For years, doctors thought the connection between mental health and heart health was strictly behavioral – such as someone feeling down seeking relief from smoking, drinking or eating fatty foods. However, according to the American Heart Association, there could be physiological connections, too. The biological and chemical factors that trigger mental health issues also could influence heart disease.

“The head-heart connection should be on everyone’s radar,” said Barry Jacobs, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and director of Behavioral Sciences at the Crozer-Keystone Family Medicine Residency Program in Springfield, Pa. “It’s not just being unhappy. It’s having biochemical changes that predispose people to have other health problems, including heart problems.”

Talk with your healthcare provider about how you are feeling mentally and physically. He or she will be able to help, or refer you to the most appropriate care or provide the best place to start.