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How Mental Health Can Impact the Risk of Heart Disease


How Mental Health Can Impact the Risk of Heart Disease

TUSTIN, Calif., February 15, 2022 – When it comes to decreasing the risk of heart disease, lifestyle choices such as exercise and a healthy diet are often the most talked about, but medical providers at Families Together of Orange County, a nonprofit community health center, are educating patients and the community about the intersection of mental health and heart health.

According to medical experts, suffering from mental health concerns over a long period of time can lead to physical reactions in the body such as an increased heart rate, high blood pressure, rapid breathing, and increased levels of cortisol – all which impact heart health. More specifically, depression and anxiety have been linked to heart health and contribute to negative lifestyle behaviors that increase the risk of heart disease.

At Families Together of Orange County, a nonprofit community health center with locations in Southern California, doctors use an interdisciplinary approach where medical providers work with mental health experts in the organization’s Behavioral Health Department to help address any suspected mental health concerns that may affect that patient’s overall health. This approach has helped 30 individuals get treated for medical and mental health concerns in less than a year.

Yvette Visconte, Clinical Director of Behavioral Health at Families Together of Orange County, comments:

“People who are battling with mental health will sometimes engage in maladaptive coping mechanisms such as smoking, not exercising, forgetting to take their medication, drug use, and other behaviors which can increase the risk of heart disease. So, as an organization, we make sure to all work together to help give the best treatment to each patient, and whenever a medical provider suspects that the patient should be seen by our Behavioral Health Department, it’s an easy transition right on-site.”

But for lower income populations, access to mental health and medical resources can be poised with obstacles such as language and cultural barriers, lack of access, or lack of  health insurance. And in communities of color, they are reportedly 50% less likely to seek care for mental health concerns compared to White communities. Community health centers like Families Together are helping to bridge that gap with education, outreach, and cultural and language familiarity.

“Social determinants of health are major factors that can impact heart health. Lack of resources to seek medical attention, for example, can cause long-term damage. By helping to identify mental health concerns in medical patients and medical concerns in mental health patients, we’re opening a door for many families and individuals to get the care they need.”

In honor of American Heart Month, Families Together of Orange County is promoting heart health all throughout the month of February. It is providing education and outreach materials to its patients and the community free of charge. It recently released a list of tips and recommendations for keeping a healthy heart, which can be found on the community health center’s blog in English and Spanish here

About Families Together of Orange County Community Health Center

Since 2003, Families Together of Orange County Community Health Center (FTOC) has proudly served the Orange County community with a myriad of health services while providing a welcoming, multi-lingual and patient – centered medical home to all. FTOC is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, FQHC look-alike, a member of the Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers and the California Primary Care Association.

Please visit www.familiestogetheroc.org for more information on Families Together of Orange County and for the latest updates.


For interview requests and further information, please contact Cassie Rossel