The Anxious Heart: And Its Affect on Your Health (Dr. Sarah Kent, ND)
Our heart starts beating when we are about 6 weeks of development in the womb. It grows to an average of 1.2 pounds and beats roughly 100,000 times a day moving about 38.3 million gallons of blood over that average lifespan (1). Throughout heart health month we’ve been reminded of ways to keep our heart healthy in some of the following ways.
1) Decreasing inflammation using good oils, a balanced diet with loads of green vegetables & fiber.
2) Maintaining proper heart function using aerobic exercise
3) Decreasing risk factors to cardiovascular disease such as smoking cessation
What I would like to focus on is the effect of the mind on the heart as heart health month wraps up. When our thoughts or way of navigating through our life are saturated in fear, worry, constant rush, we force our heart to respond to this need.
The anxious heart is one that is responding to stress hormones that are working to increase its’ rate and contractility, trying to push more blood through the body to working muscles. The purpose is to feed the muscles so they can physically respond to the anxiety-provoking stimulus. Ideally, the body would work to overcome this stimulus and we would go into a relaxation phase, recover and rest. Often this isn’t happening as we pile and layer and soak ourselves in worry and frustration trying to do it all and be our best. Years of this will affect hormones, cardiovascular function and may lead to anxiety.
Anxiety and its effects on the heart are also reflected in the philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine regarding the heart. The heart being that which houses the mind, impacts sleep and is implicated in taste, digestion and the experience of joy. Stress on this organ can lead to such things as heart palpitations, insomnia, anxiety, and fatigue (2).
To help your heart respond to the effects of anxiety, worry or stress I challenge you to work on the following 2 things:
1) Rest. This includes taking time after stressful occurrences before jumping in to the next and avoiding dependence on stimulating substances like sugar and caffeine that create that same stimulating effect on your heart that stress / anxiety do.
2) Become cognizant of you thoughts. Are they worry / fear based? Are they rapid, repeating? Can you slow them down? Can you make them more affirmative?
Remember, the heart responds to your thoughts among many things. Calming the mind may just be an edge you need to help support it
1) Maffetone, P. The Book of Health and Fitness. Skyhorse Publishing; USA 2012
2) Kassam N. CCNM Course Notes TCM. 2012. Toronto Canada