Inverse - 🧠 Let’s talk about your heart

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Inverse Daily
 
Sarah Sloat Sunday Scaries
 
 
Hello! My name is Sarah Sloat and welcome to Sunday Scaries #149. Thanks for reading this chill newsletter for not-chill people.
 
 
 
This week’s chill icon
 
 
 
 
This couple who put out a tiiiiny table on which they serve nuts to squirrels are the chill icons of the week. Or is the chill icon the squirrel? I think you can make an argument for both. 

Have you encountered a chill icon IRL or during your internet browsing? If so, I want to hear from you. Send an email over to sundayscaries@inverse.com and you might see them in next week’s newsletter.
 
 
 
Let’s talk about your heart
 
The head and the heart are often positioned as dueling facets of our being. When faced with a challenge, do you follow your heart, or your head?

But positioning the head and heart in opposition to one another is to ignore a vital (and just as poetic) truth: The head and the heart are a team. 

Doctors once thought the link between mental health and heart health was likely limited to vague, negative emotions to do with lifestyle choices, experts today understand that there is a bidirectional relationship between mental health and heart health. People with mental-health issues have a higher risk of heart problems and vice versa.

Now, we know that heart health and mental health are closely linked, but we don’t know why. But scientists are trying to find out.

In a recent review of 12 studies published in the journal BioMedical Engineering Online,scientists found that people with anxiety, depression, and panic disorders are more likely to experience poor heart health, regardless of their age. 

But poor heart health is not an inevitability for those experiencing mental health issues. Instead, these results reinforce the importance of “early therapeutic intervention” for these brain conditions, the study authors write. Beyond therapy, maintaining one’s general health are also critical, co-author Renly Lim tells me. Lim is a research fellow at the University of South Australia. These include maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep

In turn, taking care of your mental health is a great way to take care of your heart, Lim explains. 

“Talk to your health professional to discuss your options — both non-medication and medication treatments, as well as lifestyle changes — to better manage any mental health problems,” Lim says. 

“Decreasing stress and anxiety levels are ways to take better care of heart health.” 

Lim and her colleagues’ review pays particular attention to blood pressure variation and heart rate variation (HRV). Unlike heart rate, which is how many times a heart beats in a minute, HRV measures the time between two heartbeats. A constantly changing HRV is a sign of good health — it suggests the body is adapting to external stressors. The scientists discovered that people with mental health problems are more likely to display reduced HRV. 

“Low heart rate variation occurs when our body is in fight-or-flight mode,” Lim explains. “People with mental health problems could have reduced HRV because they are less adaptable to external stressors.” 

This lack of adaptability suggests the body remains in a state where it senses danger. Low HRV is also common in people with chronic diseases. 

The review also suggests people who experience poor mental health are less likely to show typical patterns of rising and falling blood pressure throughout the day. While spikes in blood pressure aren’t healthy, it is healthy for systolic pressure to dip between 10 and 20 percent at night. This allows the heart to rest. However, people with mental health problems are more likely to experience dips under 10 percent. 

“These findings may have important implications for patients' future physical health and well-being, highlighting the need for comprehensive cardiovascular risk reduction,” the study team writes. 

Of all physical conditions, cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death among people with mental illness. While researchers work toward understanding the precise nature of the link between heart health and mental health, it’s critical for individuals to consider this mind-body connection — and for care-providers to do what they can to provide necessary support.
 
 
 
Now look at this oddly satisfying thing
 
 
 
 
This gorgeous photograph was captured in the Canadian Rockies by Sunday Scaries reader Daniel

Have you noticed any beautiful patterns in nature? An extremely good deep-cleaning video? Just something visually nice but you can’t explain why? Then send your best examples to sundayscaries@inverse.com for consideration.
 
 
 
What I’m reading this week
 
Distract yourself from the scaries with these reads:

Just over an hour of weekly exercise reduces the risk of depression, scientists say. Here’s an excellent case for afternoon walks. 

Four low-key psychology hacks to increase life satisfaction for good. Why you need to take savoring seriously. 

How a salt lake in California’s desert could make the U.S. an electric car powerhouse. If you’re not already paying attention to lithium, it’s time to start. 

And if it’s midnight and you’re still feeling the scaries . . .

Watch these guys run around Tokyo like they’re in a video game. 

Thank you very much for reading! There is a lot going on in the world right now. Considering this, I really appreciate you taking the time to read this newsletter. I hope you found it helpful — and we’ll catch up more next week.
 
 
 
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