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Helping the Heart Stay Healthy

The anxiety we are feeling in the current crisis could be harming our heart. For the sake of our health, let's take time to focus on the positive.

by Hanifa Menen

Heart disease is still the number one cause of death in North America. Yes, still ahead of cancer too. What you might also be interested to learn is that anxiety is the emotion that is most directly linked to heart disease, according to scientific research.

Eastern medicine has discussed for centuries that anxiety affects the heart, resulting in mental restlessness, memory loss, insomnia, and heart disease over time. The opposite effect is true as well so if a person has any heart disease (including changes in blood pressure, palpitations or angina) more anxiety, insomnia, and mental restlessness will often follow. New research is also confirming the connection between anxiety and heart health.

Anxiety Fuels Heart Disease

I believe we are fueling the known biggest health risk of heart disease with anxiety. This does and will affect our heart health from the anxiety surrounding it — which is why I titled this article as such. This virus can have an indirect and non-obvious effect on our heart health purely because the anxiety is being produced in our own minds and awareness from discussions that we are having with others. Yet there are things we can do now to help our heart health beyond the comfort of regular handwashing and distancing. 

Harness the Power of the Mind

This includes taking time to still enjoy our health! Mindful actions like handwashing may remind us about why we are being extra-careful to do this these days, but mindful attention to more enjoyable activities or thoughts will give our minds the healing time away from this anxiety and this will and does help our hearts too.

I believe we need to work with the awareness of our own thoughts to remind ourselves about the tools we carry with us every day that can help us avoid this potential new risk to heart health. This tool is the power of our minds. What are you thinking about most regularly these days? Is it producing or feeding anxiety? Can you consciously and mindfully re-direct your thoughts to something uplifting? Sometimes this may mean listening to your favourite song, watching an uplifting show or movie, or enjoying time in nature. Consciously re-directing your mind for even 15-20 minutes per day can give your mind and heart a much-needed break from this new anxiety.

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Sleep for Heart Health and Immunity

Since sleep is connected with the heart, do make sure you are getting sufficient sleeping time to help both the heart and the strength of the immune system too. Plan to go to bed earlier, keep your mind free of the stress of rushing to finish tasks or responsibilities close to bedtime, use prayer, soft music and/or meditation to calm your mind before you sleep, and most of all know that lots of good is happening all around you today and every day. Happiness boosts both brain and heart health as well as your lung and immune system health. Find things that make you smile or laugh through your day. And if you find you are unable to do these things regularly, do see a health care provider to help you move your energy into a positive place to bring about your best heart health now and for years to come!

Our immune system is definitely the focus for this virus and that is what seems to be getting the most attention at this time, but please remember that our hearts are also at risk, just not so obviously connected.

Hanifa Menen has a BSc in Neuropsychology, practiced as a Naturopathic Doctor for 21 years, and is currently a Grief Recovery and Mindfulness/Meditation Coach. She helps people recover physical, mental/ emotional, and spiritual health by getting back to consciously-joyful living. Website:https://hearthealthbrainhealth.com Blog:https://healthygrieving.wordpress.com

 

 References:

  1. Han PY, Cao ZZ, Wang RF, Xu ZH. Journal of Traditional Chin Med. 2010 Jun;30(2):93-7.The common mental problems after calamity and the TCM characteristic treatment of psychological intervention.
  2. Friedmann E, Thomas SA, Liu F, Morton PG, Chapa D, Gottlieb SS. Relationship of depression, anxiety, and social isolation to chronic heart failure outpatient mortality. Am Heart J. 2006;152(5):940, e1–8. doi:10.1016/j.ahj.2006.05.009.
  3. Easton K, Coventry P, Lovell K, Carter LA, Deaton C. Prevalence and measurement of anxiety in samples of patients with heart failure: meta-analysis. J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2015 doi:10.1097/JCN.
  4. Grace SL, Abbey SE, Irvine J, Shnek ZM, Stewart DE. Prospective examination of anxiety persistence and its relationship to cardiac symptoms and recurrent cardiac events. Psychother Psychosom. 2004;73(6):344–52. doi:10.1159/000080387.
  5. Celano, C.M., Daunis, D.J., Hrmioni, N.L., Campbell, K.A., Huffman, J.C. Anxiety disorders and cardiovascular disease. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2016 Nov; 18(11): 101.10.1007/s11920-016-0739-5
  6. Speer, M., Delgado, M. Reminiscing about positive memories buffers acute stress responses. Nat Hum Behav 1, 0093 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-017-0093PMCID: PMC5149447

 

 

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