There is a growing base of evidence supporting the mind-body connection in heart disease, the authors of a report released today note.
Depression, stress, and other common psychosocial risk factors are now known to play an important role in the wellbeing and health outcomes of patients with heart disease, they remind readers.
“The number of studies looking at the effects of psychology and behavior on cardiac health is enormous,” lead author Dr. Alan Rozanski, of Columbia University in New York, told AMN Health.
“They indicate that there are not one but a number of different psychosocial factors that promote heart disease, including depression, social isolation, poor socioeconomic status, and discrete chronic stressors, like work or marital stress or caregiver strain.”
Moreover, psychosocial stress appears to be as potent as any of the major cardiac risk factors, including diabetes, hypertension, smoking and obesity, added Rozanski.
Data also indicate that the prevalence of psychological disorders is significantly higher among heart patients than in the general population.
Moreover, the literature shows that starting with just 5 minutes of exercise alone, heart patients can reduce tension and depression and increase energy.
The report, which appears in the latest issue of The Journal of the American College of Cardiology, encourages doctors caring for patients with heart disease to ask about psychosocial problems.
While cardiologists now routinely urge their patients to quit smoking and exercise, they should also ask about energy level, mood, and emotional support systems, Rozanski said. It only takes a few minutes to identify people who may benefit from relaxation training, stress management, or exercise training or more formal psychiatric care, he added.
SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, March 1, 2005.
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD