The surprising heart disease danger as risky as smoking and obesity

Everyone knows that smoking and obesity put you at risk for chronic diseases… especially heart disease.

But before you pat yourself on the back for staying away from cigarettes and keeping your BMI below obesity range, there are two equally dangerous risk factors you might not have under control.

These risk factors are common among otherwise healthy people. In fact, I deal with them myself…

Anxiety and depression.

Anxiety and depression send your heart health down the tubes

A new study from the University of California, San Francisco found that people with anxiety and depression are just as vulnerable to cardiovascular health issues as people who smoke or are obese.

The study included health data from 15,000 older adults over a four-year period. Here’s what researchers determined after examining the data…

People with anxiety and depression face some huge health risks. They’re:

  • 65 percent more likely to have a heart condition
  • 64 percent more likely to have a stroke
  • 50 percent more likely to have high blood pressure

For all of these cardiovascular-related health measures, people with anxiety and depression had a risk that was right on par with people who smoke or are obese. But there’s more bad news…

People with anxiety and depression face another health risk… one that’s unrelated to cardiovascular health. They were a whopping 87 percent more likely to have arthritis. That’s a higher arthritis risk than what comes with smoking or being obese.

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Getting your mental health in check

So, it’s time to take anxiety and depression seriously if you don’t already. These conditions not only cause you mental-emotional pain, but they also have a real and serious impact on your body. And right now more are Americans than ever are struggling with depression and anxiety, so you’re not alone.

When it comes to getting anxiety and depression under control, there are a few approaches that are simple and effective…

Start by restoring gut health. Your gut (also known as your second brain because it contains an extensive network of neurons) plays a huge role in your mental health. Research shows that microbial imbalance and inflammation in your gut contribute to several mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression. So, if you want to get your mental health in check, restore microbial order and decrease inflammation in your gut through a few simple steps:

  • Taking a good spore-based probiotic. Spore-based probiotics will repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria, and they’re one of the few probiotics that can survive your gastric acids.
  •  Making sure to get plenty of fiber. Fiber feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. In fact, consider taking your probiotic after your biggest, most fiber-filled meal to ensure those healthy bacteria have the best conditions to thrive.
  • Starting on a collagen supplement. Collagen occurs naturally in your gut’s connective tissue. So, the theory goes, giving your body extra collagen strengthens your gut’s barrier and prevents leaky gut syndrome, a condition where undigested food, bacteria, and other bad stuff crosses from your gut to your bloodstream and lead to inflammation.

Additionally, consider:

  • Getting plenty of exercise. Exercise has an almost immediate anti-anxiety and mood-lifting effect. In fact, some studies show that regular exercise reduces anxiety and depression symptoms as well as prescription medication. It doesn’t take much exercise to feel a difference either. Research shows that a 10-minute walk is just as good as a 45-minute workout.
  • Taking a deep dive into your mind. I’m a big fan of getting to the root of a problem. And in the case of depression and anxiety that means examining your beliefs, thoughts, and perception of the world around you. There are two ways you can tackle the mindsets that are causing your depression and anxiety. One is cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy that encourages you to identify destructive thoughts and replace them with productive ones. Another one is mindfulness-based stress reduction, a type of therapy where the practice of present-moment awareness prevents the thoughts that create anxiety and depression from arising in the first place.
  • Reaching out to a counselor. It always helps to talk it out with someone that can offer some coping mechanisms.

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  1. Depression, anxiety may take same toll on health as smoking and obesity — ScienceDaily
  2. Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-BeingScientific American
  3. How Collagen Can Boost Your Body’s Skin, Muscle, and Gut — Healthline
  4. Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis — Clinics and Practice
  5. Exercise for Stress and Anxiety — Anxiety and Depression Association of America
  6. Cognitive Behavioral TherapyPsychology Today
  7. The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Anxiety and Aggression — New York University, Steinhardt


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and