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Heart Disease: The Importance of Managing
Underlying Conditions

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease or you’ve been told by your doctor that you’re at an increased risk for it, it is important to understand what conditions negatively impact your cardiovascular health.  

There are certain conditions that increase your risk of getting heart disease, including obesity, diabetes, chronic stress, anxiety conditions, and depression. In order to prevent heart disease or boost heart health, it is critical that you work with your doctor to manage these conditions. 


Obesity and heart disease

Carrying around excess weight is linked to a higher risk of developing heart disease. (*1) This is a problem for many of us, as the prevalence of obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the Westernized world. 

The reason that obesity is believed to be related to the development of cardiovascular disease is that they share a number of similarities, including: 

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Likelihood of type-2 diabetes

It is important to note, however, that all obesity is not equal. The risk is greater for those who are obese and not physically fit. If you are obese but you work out numerous times every week, the correlation is much less pronounced. You may even be in a better situation than your skinny peers who are less active.


Diabetes and heart disease

Studies suggest that diabetes doubles, and may even quadruple, the risk of developing coronary artery disease. This increased risk is true for both those with type-2 and type-1 diabetes. (*2) 

The main reason behind this connection is damage to the blood vessels. Those with diabetes have high blood sugar levels, and this high blood glucose is implicated in blood vessel damage that paves the way for atherosclerotic plaques to form. 

If you have diabetes, working with your doctor can help you reduce your risk of developing heart disease. By eating a diet fine-tuned for diabetes and taking your meds, you can lessen the damage to your blood vessels, and with it, your chance of developing heart disease.

Depression, Chronic Stress, and Anxiety Disorders

Dealing with depression

One of the links that surprises many people is that between mood disorders, particularly depression and anxiety disorders, and cardiovascular disease. The activation of stress pathways that is characteristic of depression and anxiety disorders have been implicated in the pathogenesis of coronary heart disease (CHD). (*3) Once you have CHD, depression, stress, and anxiety have been credited with poorer outcomes.   

Chronic stress and depression have been found to correlate with increased risk of CHD independent of other risk factors, such as diabetes, smoking, and high blood pressure. This means that, even though stress and depression are tied to these other risk factors, even those who do not have these risk factors, if depressed, are more likely to develop CHD.

Closing Thoughts

We live in a time when many people think of different diseases as completely separate from one another. Yet, having certain conditions can make it more likely to develop others. The link between mood disorders, diabetes, and obesity to heart disease tells us that we must care for our entire body, including our mind, if we are serious about preventing heart disease.  

1. Obesity and prevalence of cardiovascular diseases and prognosis - the obesity paradox updated

2. Type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease: genetic and epigenetic link

3. Depression and the link with cardiovascular disease