Our eastern neighbors have long recognized the mind-body connection in the role of health, a concept which has been largely ignored by western medicine which traditionally treats the body as being separate from the mind or emotions. This western philosophy, as least as it relates to heart disease, may be changing. A new discipline within the field of cardiology, behavioral cardiology, is on the rise and brings a new approach to preventing and treating heart disease.
Rather than focusing on simply the physical aspects of heart disease, behavioral cardiology focuses on not only physical factors which contribute to heart disease but the psychosocial stressors which may impact the progression of heart disease as well. Most of us are aware that there are many contributing factors to heart disease such as high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity and smoking, some of which are caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices. A behavioral cardiologist looks not only at these physical factors which may impact your heart health but the causes behind our unhealthy lifestyles, and the psychosocial stressors which we may encounter on a day to day basis.
Psychosocial stressors can include a wide variety of mood and emotional issues including, anger, type A behavior, stress, anxiety, depression and social isolation. One of the major psychosocial stressors is stress itself. Stress can come in more than one form ranging from sudden emotional stress (death in family, serious accident) to full blown day-to-day chronic stress (work, home, finances).
Most of us can probably relate to some of these psychosocial stressors on one level or another. Just because we experience chronic stress, or we’re a Type A personality, or have on going depression, does that really put us at greater risk for developing heart disease? Yes, it does.
Many now consider these psychosocial stressors to be on the same level as physical risk factors when it comes to developing heart disease or recovering after a cardiac event. According to Harvard Medical School, these psychosocial stressors act as a two-way conduit between the mind and body.