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Emerging cardiovascular risk: mental health and pollution

Unhealthy lifestyle habits in terms of food, sedentary lifestyle or tobacco and alcohol consumption that affect our body are the gateway to cardiovascular diseases. But there are also other emerging cardiovascular risk factors: mental health and pollution. We talk about it on World Heart Day.

Having a mental health disorder, such as depression, could increase your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.

According to the Spanish Heart Foundation (FEC), it is known that in patients with myocardial infarction the prevalence of depression it is three times higher than in the general population and is underdiagnosed.

“In these cases the depression is not transitory, but is often chronic and recurring. In addition, patients with depression diagnosed during an acute coronary syndrome show a worse evolution and more cardiac events during follow-up than those without depression”, explains cardiologist Bárbara Izquierdo.

In the case of anxiety, unlike depression, there is more controversy regarding its relationship with heart disease. Some studies have found that it may be a factor associated with both complications during a hospital admission and long-term complications and increased mortality in patients with myocardial infarction. However, other studies have not found this association.

The largest study conducted to date in 52 countries regarding psychosocial factors and myocardial infarction maintains that high levels of stress are related to an increased risk of heart attack.

There are also several studies that relate the sleep disorders (insomnia) with a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease. A cumulative analysis for all shows that subjects with insomnia have a 45% greater risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease than those who do not report sleep disturbances.

Instead, being positive improves cardiovascular health.

According to some studies, the optimism Dispositional seems to halve the risk of heart attack compared to pessimism, which means an increase in cardiovascular risk.

In the same way, it improves the evolution in case of cardiovascular events, reduces the likelihood of having a relapse, helps the immune system and the autonomic nervous system work better, facilitates the acquisition and maintenance of healthy lifestyle habits , as well as the development and maintenance of better social and family relationships.

Self-care for mental health and avoiding cardiovascular risk

“If you stop smoking, if you start exercising, if you lose weight, you can immediately see the results, which has a direct impact on emotional well-being with both a physical and psychological improvement”, assures Dr. Julián Pérez-Villacastín , president of the Spanish Society of Cardiology (SEC).

For his part, the president of the FEC, Dr. Andrés Íñiguez, points out that in recent years there is increasing awareness of the link between emotions and the heart: “Chronic life stress, negative emotional states and health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, not only increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and exacerbate it, but are associated with greater utilization of health care resources.

Environmental pollution

Environmental pollution is another of the emerging cardiovascular risk factors and has already placed fourth on the list of factors that aggravate or trigger cardiovascular diseases, only behind hypertension, smoking and poor diet.

“Pollution favors thrombosis, inflammation, oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction,” recalls Dr. Violeta Sánchez, coordinator of the SEC-FEC Verde Group, who adds that between 40 and 80% of the harmful effects of pollution affect the cardiovascular system”.

cardiovascular mental health
FEC-SEC infographic
cardiovascular, mental health, pollution
FEC-SEC infographic

The specialist proposes, to reduce the impact of pollution, “policies that invest in cleaner public transport, energy efficient homes, access to fuels and clean technologies and adequate management of municipal waste”.

And individually we can reduce the use of the vehicle and avoid heavily polluted areas, as well as exercise regularly on green routes.

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