Art for your Heart

Taking part in arts and crafts activities can help reduce stress and anxiety, two key risk factors for developing heart disease. 

Modern humans have been producing art for at least 50,000 years. The earliest examples of prehistoric art were made by our now-extinct cousins, Homo erectus, who used basic tools to engrave shells approximately 500,000 years ago. Whether it's to capture memories, decorate our surroundings or to make people think, we create art for any number of reasons. But an increasing number of people are turning to art specifically to improve their physical and mental health1. Here's how making and viewing art could help to improve heart health.

Our mood can have a massive impact on our heart. Stress and anxiety are two key risk factors that can affect how likely we are to develop a heart and circulatory disease2. It's normal to feel under the weather from time to time, but constant anxiety or stress can take its toll on our bodies, particularly if we turn to drinking alcohol, smoking or eating unhealthy food. Anxiety is widespread in the UK, affecting people of all ages. A 2018 study found that 40% of British adults report feeling anxious daily1. It's import to find healthy ways to deal with our anxiety and stress as they can have long-term health consequences.

Cortisol, a hormone that's released when we're feeling stressed or anxious, can increase blood pressure and cause our blood sugar levels to rise3. Over time, these are can increase our risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. So how can art help to combat this?

Making art is relaxing. It can be a way of releasing stress, dealing with our emotions and using our free time in a constructive, rewarding way. You can paint, sculpt, mosaic or weave; it's entirely up to you to decide how and when you want to give art a go. Only 18% of people make art at least once a month – many of us are pushed for time or feel too embarrassed of our artistic abilities to give art a go1. Your painting might not be a Picasso, but the final result isn't important! It's the process of making art that most people find relaxing, not the finished piece.

In recent years, there has been a surge in the popularity of adult colouring books. There are a wide range of designs to choose from, ranging from simple shapes to complex scenes that even a master artist would struggle with. They allow you to paint or draw on the move and are a great way to pass the time while getting your daily fix of creativity.

But like all hobbies, art isn't for everyone. If this sounds like you, why not try looking at art instead? Viewing someone else's art, either at home or in a museum, can still be an extremely relaxing activity, potentially lowering your chances of developing a heart and circulatory disease. Over 60% of British people have visited a museum with the primary goal of relaxing1. Looking at soothing sculptures or peaceful paintings can take your mind off of any stressful situations you're currently dealing with. There are free exhibitions in museums and galleries across the UK as well as public art installations in nearly every town and city. Take some time out of your day to view a favourite painting or discover new art. By walking around a museum or strolling around a sculpture trail, you can get heart-healthy exercise and the relaxing properties of art at the same time.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there may be some changes to your museum visit. A majority of outdoor exhibitions and most indoor art galleries and museums are now open, but you may have to book before you visit. Plan your visit ahead of time and remember to wear a mask if you're required to do so.



1 Artfund

2 British Heart Foundation

3 National Library of Medicine