I remember watching an old movie not too long ago where one of the main characters was a classic “Type A” personality. Chances are that you know exactly what I mean – driven, aggressive, workaholic, eyes-popping, veins-bulging, and absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind when they are displeased because they express it loudly with arms waving and papers flying. Type A’s make me exhausted just thinking about them!
In this particular movie, the character was a heart attack waiting to happen. You could see the not so subtle hints a mile away and viewers were not surprised when the character suddenly dropped to his knees, clutching his chest, in the middle of a pacing-the-floor, shaking-his-fist, and screaming-at-the-world scene. The character had just Type A’d himself into a massive heart attack. Now, I understand that this is fiction and Hollywood but had to wonder just how true to life this scene really was. Can our emotions and other psychosocial factors, particularly negative emotions and stress, really impact our heart to the point of actually causing a heart attack?
According to Harvard Medical School, psychosocial factors such as your individual personality, emotions or moods (depression, anxiety, and stress), positive or negative outlook on life, and even loneliness can impact your heart health both positively or negatively. Some studies put these psychosocial factors on the same level as high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol and smoking in terms of risk factors for heart disease. Stress, anxiety, depression and anger are quite serious when it comes to heart health.
Not all psychosocial factors affect your heart health in the same way. Some may cause a sudden heart attack while others lead to atherosclerosis which could result in lifelong heart risk and other heart problems. The relationship between the brain, mind and heart is intricately intertwined. The brain “talks” to the heart through chemical means which may lead to heart disease or heart attack. Conversely, the heart also talks to the brain and an unhealthy (or healthy) heart can influence your brain and mood in return.