When I was still a child, I remember my mother asking if I was having trouble at school when I complained of a headache one morning in a bid to stay home that day. Of course, at the time I didn’t understand that she was asking me this question as there is a direct relationship between our mental and physical health.
Over the years, however, I have come to understand the mind-body connection. For example, your face flushes red as warm blood flows towards it when you feel embarrassed, or sometimes you get a funny feeling in your tummy when you feel anxious or nervous. However, these are harmless emotional changes that may not cause much harm. But, extreme changes in emotional health can have severe implications on your body.
Here is how emotions affect your health and what you can do to keep them under control.
1. Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
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Various mental illness and disorders have long been associated with cardiovascular diseases. However, what people have known instinctively for decades has been proven scientifically as well. According to a recent study published by King’s College London, severe mental illnesses are linked to a much higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The study comprised over 3.2 million patients and more than 113 million people from the general population. It revealed that the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases goes up by almost 53% among people suffering from various mental ailments such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression compared to their healthy counterparts. The risk becomes much higher (78%) over the longer term.
Angry outbursts, on the other hand, may last for just a few minutes. But, they are also associated with heart attacks, particularly when accompanied by stress. According to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia, in the 2 hours after a period of intense anger, the risk of heart attack may increase 8.5 times.
Individuals who experience high levels of anxiety in the 48 hours before the onset of symptoms of heart attack are 9.5 times more likely to suffer it within the following 2 hours. “Episodes of anger or anxiety can cause increased heart rate, high blood pressure, narrowing of blood vessels and increased clotting, all of which can be heart attack triggers,” says lead author Dr. Thomas Buckley.
2. Increased Cancer Death Risk
A study published earlier this year states that anxiety and depression may be linked to increased cancer death risk. The researchers looked at the mental health of more than 160,000 adults in England and Wales that were free from cancer at the beginning of the study.
The average 10-year follow-up found that people with the highest levels of mental distress were 32% more likely to have died of cancer, particularly colon, prostate, and pancreatic cancers. The researcher adjusted the figures for potential factors such as age, sex, body mass index, educational attainment smoking, and alcohol consumption that could affect the data. However, the study supports the growing evidence that physical and mental health are related to each other.
Another study involving a systematic review and meta-analysis of the data from 1,469,179 participants and 89,716 incident cases of cancer from 25 studies also found an association between depression and the overall occurrence risk of cancer, particularly liver and lung cancers.
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3. Increased Risk of Developing Type-2 Diabetes
In 2015, 30.3 million Americans or 9.4% of the population had diabetes, of which 7.2 million (23.8%) were not aware of it. It was also the seventh leading cause of death in 2015. In the recent years, the relationship between stress and diabetes has been confirmed by various scientific studies. One of the most recent studies, published by a team of Australian researchers has established that stress increases the risk of Type-2 diabetes in women.
The study focused on more than 12,000 women from the 1946–1951 cohorts who completed surveys for the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health in 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010. Moderate-to-high stress levels increased the odds of diabetes by 2 to 3 times after three years. It was found that perceived stress can influence smoking, hypertension, physical activity and body mass index, either directly or indirectly. All of these factors ultimately increase the risk of diabetes.
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4. How to Improve Your Mental Health
Apart from the serious consequences mentioned above, poor mental health also gives rise to a variety of ailments such as back pain, general chest pain, upset stomach, high blood pressure, headache, weight gain or loss, insomnia, and constipation. The only way to overcome these health issues is to improve your mental health
- Keep Your Mind Calm
The first thing you need to learn is to keep your mind calm even under stressful situations. Find a way to deal with the stress related to professional as well as personal obligations. You can use a variety of methods including yoga, Tia Chi, and meditation to keep your emotions under control.
- Vent Your Emotions in a Healthy Manner
Even if you have mastered the technique to control your emotions, you will still be exposed to stress, anger, frustration, or anxiety at some point. That’s why you should learn to release your emotions in the right manner. You can talk to your friends or family members, keep a journal, find a hobby, or seek professional help.
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- Eat Healthy
A healthy diet is crucial to your mental health. It should consist of fresh and home-cooked food rich in proteins, fibers, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Avoid eating canned, processed, and deep-fried food at all costs. Consult a certified dietitian if necessary.
- Get Enough Quality Sleep
You also need to get enough sleep to keep your mind and body in excellent working condition. The lack of sleep often makes you feel irritable, increases blood pressure, and affects your productivity. Usually, an adult requires around 7 to 8 hours of sound sleep each night. If you are having trouble sleeping, consult your doctor.
The impact of negative emotions can sometimes go well beyond just back pains, headaches, constipation, and insomnia. Advanced medical science has revealed the link between various mental disorders and physical ailments. The facts mentioned above will help you understand the serious implications on your health in this regard. Did you know about the connection between the mind and the body? What are you doing to improve your emotional health? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Article was written & contributed by Swati Kapoor
Swati Kapoor is a qualified dietitian at Practo. She has a Masters degree in Dietetics and Food Service Management. She is a strong believer in spreading the goodness of ‘nutrition through healthy eating’. As a responsible dietitian, Swati examines her patients’ health history carefully before recommending any diet or workout regimen, because everybody has different requirements.