Happy Heart Month! February is all about our hearts - whether physical or emotional or romantic (Valentine's Day is around the corner), we traditionally celebrate all things about our hearts during this month. But did you know that research shows that the connection between mental health and heart health is physiologically and biologically based? Stress, depression, anxiety and other serious mental health disorders all have an impact on heart health. And doctors have known for a long time that having heart disease can cause depression and anxiety.
This is one of many good reasons to remember that mental wellness is not separate from physical health - the mind-body connection cannot be ignored.
Consider these statistics:
Nearly 40 percent of people with schizophrenia are physically inactive, placing them at higher risk for heart disease and other preventable chronic health conditions.
About 8 percent of Americans age 12 or older (an estimated 21.6 million people) reported having a substance use disorder in 2013. That number is larger today.
More than 44 percent of adults with serious mental illness are smokers, and people with mental illness smoke nearly half of all cigarettes produced, but they are only half as likely to quit as other smokers. Studies estimate that between 34 to 80 percent of people with an alcohol use disorder also smoke.
And research shows alarming health disparities between people with serious mental and/or substance use disorders and the general population. These individuals are likely to die decades earlier, mostly due to preventable, chronic medical conditions like heart disease.
As we think about our hearts this month, we always must be mindful of wellness and overall well being for ourselves and those around us.
The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has an excellent resource to help us reach true well being - the Eight Dimensions of Wellness. They tell us that wellness is being in good physical and mental health. Because mental health and physical health are linked, problems in one area can impact the other. At the same time, improving your physical health can also benefit your mental health, and vice versa.
I encourage you to visit the website above and learn how to tend to your heart, your mind and your body and maybe help those you love do the same. It is the best Valentine's Day gift you could give.