Heart Health and Emotions
February is American Heart Month. How appropriate that is since it is also the month we celebrate Valentine's Day. The day we are supposed to take time out of our hectic schedules and spend it with that special someone who has captured our heart. Many people who don't have that someone special or who have lost someone special feel somewhat sad, left out and alone during the Valentine's Day Celebration as they reflect. I can certainly understand why they may feel that way. It is important however to focus on not becoming overly stressed or overly sad because emotions, good or bad, affect your heart health!
The Heart Feels Emotions
I have always wondered if the heart actually feels or if we feel emotions through our brain. Science for years indicated that the heart is not responsible for feelings or emotions that the brain had that covered. These opinions have evolved over the years and now the consensus seems to be that the mind, body and heart are involved with emotions. Recent studies show that a continual stream of communication takes place between our hearts and our brains. When our emotions change our heart responds. Studies show that our heart rhythm actually changes based on our emotions. If it is a good emotion our hearts produce a smooth pattern and our nervous systems are in balance. If it is a negative emotion the opposite is true. Recently, I read a book that talked about cellular memory and that all of our cells have memories (similar to muscle memory) and included in these memories are stored emotions. This book explained that memories are actually stored at images and they can affect our health negatively and most of us are even aware of it. It is not a surprise to anyone that stress, including cellular stress, is still the top culprit to heart disease, many types of cancers, and other chronic health problems.
Broken Heart Syndrome
Now that we know our feelings and emotions affect our heart, I have to talk about Broken Heart Syndrome. One day I was watching PBS and there was a show on talking about people that have actually died of a broken heart. The ER Physician on the show stated that individuals who had lost someone they loved very much, such as a spouse or a child, were so grief ridden that it actually affected their heart muscle causing them to die. This occurs more often than you think and it is known as Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy or Broken Heart Syndrome when it is caused by the loss of a loved one.
Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy actually affects more people than you would think. According to the Mayo Clinic, Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy (aka Broken heart syndrome or Stress Induced Cardiomyopathy) is caused by an extremely stressful situation that produces a huge surge of hormones that causes a part of your heart to enlarge, weakening your heart muscle, making it difficult for your heart to continue pumping. Many individuals feel as if they are having a heart attack because they feel sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, general weakness, or irregular heartbeat. Broken Heart Syndrome differs from a heart attack because when you have a heart attack there is an actual blockage of an artery. Women are more prone to this, especially after the age of 50, and many individuals who get this are prone to get it again if they have another extremely stressful situation. Broken Heart Syndrome usually corrects itself, however, for some people it is fatal partially due to complications and partially due to their emotions.
Some Facts on Heart Disease
- Heart disease kills an estimated 630,000 Americans each year and is the leading cause of death in both men and women.
- In the USA, Coronary Artery Disease is the most common type of heart disease and the risk of this can number can be greatly reduced with lifestyle changes and medications.
What can you do to improve your Heart Health
- Watch your weight
- If you smoke, quit now and limit or avoid your exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Maintain healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Get active - find out which sweaty activity you enjoy
- Eat healthy with lots of greens, vegetables, and fruits
- Talk to your doctor about taking aspirin every day if you are a man over the age of 45, or a post menopausal woman
- Manage your stress