Valentine’s Day is a great time to take a look at your health and wellness.
As winter continues to steam roll forward, Valentine’s day can be a great time to remind yourself to check-in on your own physical and mental health. Stress and depression can impact your health in various ways. Feeling anxious, down or overwhelmed often leads to poor health choices such as downing sweets when you have had a bad day, turning to alcohol for comfort, or not eating the good things your body needs. Many individuals experience Season Affective Disorder during the post-holiday winter months as well.
Dr. Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York says “when people are stressed, anxious or feeling down, they’re not apt to make the healthy choice because they’re so overwhelmed by their situation. A person’s mental health, in terms of their general health, is underestimated.”
According to American Heart Association depression is reported in an estimated 1 in 10 of Americans ages 18 and older, and the figure can be as high as 33 percent for heart attack patients. But just feeling down can lead to changes that can affect your health, and not just because you may fall into habits that are bad for you.
Dr. Goldberg states that “other physiological things are happening in the body, including increased stress hormones, higher levels of cortisol and higher glucose levels,” she said. “Taking care of your overall outlook and well-being is as important as taking care of your blood pressure and cholesterol.”
It’s not surprising if you find it hard to get plenty of exercise, eat heart-healthy foods, limit alcohol or kick a smoking habit. All those things can seem like “just one more thing to add to their list of things that is already causing stress,” Dr. Goldberg said. “People turn to things that give them comfort and aren’t thinking about whether those things are healthy or not.”
Many of the symptoms of depression—such as flagging energy levels and lack of motivation—can make getting regular exercise, eating healthy foods, and sticking to a medication regimen a real challenge. This, too, may help explain why depression makes heart disease more likely, say Dr. Christopher Celano, a psychiatrist at the Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
One study found that the risk of death in heart attack survivors with depression was three times that of those without depression. ~ Harvard Health
Listed below are some of the signs of depression provided by Harvard Health.
Common symptoms of depression include:
- lack of energy
- loss of appetite (or unusual, persistent craving for food)
- difficulty sleeping
- feelings of worthlessness or loss of self-esteem
- irritability throughout the day
- excessive fatigue
- lessened libido
If you are showing any of these symptoms, now is the time to talk to your healthcare provider or a mental health professional. If your company provides an Employee Assistance Program, that is a good place to start the conversation about depression. Depression is a treatable disorder of the brain. It can be treated in addition to whatever other illnesses a person might have, including heart disease. If you think you may be depressed or know someone who is, don’t lose hope. Seek help for depression.