It is widely understood that there is a strong link between the health of the body and the health of the mind.

Physiological and psychological illnesses go hand in hand as both a cause and result of each other. Many of the symptoms of heart disease can lead to poor psychological health and vice versa.

Heart disease is, by far, the leading cause of death in the United States and throughout the rest of the world.

Since people with mental health issues are at an increased risk for developing cardiac disease, it is important that we make heart care a major health priority, and that we understand and further explore the connections between mental health disorders and heart disease.

Anxiety and PTSD and the Heart

While experiencing feelings of anxiety, the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated. This is more commonly known as the “fight or flight” response.

In fight or flight, the heart pounds as the blood pressure increases, the vision narrows, and the body is flooded with a stress hormone called cortisol.

Being in this state for prolonged periods of time can have devastating effects on the overall health. Part of this is the stress put on the heart caused by it’s working harder to send blood through constricted blood vessels.

People who are diagnosed with anxiety spend much more time in this state than most people, which increases their risk of developing heart problems, cardiac arrest, atrial fibrillation, and stroke, as well as other physiological problems.

Another factor in this connection is that people who experience higher levels of anxiety also have a much higher likelihood of experiencing panic attacks.

During a panic attack, the cardiovascular system goes into overdrive and puts even more undue stress on the heart and lungs. This is why people may gasp for breath or experience lightheadedness during a panic attack.

With PTSD, certain environmental stressors can trigger strong physiological and psychological reactions, sending the patient directly into the sympathetic nervous system reaction. Especially when left untreated, PTSD can greatly exacerbate any heart conditions.

Depression and Heart Disease

There are several studies that show depression and heart disease tend to occur together in patients.

This makes perfect sense from a logical perspective, since someone who has been diagnosed with heart disease would very likely feel depressed and anxious.

The prospect of having to deal with a potentially lifelong, or life-threatening illness, is enough to cause depression in even the most resilient of patients. On the other hand, many of thy symptoms of depression make it difficult for the patient to take proper care of their heart.

People experiencing depression often feel a lack of motivation to do things they need to do for their daily lives and overall health, including sufficient exercise and eating healthy foods.

The comorbidity of depression and heart disease is a well-documented link, meaning that as levels of depression increase, rates and severity of heart disease also increase.

Social Isolation

Mental health disorders are quite often associated with social isolation, which can be a contributing factor to, and a symptom of, these diseases.

This makes it more difficult for health conditions and heart disease to be detected in the first place.

Treatment can be delayed, and the heart disease reaches a more advanced stage than it would if the patient had loved ones around to keep an eye on their health and to notice any unusual symptoms.

Read also: The Importance of Regular Cardiac Check-ups


The good news is that the sooner treatment begins, the better chance patients have of making a full recovery.

If you notice any of the telltale signs of potential heart problems, it is important that you seek out a cardiology specialist as soon as possible.

For world-class heart care in Lafayette, LA, for the whole family, contact the office of Dr. Corwin A. Thomas today. Our team will help find the right care plan for protecting your heart.


Contact Dr. Thomas today to schedule an appointment