Scientists at the University of South Australia have discovered another reason why society should pay greater attention to mental health: it is closely linked to blood pressure and heart rate variations.
A new study published in BioMedical Engineering demonstrates a connection between mental illness and blood pressure, which may result in cardiovascular disease and organ damage.
Researchers at UniSA and Dr. Renly Limand, a Malaysian university, claim there is evidence that mental illness has a detrimental effect on the body''s autonomic functions, including blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and breathing.
According to Dr Lim, we reviewed 12 studies on people with anxiety, depression, and panic problems and discovered that, regardless of age, mental illness is significantly associated with increased blood pressure fluctuations during the day.
We also found that for mentally ill individuals, their heart rate does not adapt to external stressors as it should.
Contrary to what many people believe, a healthy heart isn''t one that hits like a metronome. Instead, it should adapt to meet environmental and psychological challenges. A constant decline in heart rate is a sign of good health.
People with mental illness are often affected by a reduction in heart rate variation (HRV) and shows that the body''s stress response is inadequate, exacerbating the effects of chronic stress.
HRV is more complex than a person heart rate, which is how many times a heart beats in a minute that is usually consistent. It is the time between two heartbeats, which should be changed according to external stressors.
What we aim for is not a constant change in heart rate, but a high heart rate variation. This is achieved through a healthy diet, exercise, low stress, and good mental health.
When a person''s body is in fight-or-flight mode, easily stressed and common in people with chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular and mental health difficulties.
While significant blood pressure variations during the day are unlikely to be beneficial, at night, the systolic pressure should decrease by between 10 and 20% to allow the heart to rest. According to researchers, blood pressure does not drop sufficiently in people with mental health problems at night.
The reduced dipping below 10% may be caused by many factors, including autonomic dysfunction, poor sleep quality, and altered circadian rhythms that regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
According to Dr Lim, the conclusion from this study is that we need to pay more attention to the psychological effects of mental illness.
It is a massive global ache, affecting between 11 and 30% (one billion) of people across the world. Mental illness can also affect the development of heart and blood pressure regulation, therefore early therapeutic therapy is essential.