Early Heart Health May Influence Future Mental Health

Early Heart Health May Influence Future Mental Health

By Cynthia Thaik, M.D.

Young hearts are full of hope and promise. However, a recent study suggests that early heart health may influence future mental health. The study focused on resting heart rate and blood pressure. It reveals that young males with higher resting heart rates – above 82 beats per minute—may be at risk for a future diagnosis of mental illness. For example, the study showed that:

  • 69 percent were at increased risk for developing obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • 21 percent were at increased risk for developing schizophrenia
  • 18 percent were at increased risk for developing anxiety disorders

In addition, young males with lower resting heart rates—below 62 beats per minute—may be at increased risk for substance abuse and violence.

Stress is one of the many factors that can contribute to a higher or lower heart resting heart rate. And, while the study only focused on young males, everyone can benefit from stress-reduction practices. They help regulate the resting heart rate and improve overall heart health. Mastering these practices at an early age, can benefit you for a lifetime. Here are some practices you can do alone or with your children. For more information about these healthy heart practices, see Dr. Cynthia’s Book, “Your Vibrant Heart: Restoring Health, Strength, and Spirit from the Body’s Core.”

Mindfulness focuses your attention on the internal and external experiences that occur in the present moment. And, while there are many ways to get started, the goal is to slow down your mind and body. For example, take a relaxed 10-minute walk and pay special attention to the sights, sounds and smells around you. The key is to focus on the moment and let distractions of past or future thoughts fall away. Studies show that the practice of mindfulness helps reduce worry and depression. Click here for information about mindfulness practices and how they can improve your heart health.

Controlled breathing is a great way to manage stress. You can do this while sitting, standing, or walking. All you have to do is concentrate on your breath and gently breathe in and out through your nose. Start your inhale at the bottom of your abdomen, rising up to your nose, for a count of two. Start your exhale through your nose, pushing down to your abdomen for a count of four. Repeat slowly, evenly and thoughtfully. Click here for information about controlled breathing and how it can improve your heart health.

Yoga is a proven way to reduce stress and tension. And, it can improve your balance, flexibility, energy, strength, self-awareness and mood. For beginners, the best way to learn yoga is in a class with a trained instructor. In addition, you can search the web for beginner yoga poses for adults and children. Click here for a sample video on beginners yoga and to see how yoga can improve your heart health. Important note: check with your doctor before you start any yoga practice.

Meditation provides you with a sense of calm, peace and balance. And, it benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. It helps you focus your mind on the present and push away distracting thoughts. To start, find a quiet and comfortable spot. Close your eyes. Concentrate on your breath, body sensations, or a word or phrase. Even if you only meditate for one minute a day, you will start to see your mood improve. Click here for meditation tips for beginners and to see how meditation can improve heart health.

About the author

Dr. Cynthia Thaik, M.D. is a Harvard-trained cardiologist serving the greater Los Angeles community at her holistic health center in Burbank and Valencia, CA. Dr. Thaik is the author of Your Vibrant Heart: Restoring Health, Strength, and Spirit from the Body’s Core. To learn more about Dr. Thaik or the Holistic Healing Heart Center, or to schedule an appointment, please contact staff@drcynthia.com or call (818) 842-1410.