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  • Writer's pictureYuvika Satapathy

The Psychological Determinants on Cardiovascular Disease

Many scientists study the common factors of cardiovascular disease such as diet, lifestyle, and family history, yet psychological factors are often glanced over. As generations change and new environments are introduced, psychological problems within individuals are increasing and are becoming more and more common. Anxiety, stress and depression are three we see the most in people, no matter how big or how small it may be. The consequences of severe psychological problems can be fatal to the heart and we must learn how to prevent them from damaging our cardiovascular system.

Stress. We see it everywhere: work, school, homelife, children, parents - everywhere. Almost everyone has felt stressed in their life, but when it goes on for a long while it can pose a threat. Both chronic and acute stress can take a toll on the heart and cause problems, but chronic stress is more dangerous for the heart. Acute stress occurs once but chronic stress drags on for longer periods of time . Chronic stress increases one’s heart rate and blood pressure (BP) and strains the heart’s ability to perform basic bodily functions. When someone is going through stress, hormones known as catecholamines including adrenaline are released. When exposed to high levels of it, the heart can be in danger. Stress also causes a need for more oxygen in the body as well as a spasm in the coronary blood vessels. Eventually, a high BP can lead to myocardial infarction (heart attack), heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms, and strokes. It’s important to look at the cause of one’s chronic stress and treat it before it deeply affects your body. Common causes of chronic stress can be financial problems, family issues, substance abuse, loneliness and prolonged work hours. The American Heart Association suggests three tips to managing stress: positive self-talk, stress-stoppers (counting to 10, deep breathing, etc) and stress-busting activities (meet a friend, sports, hobbies, etc.). High blood pressures, which can lead to heart attacks, can be easily controlled without medication by maintaining a healthy diet, exercising on a regular manner and reducing your sodium intake. Besides stress, anxiety is the next common issue we see in many individuals.

Anxiety can put extra strain on one's heart based on the way their body reacts to one being anxious. Those who already have a cardiac disease will have a harder time with the physical symptoms of anxiety and will make it harder and on their pre-existing disease. According to Hopkins, the following cardiac risk factors can be often entailed with Anxiety: tachycardia, increased BP and decreased heart rate variability. Tachycardia, when one has a rapid heart rate, mixed with anxiety can get in the way of normal heart function and lead to a very serious risk of cardiac arrest. Essentially, a sudden increase in BP can lead to coronary disease, weak heart muscles and even heart failure. Due to all these risks, it is important to keep anxiety, stress and depression at a low level. Anxiety often ties together with depression and stress which can be dangerous for the heart and one’s cardiovascular system. In the world, 2/3of humans who have anxiety disorders have suffered from depression at one point of their life. Harvard University states “people who have generalized anxiety disorder..seem to suffer high rates of heart attack and other cardiac events. The effect is more pronounced in people who already have a diagnosis of heart disease, and the risk rises with the intensity and frequency of anxiety symptoms.” Recovering from an anxiety and heart attack can be fearful and leave damage on the pathway of recovery. Treatment can often come in the form of taking prescribed medications, following a healthy diet, getting a proper amount of quality sleep, etc. The ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) lists different methods to try out when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. Common methods include accepting that you can’t control everything, learning what triggers your anxiety and talking to someone if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Depression can increase the chances of a heart attack and coronary artery disease for those who do not already have a heart disease. The risks of depression are even greater for the patients who have been diagnosed with a cardiovascular disease or have undergone surgery for it. A study done by the Cleveland Clinic mentions how “up to 15% of patients with cardiovascular disease and up tp 20% of patients who have undergone coronary artery bypass graft surgery experience major depression.” Depression can escalate pain levels, aggravate fatigue and lead to withdrawal from social isolation. Research has shown that genetic factors can add to a patient's risk of depression and recurrent cardiac failure after a heart attack. It is imperative to treat long-term depression if it’s negatively affecting your life as it can greatly affect your mental health and lifestyle as well as confuse the cardiovascular system. Depression can be treated in many ways from antidepressants to counseling to simply talking to a loved one. Habitual tips for coping with depression can be talking a walk daily, resuming hobbies you enjoy, and sharing your feelings with others.

Treat others around you carefully as you never know what they are going through and what they need in life. Pay attention to your loved ones and support them, make sure they are getting the help they need if they suffer from a psychological problem. It can be hazardous to not treat or cope with psychological issues that affect one’s cardiovascular system because after all, the heart pumping is what keeps us alive and we don’t want anything getting in the way of that.

Works Cited

“10 Drug-Free Ways to Control High Blood Pressure.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 24 Feb. 2021,

“Anxiety and Heart Disease.” Johns Hopkins Medicine,,heart%20muscle%2C%20and%20heart%20failure.

“Cardiac Disease & Depression.” Cleveland Clinic,,development%20of%20coronary%20artery%20disease.

“Cardiac Disease & Depression.” Cleveland Clinic,,development%20of%20coronary%20artery%20disease.

Janet M. Torpy, MD. “Chronic Stress and the Heart.” JAMA, JAMA Network, 10 Oct. 2007,

Publishing, Harvard Health. “Calm Your Anxious Heart.” Harvard Health,

“Stress Management.”,

“Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress.” Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA,

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