By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

There are “clear associations” between cardiovascular disease and psychological health, according to an American Heart Association scientific statement published this week.

"When treating heart disease, we have traditionally focused on factors that we can easily measure, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels," said Glenn Levine, MD, chair of the writing committee for the new statement, professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and chief of the cardiology section at Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston. "It is harder to quantitatively assess psychological health and try to measure its impact on heart health. However, recently, more and more studies have been able to do this."

In the scientific statement, Levine and colleagues wrote about how negative psychological states or emotions (e.g., anxiety, depression, chronic stress, anger, and pessimism) can lead to poor cardiovascular outcomes. Conversely, they cited literature about positive psychological health factors (e.g., mindfulness, sense of purpose, optimism) that can improve heart health.

The authors recommended clinicians take time with patients to screen for possible psychological health issues and perhaps identify treatment that could prevent future cardiovascular health issues. Interventions include stress management and psychotherapy programs, along with meditation and mindfulness.

“Clinical cardiology visits can provide an excellent opportunity to assess psychological factors that may affect cardiac health maintenance,” the authors wrote. “Positive screens for these conditions can open a discussion about additional symptoms; the impact of such symptoms on health, adherence, and function; and referral for additional assessment and management of psychiatric conditions, if indicated.”

The upcoming March issue of Primary Care Reports will be about heart disease. For more on all this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Clinical Cardiology Alert.