Have you ever noticed how the work week does not really begin on Monday morning, but instead on Sunday night?
You know what I’m talking about – the stress level that rises and rests in the pit of your stomach, the slight tension headache, the race to make certain clothes are clean, homework is done, lunches are prepared and ready. Don’t forget the mental list of all the things that must be done on Monday morning when you get to the office which replays constantly into the wee hours of the morning robbing you of precious, needed sleep.
Of course when the alarm bell rings, jarring you to life from your meager slumber, there seems to be an unwritten law that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong on Monday morning. Whether it be traffic jams, flat tires or lost homework; is it any wonder that Monday morning is prime time for heart attacks? People are 20% more likely to have a heart attacks on a Monday morning than any other day of the week.
I’m not surprised.
When we think of heart disease prevention, most of us think in terms of the physical things that we can do to prevent the onset of developing heart disease (lose weight, exercise, stop smoking, etc.). What we don’t consider is the role that other areas of our life such as our emotional health, personality as well as psychosocial factors (sudden and chronic stress, anxiety, depression, anger, happiness) may contribute to the development of heart disease.
It’s not surprising that most of us only look at the physiological aspects of heart disease. After all, here in the West, the physical and mental are separated into two different and distinct categories of disciplines. We treat them differently, as if they were wholly disconnected and unrelated. We don’t tend to look at health from the perspective of cure depression and also cure heart disease.
Perhaps, we should reconsider our approach in this area.
New research suggests that our minds, emotions, and psychosocial factors may have a direct impact on our heart health, both in terms of developing atherosclerosis and heart disease as well as triggering a sudden event heart attack. This mind-body connection is not a new thought. In many cultures, the mind and body are viewed as integral and treated as a whole.
Western medicine is finally beginning to recognize the connection with the emergence of a new discipline, behavioral cardiology, which looks at the psychosocial factors of a patient’s life which may be contributing, positively or negatively, to their overall heart health. Hopefully, this will lead to more comprehensive treatment solutions for patients.
Now, I know what you may be thinking. Your heart is simply a muscle. How can stress, bad traffic, Monday morning blues, or a bad hair day contribute to heart disease? The truth is that doctors don’t fully understand the mind-body connection completely and how it works. It is believed that stress hormones are probably the major culprit in psychosocial factors for causing heart disease. Stress hormones raise blood pressure, may cause your heart to work overtime, and also cause narrowing or constriction of blood vessels, all of which make you more susceptible to having a negative heart outcome from stress. The various psychosocial factors have also been linked to higher levels of inflammations which contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.
So, you’re convinced. You’re totally stressed out and your stress and phsychsocial factors are leading you straight down the path to heart disease or worse yet, a sudden heart attack event. What can you do? You can start by identifying your particular risk area. For example, do you feel sick to your stomach each morning at the thought of going to work? Are you worried? Depressed? Angry all the time? Monday morning blues that last five days a week?
Once you know what your psychosocial risk factor is, like with physical factors, find a way to address them, take action and minimize their influence and impact in your life. Managing your emotional heart health risks may be as important to your overall heart health as managing physical heart disease risk factors.
Until next time, here’s wishing you a healthy heart.
Liz Vaccariello, 5 scary times for your heart, 28 Feb 2010, Prevention, http://shine.yahoo.com/event/hearthealth/5-scary-times-for-your-heart-652424/
Heart disease: It’s partly in your head, June 2005, Harvard Health Letter, reprint Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Heart_disease_Its_partly_in_your_head.htm
Add a Comment4 Comments
I hear you! Sunday evenings were always the most stressful time of the week for me. For years, I could just feel the stress levels rise as the day went on until I could barely sleep at night which, of course, only made Monday worse!
This past year has made me a real believer in the impact of stress on our lives. I thought getting laid off was a terrible thing but after a year of no 80 hour work weeks, enjoying Sunday evenings, my MS is in total remission, cholesterol 45 points lower, and Vitamin D levels back to normal. I'm convinced of the mind-body connection!
MaryMarch 3, 2010 - 6:34pm
This was a fascinating read for me. And you caught me right at the front end, too, because I've always detested Sunday evenings. They seem to represent the fact that the freedom and the potential of the weekend is gone, and the confinement and the routine of the workweek is upon me. Just as you said, it's as though Monday morning begins Sunday night in my house.
I too believe in the mind-body connection and love reading about it in this way. And now I have extra motivation to do something on Sunday nights that will make me feel happy or relaxed instead of just stressed. Keep up the good work!March 3, 2010 - 9:40am
Hi Mamta.... Thanks! I appreciate it!
The research that's coming out in this area is extremely interesting. I've long felt that there is more of a mind-body connection in health than what is commonly acknowledged in western medicine. I've loved reading the research that's coming out in this area and plan on more related topics this month.March 1, 2010 - 10:29pm
Super Brilliant article. Something new, less explored in terms of it's frequency of having being written about or discussed in media and brought to awareness of people. Have tweeted it and Facebooked it. Good to share and know:) Thank you.March 1, 2010 - 9:12pm