The realities of heart break: 4 tips for combatting depression

04.10.14 |

One of the major challenges of creating optimal health is seeing the bigger picture

Decades of advertising and exposure to dozens of fad diets and exercise programs can sometimes paint an incomplete idea of what optimal health actually is. Yes, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight by managing our energy intake and energy expenditure is an important part of health, but it is not the only part.

Previously, I wrote about how social media can affect your mental health, and in this post I’d like to expand on how your mental state affects and connects with your physical health.
And that connection is very, very real.

According to the European Society of Cardiology, depression can increase your risk of heart failure by 40 percent. 40 percent!

Lise Tuset Gustad, an intensive care nurse and first author of the study, said, “We found a dose response relationship between depressive symptoms and the risk of developing heart failure. That means that the more depressed you feel, the more you are at risk.”
Gustad went on to say that “depressive symptoms increase the chance of developing heart failure and the more severe the symptoms are, the greater the risk. Depressed people have less healthy lifestyles, so our analysis adjusted for factors such as obesity and smoking that could cause both depression and heart failure.”

In these statements, Gustad hits on two key points about depression: not only did her study find that it increased the chances of developing heart failure, but depression has also been linked to less healthy lifestyle factors like obesity. Though the latter point was outside the scope of her study, it is an important part of this discussion. In The Habits of Health, I write about how stress, anxiety, and sadness can trigger an emotional eating response which in turn contributes to obesity. And obesity is the start of many serious health complications, one of which is heart disease.

Depression is a serious disease. Gustad, in talking about her research, describe it as “disabling,” and I agree. Once depression sinks its claws into a person, shaking it can be incredibly difficult.

Tips to help

If you or someone close to you is struggling with depression, here are four tips that could help.

  • Exercise. Multiple studies have shown that physical activity can have a powerful effect on mood and disposition.
  • Adjust your sleep schedule. Depression has also been linked to erratic sleep schedules, so you may find yourself feeling more refreshed and positive if you normalize your sleep patterns.
  • Talk to your support network. When you start to feel yourself losing control, contact someone close to you. Go for a walk with them or talk with them on the phone for a while. Having a shoulder to lean on can get you through tough times.
  • Talk to your physician. Depression, like any serious health condition, can spiral out of control. If you feel yourself losing interest in things that once made you happy or if you struggle to find motivation to do much of anything at all, talk to a professional. These symptoms might seem insignificant, but they can be just as serious as chest pain when it comes to your overall health.

Remember, your mental and emotional health link directly to your physical health, forming a two-way street.

Sickness in one can have serious consequences for the other, so as you strive to create optimal health in your life, aim to improve all aspects of your life, not just your weight.