Psychocardiology: What Is It And What Is It For?

Psychocardiology

Medical, technological and scientific evolutions give the possibility of developing novel techniques for the prevention, detection and intervention of increasingly greater diseases and ailments. However, the World Health Organization warns of the increase in coronary heart disease as a cause of death, projecting a still rising future. Thus, the scientific eye is focused on the development of disciplines to improve the intervention of these diseases.

Coronary heart diseases are those in which the blood flow of the coronary arteries experiences irregularities, which can cause angina pectoris, myocardial infarction and even sudden death of cardiac origin. In addition to the biomedical risk factors for coronary heart disease, such as hypertension or cholesterol, science focuses on the psychological and environmental factors that may affect this disease. In recent years, the consideration of these psychological and social factors has become increasingly important, evidencing the need for multifactorial research that is not exclusively physiological or biological. This is how Psychocardiology has been developed.

In this article, We are going to talk about what psychocardiology is and what applications, techniques and uses it has to improve people’s lives and health who experience coronary and heart problems. It is important to abandon a purely medical or biological approach, to also consider the psychological, emotional and social causes of medical diseases.

What is Psychocardiology?

To begin, it is important to delimit the conceptual limits of Psychocardiology. Psychocardiology is an interdisciplinary field of study that merges psychology and cardiology. Its main objective is, therefore, to understand the relationship between mental health and cardiovascular health, and how psychological, emotional and social aspects can influence heart disease. As we have been commenting, this discipline has been developed focusing on recognizing the importance of not separating emotional well-being from physical well-being.

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Through psychocardiology, we seek to address both physical and psychological factors to provide more complete and effective health care. Psychocardiology addresses a wide range of issues, from managing stress and anxiety to promoting lifestyle changes that benefit cardiovascular health. It is recognized that emotional and psychological aspects can play a crucial role in the prevention, treatment and recovery of heart diseases.

The pioneering study on the relationship between psychological risk factors for coronary heart disease occurred in 1959 by Friedman and Rosenman, both cardiologists. These formulated a behavioral pattern associated with cardiovascular disorders: the type A behavior pattern. This pattern defines people who present an autonomic response to stress as a consequence of the activation of the Sympathetic System, being more prone to developing cardiovascular and coronary diseases. . Generally, the psychological traits associated with this pattern are: hostility, impatience, competitiveness, high need for control and helplessness.

Relationship between stress and heart disease

Keeping in mind the type A behavior pattern described above, the relationship between stress and heart disease is a central topic in psychocardiology and one of the reasons why this discipline has become so relevant in cardiovascular health care. Over time, research has provided compelling evidence that Psychological stress plays a significant role in the development and progression of these diseases.

1. Stress and activation of the Nervous System

When a person experiences stress, the body activates a “fight or flight” response that includes the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. This physiological response is designed to help the body deal with dangerous situations, but When activated frequently due to chronic stress, it can have detrimental effects on the heart and cardiovascular system.

Repeated activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for this stress response, can increase blood pressure, accelerate heart rate, and contribute to narrowing of the arteries. In the long term, this can increase the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, and other heart problems.

2. Inflammation and immune response

Chronic stress can also trigger an inflammatory response in the body. Chronic inflammation has been associated with a number of diseases, including heart disease. Inflammation can damage arteries and promote plaque buildup, a process that contributes to atherosclerosis and clogged arteries.

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Additionally, chronic stress can negatively affect the immune system, which may influence susceptibility to infections and recovery from cardiac events like a myocardial infarction.

3. Coping behaviors

Stress can also influence a person’s coping behaviors, such as overeating unhealthy foods, smoking, and lack of physical activity. These behaviors can increase the risk of heart disease and complicate management of existing conditions.

Techniques and approaches in Psychocardiology

Psychocardiology is based on a variety of techniques and approaches designed to address stress and improve patients’ cardiovascular health. These strategies have been shown to be effective in managing psychological factors that influence heart disease. Below, we will explore some of the most common techniques and approaches in psychocardiology:

1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a technique widely used in psychocardiology. It focuses on identifying and modifying negative or dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors that may contribute to stress and anxiety. Patients learn to recognize and change patterns of thinking and behavior that may increase their risk of heart disease.

2. Relaxation and breathing techniques

Relaxation techniques, such as progressive relaxation and meditation, help reduce stress and promote physical and mental relaxation. Mindful breathing techniques are also effective in calming the nervous system’s stress response and lowering blood pressure.

3. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a technique that focuses on paying full attention to the present, without judging. It helps patients develop awareness of their thoughts and emotions, which can be especially helpful in managing stress and anxiety. Regular mindfulness practice can improve emotional resilience and coping skills.

4. Patient education

Patient education is an integral part of psychocardiology. Patients learn about their disease, risk factors, and strategies for managing their health. An informed understanding of their condition can help patients make healthier lifestyle decisions and adhere to medical recommendations.

5. Coping strategies

Coping strategies help patients confront the emotional and practical challenges associated with heart disease. This includes stress management, problem solving, and developing effective coping strategies.

The importance of Psychocardiology

The importance of psychocardiology in cardiovascular health care cannot be underestimated. As medical research and practice advances, it has become increasingly clear that the mind and body are intricately connected, and this link is critical to maintaining a healthy heart.

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1. The Mind and the Heart: a close relationship

The relationship between mental health and cardiovascular health is bidirectional. Stress, anxiety and depression can increase your risk of heart disease, as well as worsen your prognosis. On the other hand, Heart disease can also have a negative impact on mental health, causing worry, anxiety and depression. This cycle of mutual influence underscores the importance of addressing both dimensions to provide complete care to patients.

2. Improved quality of life

Psychocardiology plays a fundamental role in improving the quality of life of people with heart diseases. It helps patients cope with the stress and anxiety associated with their medical condition, which, in turn, may improve their ability to follow medical recommendations and adhere to treatments. Additionally, by providing psychological support and education, Psychocardiology can help patients better understand their disease and make informed decisions about their health.

3. Reduction in the risk of relapses

The benefits of Psychocardiology also extend to the prevention of relapses in patients who have experienced previous cardiovascular events. Helps patients identify and manage modifiable risk factors, such as stress, diet and lifestyle, to reduce the chances of future cardiac events. Ongoing psychological support may be essential to maintaining a healthy and sustainable approach to life.

4. A holistic approach to healthcare

Psychocardiology advocates a holistic approach to healthcare. It recognizes that patients are whole beings with physical and emotional needs, and not simply carriers of heart disease. By addressing both mental and physical health, a more comprehensive and compassionate care environment is created which can significantly improve the quality of life of patients.

Conclusions

In summary, Psychocardiology plays an essential role in cardiovascular health care by understanding and addressing the interconnection between the mind and the heart. By doing so, it improves patients’ quality of life, reduces the risk of relapse, and advocates for more holistic and compassionate healthcare. It is important to keep in mind the influence of social, psychological and emotional factors in the development of different diseases, and advocate for interdisciplinary medicine that does not focus purely on the biological and physiological.