Published on February 21, 2022

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Healthy Hearts Matter

Written by Alyce Wellons, LCSW

We are coming to the close of American Heart Month and Johnston Health has continued to educate our community on cause, treatment, and prevention of heart disease--and for good reason, as heart disease is the number one leading cause of death for both men and women in Johnston County and the United States. For this reason, there is ample information about the physical aspects of heart disease, including signs and treatments. 

In recent years, there has been an increase in research and a reduction in stigma around mental health, which has shed more light on the connection between mental and physical health, including heart health. With more research and information available, we can begin to approach treatment from an integrated, full-spectrum perspective. 

Here are some important aspects of the connection between heart health and mental health, as well as tips for mental health heart care!

Tune In and Talk About It

Tune in to how you are feeling in your daily life and make note of any changes in your mood, behavior, and feelings. If you are feeling depressed or anxious, not only will those feelings affect your mood and mind, they also are likely to decrease your ability to maintain your healthy lifestyle choices. This in turn will affect your heart function and overall health. Behaviors associated with depression, anxiety, and trauma often include:

  • over/under eating
  • reduction in exercise and movement
  • increased drinking/smoking or other substance abuse
  • significant changes in sleep patterns

All of these put increased pressure and stress on heart function. So, tune in to how you are feeling, make note of any changes in your patterns and routines, and talk to your healthcare provider about any changes you are noticing.

What Sparks Joy

It has been a long, grinding challenge to live through a pandemic. Add in busy lives, jobs, children, and the obligations and challenges of daily life and it can be easy to get stressed out and even go into burnout mode. When we get into that state, we can not only cease doing things that are good for us, but also forget what we really enjoy doing. Think back to times in your life when you have been happy. What do you enjoy doing, what makes you smile, what and where in your life do you feel most like yourself, and with whom? Make a list of those people, places, and events that truly bring you enjoy and work to making room in your life for them again. A little lightness and laughter go a long way to make us feel good all over and make our hearts happy. 

Heart disease and mental health have many connections, and the process of addressing your overall health should be a top priority to create a long and healthy life. Talk to your doctor, focus on small changes, don’t ignore feelings of depression or anxiety, continue to address the stress of daily life, enlist the help of family and friends, and remember what sparks joy. These guidelines will help you support your physical and emotional heart health and live a long and healthy life!

Alyce Wellons, LCSW

Alyce Wellons, LCSW

Alyce maintains a private psychotherapy, supervision, and consultation practice and is licensed in North Carolina and Georgia. Alyce has taught nationally and internationally, been featured in professional publications, contributed her expertise to podcasts and panels, and served on numerous Boards for her profession.   

Alyce’s areas of focus are attachment, addiction/recovery/relapse, interpersonal theory, neurobiology, PTSD, trauma, and related work with individuals and couples. She has in depth training in LifeForce Yoga, Mindfully Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and Imago Therapy. 

In addition to 21+ years of training and experience in the practice of psychotherapy,  Alyce believes in the healing power of mindful presence and the respectful use of humor and laughter to connect with the wonder of life, and also navigate the difficult passages we face along the way. 

For more information visit

All in Red Heart Logo

All in Red

February is American Heart Month and with heart disease being the leading cause of death in Johnston County, Johnston Health is committed to supporting the community by offering many ways to raise awareness and support of heart health through the #AllinRed campaign throughout the month of February.

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