(CBS News) – It’s being called the mind-heart-body connection. The American Heart Association says psychological health can impact overall health and heart disease and stroke risk.
Dr. Glenn Levine from Baylor College of Medicine is an author of the AHA’s new report. “People who are stressed, anxious, depressed or pessimistic, they tend to have higher risk factors for heart disease, such as more hypertension, higher glucose levels, they’re obese, and they tend to do worse when they have heart problems,” Dr. Levin says.
People with a positive outlook are usually healthier, according to experts. They also have fewer risk factors and tend to do better if they have heart disease. “There are very good medicines these days that are very effective in helping with depression and other conditions. There’s also psychological counseling and even meditation,” Dr. Levine says.
49-year-old James Young II takes care of himself now. But he says in his 30s, he was living a destructive life. That included ignoring warning signs like shortness of breath, fast heart rate, and weight gain. “I spent a lot of time drinking heavy, smoking, and eating a lot of fast food,” Young says.
Young was hospitalized at 40 with congestive heart failure and finally faced he was feeling depressed. “I wasn’t very happy with my life at the point. I realized, I’m really playing Russian roulette with my health,” he says.
Young says exercise has helped him. He’s now an avid cyclist. “I’ve definitely made a lot of changes in terms of my physical activity, my eating habits, placing myself in more positive environments,” he says.
He encourages others to take care of their mental health before it takes a dangerous physical toll.
The American Heart Association suggests regular mental health screenings for people who have or are at risk for cardiovascular disease.