The heart and mental health connection

I don’t know how many of you have seen the telephone call between Prince Harry and Lady Gaga, where they spoke about their struggles with mental health. I thought it was really brave for two such prominent figures to publicly share their personal stories about battling with depression.

I’m pretty sure this will do a great deal of good in terms of casting the spotlight on an area of our health that is often left neglected until it is too late.

Similarly, a lot of people don’t pay a lot of thought to their heart rate or blood pressure… until there’s a problem. And now, new research highlights just how important it is to keep an eye on your heart health – in doing so you might just protect your mind in the process.

A recent study reviewed data from over 1.8 million men over the course of more than 40 years and found that men with high resting heart rates (82+ bpm) and high blood pressure at age 18 were more likely to develop serious mental health disorders like depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and even schizophrenia.

Of course, this study doesn’t say that high blood pressure causes mental health issues; it only shows a correlation between the two conditions. But if you ask me, the real culprit both these conditions have in common is inflammation – your body’s a normal immune response to infection or damaged tissue.

The problem is: Stress, environmental toxins, and a processed food diet packed with chemicals and allergens have pushed our immune systems into complete overdrive. And when that happens, inflammation runs rampant.

In fact, inflammation has also been linked to seasonal allergies and mental illness, so it comes as no surprise that there is a connection between potential health problems of your heart and your head.

So, if the root cause of high blood pressure, seasonal allergies and mental health issues is inflammation, then I have good news for you.

There is a safe way to reduce inflammation and protect your heart (which in the long run will also help protect your mind).

In another study, researchers recruited 65 middle-aged men with coronary artery calcium (CAC) scores of 10 or more. The CAC score is a way of measuring the amount of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries, which determines your risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD). Calcified plaque (arteriosclerosis) in the coronary arteries is your body’s response to chronic inflammation.

The researchers then gave the men a placebo or a combination of Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and garlic extract for one year.

At the end of the year, the men who received the placebo had four times more arterial plaque and their C-reactive protein (CRP) levels also went up. CRP is a marker of inflammation, which is one of the primary causes of plaque build-up.

The men who took the garlic extract and CoQ10 supplements showed a reverse in both arterial plaque and CRP.
CoQ10, of course, is the super-antioxidant that repairs free radical damage to the heart muscle. Alternative doctors, who specialise in natural medicine, have known about the heart-health benefits of garlic for eons. More recently, research shows that red blood cells convert garlic components into a molecule that reduces inflammation.

So, there you have it: Protect your heart, protect your mind

To a healthier life,

Thomas Smith