Surprisingly close links between heart health and mental health

17 Jul 2012
Surprisingly close links between heart health and mental health

Medical authorities say there are some surprisingly common key factors linking Heart Health and Mental Health which have the potential to change the way the public perceive each of these life threatening conditions and their ability to control common risk factors.

SAHMRI’s Heart Foundation Heart Disease Theme Leader, Professor Stephen Nicholls says “it’s perplexing that the Australian public hasn’t really been made aware of the similarities in risk factors, the lifestyle choices that could trigger them and more importantly the fact that there is huge potential for individuals to take control and mitigate those risk factors.”

“New studies have shown that the risk factors that can lead to heart disease and stroke, such as physical inactivity and obesity, also contribute to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and cognitive dysfunction.”

“With a growing and ageing population, South Australia is at greater risk than other parts of Australia and that could have a dramatic impact for us unless early precautions are taken.

“The risk factors for both heart and mental health are the same, the diseases share the same values and we need to recognise that the two could potentially play off each other,’ he says.

Lack of exercise and physical inactivity, excessive food and lifestyle habits can lead to narrowing of the blood vessels. That reduces blood flow to the brain, and leads to hardening of the arteries of the heart and the brain. When a person’s brain doesn’t get the blood flow it needs, it can begin to malfunction. As a result, they can experience problems thinking, trouble with memory and a general deterioration in cognitive function. If blood flow to the brain is abruptly blocked, a stroke may result.

People often associate memory loss with Alzheimer’s disease, and think it can’t be prevented or treated. But controlling risk factors for heart disease can make a difference in slowing its progression.