Professional Stress, Positive Psychology and Heart Disease – are they related ? – a scientific review.
According to the Women’s Health Studies (WHS), a study into disease prevention that included 17,000 female health experts advocates that women who work under highly stressful conditions are at a 40% risk of heart diseases, which includes heart attack and other coronary artery conditions.
Previous reports that were presented in AHA meeting in 2010 also suggests that women who constantly worry about the loss of their jobs at a higher risk of developing a high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol level, and obesity. The findings are becoming more and more stressful with the rising economic challenges today.
According to more modern research in 2015, with contribution from 27 cohort studies, in Europe, Japan, and the United Stated with evidence from over 600,000 men and women, work stressors like strain, long working hours, and job strains were linked to a moderately elevated risk of heart attack and stroke. The studies also state that there is a 10 to 40% risk of heart attack & related diseases if people are extremely exposed to work stressors. Job stress affects men and women of different age distribution equally.
The relationship between antagonistic psychological factors like depression and heart and related disease (HRD) are well-known.
A huge collection of evidence today clearly shows that positive psychology, which includes positive feelings and thoughts like purpose in life, happiness, and optimism, is independently associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Lately, the field of positive psychology and preventive cardiology are both fields that seek to go beyond reducing HRD risks but also increase the overall well-being. They also seek to improve the longevity of life, preserve good cognitive function, and improve mental health.
The overall aim is to reduce the amount of money spent on healthcare. Lately, there is the development of relevant metrics along with positive psychology and preventive cardiology.
Preventing heart and related diseases requires intervention at 7 components of a person’s life. American Heart Association (AHA) proposal has become widely accepted and is made up of 7 components.
The components are subdivided into :
four healthy behavioral lifestyles—
- abstinence from smoking,
- observing a healthy diet,
- regular physical activities, and
- maintain a normal BMI and
three health factors—
- favorable blood glucose,
- blood pressure, and
- total cholesterol.
Heart Health and Psychological Well-being
There are different reviews and meta-analyses geared towards evaluating the role of depression, anger, anxiety, chronic stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder in relationship CVD development.
For instance, in 2014, a meta-analysis involving 30 prospective studies (with contribution from 40 independent reports) which was based on 893, 850 contributors with 2-37 years follow-up periods found that depression constantly foretold a high-risk of developing CHD.
The findings from this study remain constant with other meta-analyses in regards to the degree of the risk and the occurrence of a dose-response interaction. The result also shows that anxiety, anger, PTSD, and hostility also have similar results with depression.
Generally, the evidence for optimism is highest, even though the result may be in part, since long-running follow-up studies measure optimism, whereas, fewer epidemiologic cohort studies have evaluated other aspects of psychological wellness. Since 2012, available prospective evidence is highly consistent with the results.
Five prospective studies estimating the link between optimism and CVD have generally established outcomes in the probable direction.
For example, in a potential study of 70,021 women of advanced age for over 8 years, a comparative study of women in the highest optimism has 40% lower risk of dying than women with the lowest level. Several other follow-up studies have also reported similar findings in consideration of CVD mortality as well as incidents of a heart attack.
Psychological wellness can be a strong influence of heart health on the lifespan through three probable ways:
- It can directly affect neurobiological processes
- Indirect effect via health behaviours
- Via the promotion of other psychological resources with proven results of health protection or buffer cardio toxic effect of stressful experiences
The effects of psychological wellness may reduce the probability of worsening situations for each pathway. Example of these includes tobacco smoking and inflammation. Likewise, it can also improve the probability of the restorative process, for example, optimal sleep.
Studies on behavioral related factors of psychological wellness are based on the 4 heart health factors proposed by AHA. They include exercise (physical activities), smoking, BMI, and diet.
Various studies report a cross-sectional relationship between higher psychological wellness and lower possibility of smoking. However, only some longitudinal studies record relationships in the anticipated direction. For instance, young teenagers who are less optimistic with low hope levels are more likely to be frequent smokers 7-10 months later, adjusting for socio-demographics and reference point smoking prominence among patients who fell ill from heart attack. Patients who were less likely to be smokers 12 months later were the least optimistic among the rest.
According to various research works, people with a high level of psychological wellness are more likely to exercise regularly. However, the relationship is most likely bidirectional, a collection of potential longitudinal evidence shows that psychological wellness is a sign of greater probability of indulging in the recommended levels of exercises.
In a study carried out with over 10,000 advanced adults from England, adults who showed the most physical activity during a follow-up period of eleven years were those with the highest levels of wellness at baseline, adjusting for baseline depression and health status. There are also some reports of null status from some findings.
Other cross-sectional studies also indicate that people with higher psychological wellness are more likely to consume a greater amount of fruits and vegetables. They are also more likely to abstain from sweets and processed meat.
For instance, in research adjusting for baseline health, age, and sex, Finnish adults who were originally more versus less optimistic consumed healthier diets during the 6-year duration of the research. Just like physical activities, there may also be a bi-directional relationship in the sense that eating a healthy diet can also improve psychological wellness. The results are more ambivalent for a healthy BMI, with a potential relationship recommended by cross-sectional examination but varying consequences from potential researches.
According to researchers, various components of psychological wellness have a connection with biological processes suggested to trigger the perceived relationship with heart & related disease metric (glucose, blood pressure, and lipids) and other conditions like atherosclerosis.
Even though many studies about biological pathways are cross-sectional, there is a significant advantage to biological studies. Biological parameters are usually objectively calculated, which lessens the burden of bias from self-report.
According to previous reports concerning psychological wellness and blood pressure, there is a mixed finding. However, according to longitudinal examination, there is a general suggestion that psychological health is prospectively related to lower blood pressure across different ages, sex, and ethnic groups. For instance, in a large prospective study involving 6,384 healthy adults (British), 11% lower risk of hypertension over the average period of 11.8 years of follow-up studies was linked to higher emotional vitality. The result was arrived at after adjustments have been made for various potential confounders, which includes psychological distress. The variability in heart rates has also been suggested to be a potential mechanism. According to several kinds of research, there is a link between higher psychological distress and a reduction in the variability of heart rates, which generally indicates an increase in sympathetic activation and a reduction in parasympathetic tone. In comparison, studies considering psychological wellness relative to the viability of the heart rate have identified less dependable relationships.
An evaluation of the results obtained from lipids suggested a mixed finding. Though, in-depth studies have identified higher psychological wellness to be linked with a more positive level of lipids. Nonetheless, it appears that race and sex as well as cultural diversity can affect the relationship between lipid level and psychological wellness.
Generally, these studies suggest that higher psychological wellness is related to a lower risk of metabolic dysfunction. Limited attention has been given to immune and inflammatory procedures, with varying findings, which are also suggestive sometimes.
The social environment to some extent influences the development and dissemination of psychological wellness. There are many aspects of psychological wellness that are regarded as partly heritable with—dispositional optimism, life purpose, and satisfaction showing 25% to 47% heritability.
The environment in early life is essential to the formation of psychological functionality. Exposure to early life adversity, including exposure to adverse attitudes from parents, poor mental health, adverse family structure, like parental alcoholism and single parenthood, and poor socioeconomic position, for instance, can constitute factors that predict poor psychological health in childhood, puberty, and adulthood.
Lack of childhood care and good relationship with parents can affect the development of the brain functionally and structurally in ways that lead to the development of maladaptive habits with less supportive relationships.
A few studies have put into consideration the early social environment and how it can encourage the development of trajectories of psychological wellness. However, important factors have been identified such as parenting practice (warmth and being naturing), ease of communication with parents, and also love for the school, and the availability of other supportive relationships.
Other essential factors that support psychological wellness include positive and great quality of relationship with friends and strong social network, the perception of school as a supportive and friendly environment, and living in environments with high-quality social capital.
According to structural factors, information from the World Happiness Report ecological findings also linked psychological wellness to a lot of different factors like:
- Higher country-specific GDP per capita,
- Freedom to make life choices, absence of corruption, and
- Lower-income inequality
Furthermore, studies also suggest that life satisfaction has a link with factors like higher income, occupational status, and level of education.
Lifestyle Tips for Healthy & Stress free Living
Starting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the goal of many. Besides preparing healthy food, sleeping, meditating, exercising, and keeping stress levels low are other key ingredients in the recipe for good health.
In this article, you’ll discover the twelve scientifically proven lifestyle tips for health. Keep reading to learn how you can boost your health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer, and more.
- Meditate Regularly. Regular meditation will give you enough energy for self-regulation, concentration on the inner peace and thoughts. Meditation enriches your health overall.
Practice SNA meditation – Stillness of Non-judgmental Awareness (S.N.A.) –
The basics of meditation that can take you far and help you clear your mind are practicing Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Avoid distractions and relax. Now all you have to do is observe your breath. The thoughts will come and go. Some thoughts may able to capture your attention and makes you run behind them. If that happens – bring back your attention to your breath. Do not judge yourself or any of your thoughts. It is just you, your breath, and the stillness. The thoughts will come and go before your non-judgmental awareness.
This is how you can achieve S.N.A. – the simplest form of meditation.
From years of research, it is clear that meditation brings physical changes to our brains.
It is a muscle. More you practice it. More you have it. It rewires our brain and makes it less anxious. The possibility of you getting hijacked by your immediate & unnecessary reactive thoughts becomes negligible. Your cognitive function improves. You can think clearly. It is necessary for maintaining mental hygiene daily.
- Don’t smoke. Tobacco is linked to heart diseases, lung diseases, and stroke. If you are currently a smoker, quit. It’s a big move toward better health.
- Exercise. Exercising regularly can help reduce stress. You don’t need a sophisticated and tedious fitness routine, either. Take holistic methods like hike, do a yoga class, qigong or pilates, go for a swim, hop on a bike, or even stream an online workout. Each of these methods is great for relaxation.
- Cut Back on Alcohol. Just like smoking tobacco, alcohol is harmful to health. It causes liver cirrhosis, some cancers, and heart diseases. The best way to avoid this, limit yourself to a glass or two of wine once or twice a week. This will not only benefit you, health-wise but also, it’s better for your wallet.
- Go Offline. Taking a digital break from technology, social media, phones, computers, TVs, and tablets will help deepen your personal connection with those around you.
- Optimize Your Sleep. Not only is sleep important for toddlers, but also for adults. On average, a person should sleep between 7-8 hours a day. Your body regenerates and prepares your mind for the new day when you’re asleep. Therefore, getting enough sleep is good for health.
- Pile on Unprocessed Foods. In order to live healthy, limit yourself to processed foods as much as possible. Go for vegetables, fruits, lean meats like chicken and ground turkey, and grains.
- Drink Water. A normal person should drink 2.5 to 3.5 liters of water a day. But this varies from person to person and is influenced by several factors such as gender and age. All in all, water gets your digestion going, reduces the acid content in the stomach, and stimulates your metabolism.
- Consume less Sugar and Salt. Excessive intake of sodium can expose you at risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Same to sugar which leads to unhealthy weight gain and diabetes.
Psychological wellbeing is related to cardiovascular health. When it comes to prevention of heart and related diseases the effect of positive psychology can not be denied. An optimistic person with positive psychology – lead heathier life style. The person smokes less, eats healthy and does exercise more. A mismanaged childhood can alter the adulthood perception of the world and adversely effects the psychological status of a person. They can become more maladaptive in the future and thus have more chances of heart diseases. A positive psychological intervention may help. A person spends at least half of his day in today’s world doing his professional activities. In today’s rapidly changing stressful working environment is known to cause lifestyle related diseases like anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, addiction, cholesterol issues etc. Scientific data suggests that these life style issues contribute to the heart and related diseases in the long term. Psychological intervention at early stage can improve cognitive functions. Now the person has more capability to change and stick to the healthy living. Thus he/she prevents life style related diseases and ultimately the heart disease. Positive psychology in an working environment can save millions of lives and billions of dollars .