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The Be Well Podcast: Mind-Heart Connection - Bhrigu Parmar, MD, FACC

Listen in or read from the partial transcript below as Dr. Bhrigu Parmar discusses the mind-heart connection, how nutrition can affect the two, ways to improve that connection and more.

Partial transript:

Joey Wahler: Did you know your heart can affect your mind and vice versa, so we're discussing that connection between the two. This is Be Well with Skagit Regional Health. Thanks for joining us. I'm Joey Wahler, our guest, Dr. Bhrigu Parmar. He's medical Director for Cardiac Rehab and the Echo Lab at Skagit Regional Health. Dr. Parmar, thanks for joining us.

Dr. Bhrigu Parmar's headshot

Dr. Bhrigu Parmar: Thank you Joey, and thanks for having me here.

Joey Wahler: Great to have you. So first is this connection, and of course we'll get into the details in a moment, but is it something, the connection between mind and heart that you think most people are aware of or No?

Dr. Bhrigu Parmar: Well, I think it's literally on the back of all of our minds, but it's not a topic that was discussed commonly and so I'm glad we are discussing this today.

Joey Wahler: So why is it so important for people to be aware of this connection? Obviously it's to have better cardio health, but specifically what is it about learning about this connection and taking advantage of it that you think can be helpful to people?

Dr. Bhrigu Parmar: Oh, very good question. So, I'll kind of break this question into two parts here. So, how does mind affect our heart and really our health negatively and positively? So let's start with the negative part first. And so research has clearly shown that negative psychological health adversely affects the heart. So, chronic negative psychological health such as pessimism, loneliness, anger, hostility, anxiety, stress, depression, etcetera, are associated with up to a hundred percent increase risk of cardiovascular events. So not only the heart, but poor mental health is also correlative with other negative health issues, including dementia.

So it clearly is very important to avoid negative mental. The mechanism by which the negative psychological health affects the heart and overall health are manyfold and include poor habits such as eating smoking, alcohol, etcetera. And also negative psychological health increases stress hormones such as cortisol and or adrenal. So in addition to the increased, cardiovascular risk, negative mental health also impairs our ability to take care of cardiac patients because patients who have mental health issues tend to be less willing or likely to take medications because of mental health issues.

So that's kind of the effect of negative psychological health on the heart. Now on the flip side, you have positive psychological health. That includes happiness, optimism, gratitude, sense of purpose, life satisfaction. All these are, at least some of these are associated with up to 50% reduction in cardiovascular events. And so we should really all try for postive mental health in our daily lives.

Joey Wahler: Very interesting indeed. So let me ask you a couple of follow ups there based on what you just said, first, what you mentioned makes me think of a couple of sayings or phrases that we hear from time to time. One being, you're gonna give yourself a heart attack. Can people actually directly or indirectly, even if it's more of a buildup that leads to it, make that happen? Can you give yourself a heart attach?

Dr. Bhrigu Parmar: Yes. So people who are very anxious or an anxious, attack. For example, anxiety attack. They can have the heart artery become spastic, meaning it can literally narrow because of the anxiety and that can lead to a heart attack. So this is not uncommon, that's why we are discussing this topic today so that people recognize the adverse effects of anxiety and stress in our lives.

Joey Wahler: Gotcha. Also, another thing that we hear every so often is when people will sometimes refer to someone as having died of a broken heart. It might be an elderly couple where either the husband or wife passed first and the other one dies soon after, and they'll say it was because they couldn't bear to be alone and they died of a broken heart. You buy into that?

Dr. Bhrigu Parmar: Oh yes, yes. That's something we see not uncommonly actually in our practice here. it was discovered in the 1980s in Japan, and it's called broken heart syndrome. And the medical word, believe it or not, is called taka zubu. So Japanese word. And so that's what happens if some is a acute stressor in people's life. You can literally have broken heart syndrome and people in rare situations can die from that as well.

To listen to the podcast or to read the full transcript, view here.