Your mental health can have a major impact on the health of one your most important organs: your heart.
(Please note: If you are experiencing a psychiatric emergency, call the MetroHealth Mobile Crisis Team at 216-623-6888 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.)
Depression, for example, can result in poor eating and sleeping habits, as well as less interaction with your family and friends. These factors can lead to increased stress, high cholesterol levels and elevated blood pressure — meaning poorer heart health overall.
Because depression causes a sense of irritability, sadness, hopelessness and helplessness, it can also affect your sense of self-preservation. Instead of thinking, “I don’t like this, but let me see how to get around it,” you begin to think, “I give up, this is not going to get better.”
This type of thinking impacts physical health the most because it often results in not taking care of yourself or being able to concentrate. Individuals with depression take longer to do things, meaning there’s less time for self-care, rest, relaxation and caring for your family.
Influence of External Factors
Your physical and mental health are also influenced by other factors we call the social drivers of health. They include access to safe housing, healthy food, reliable transportation, job opportunities and more. They also include stressors like coping with trauma, discrimination and racism.
For example, in an inner-city community without access to healthy foods, a lack of resources combined with a lack of self-preservation is going to take its toll. Instead of traveling to a store and investing the time to cook, a person with depression might settle for less healthy options like fast food. Once other health issues arise, that motivation could decrease more.
Where to Turn for Help
Like other health problems, the first step to addressing mental health concerns is talking with your primary care provider (PCP) – someone you trust who understands your medical history. Your provider will help you identify barriers and determine how you can overcome them.
The next step is examining your diet. Your PCP (or a specialist) can suggest easy ways to incorporate heart-healthy foods into your routine – changes that can save you money and improve your health in the long run.
To help lighten the load, find someone who can hold you accountable for your progress, such as a family member, a friend, or a coworker.
One Step at a Time
Start with small changes. For example, while you may not be able to stay out of bed for six hours the first day, try for 30 minutes. After a few days, aim for 45 minutes then 60 minutes. Remember that progress takes time.
“Depression is like a straitjacket on your emotions, and you can’t plan, you can’t think, you can’t focus,” said Cheryl Wills, MD, Vice Chair for Equity Diversity and Inclusion at MetroHealth and Chief of Child Psychiatry.
“One of the worst things people can do when they’re depressed is stay in isolation. Speak to a nurse to get help or talk to other people in your life. Ask for help — and keep asking, because you’re worth it. You have a purpose; you have something to offer. And we don’t want the straitjacket of depression to take that away from you.”
Feeling and being healthy involves more than physical health. Mental and emotional health are just as important. We are here for you – whether you have been here before or are new to MetroHealth. Our behavioral health team offers evaluations and treatment in both inpatient and outpatient settings.