight response in people with depression using a stress test. Those with a depression diagnosis were found to require more time for their heart rate to return to normal and that the “delayed ability to establish a normal heart rate in the depressed individuals indicates a dysfunctional stress response … [which] can contribute to their increased risk for heart disease."2
Heart Disease and Anger Management
For those who struggle to control their tempers, evidence suggests learning to keep calm may keep heart problems at bay. The European Heart Journal reports that in the two hours following an angry outburst, the chance of a heart attack or angina attack increased threefold.3
In addition to the European study, a long-term Johns Hopkins Study revealed that easily angered men have a greater chance of developing premature heart disease, and their chance of having an early heart attack is five times greater. Extreme anger takes a toll on the body, causing increased cortisol levels, higher platelet reactivity and increased inflammation markers.4 Being angry is clearly not good for the body.
Heart Disease and Periodontal Disease
To some, the link between the mouth and the heart comes as no surprise. After all, “the way to a man's heart is through his stomach,” so the saying goes, and what goes to the stomach must first pass through the mouth, right? For a period of several years, studies bolstered the mouth/heart link. Scientists saw some evidence of a link between periodontal disease and heart disease. Soon, a lot of hype arose and people thought cleaning up their mouths meant lowering their risk of developing heart disease.
Unfortunately, no definitive causative link was established. Perhaps researchers will confirm that a healthy mouth means a healthy heart. Nonetheless, for now, the American Heart Association’s official statement on the matter says there is no true cause-and-effect relationship between the two conditions:
Observational studies to date support an association between periodontal disease and atherosclerotic vascular disease independent of known confounders. They do not, however, support a causative relationship.5
Additionally, the AHA stated no evidence existed that treating periodontal disease lowered the risk of heart disease. However, the two conditions share several unhealthy risk factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, so ignoring symptoms could mean developing other potentially serious problems.
Heart Disease and Happiness
Life would be simple if good health depended solely upon happiness and oral hygiene, but we all know the human body is too complex for that. However, living a happier life benefits overall health. Physical wellness influences mental health and vice versa. As stated by the WHO (The World Health Organization, not the band), “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Basically, health depends on all aspects of the body – and the mind – functioning properly and in harmony.
- "Depression Can Break Your Heart." MedicineNet. 14 Nov. 2002. Web. 9 Jan. 2015. <http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=21761>.
- Concordia University. "Depression can lead to heart disease, study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111128132658.htm>.
- Bakalar, Nicholas. "Anger Can Set Off a Heart Attack." Well. The New York Times, 13 Mar. 2014. Web. 29 Jan. 2015. <http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/13/anger-can-set-off-a-heart-attac....
- "Angry Young Men and Heart Disease." Health Hub from Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 4 June 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2015. <http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2013/06/studies-show-angry-young-men-b....
- "Periodontal Disease and Atherosclerotic Vascular Disease: Does the Evidence Support an Independent Association?" Periodontal Disease and Atherosclerotic Vascular Disease: Does the Evidence Support an Independent Association? American Heart Association, 18 Apr. 2012 print version. Web. 9 Jan. 2015. <http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2012/04/18/CIR.0b013e31825719f3>.
This article is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to be used as or substituted for medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health care provider with any questions about your health or a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice because of something you have read on the internet.