Stress and the Heart


It is commonly understood that the catacholamines (epinephrine and nor-epinephrine) released in the stress response (even a moderate one), cause an increase in both resting heart rate and blood pressure. An increase in blood pressure over time tends to cause micro tears in the linings of the artery walls. Cortisol, commonly known as THE stress hormone, is responsible for a number of metabolic reactions associated with the stress response, including promoting an increase in free fatty acids, cholesterol and glucose into the blood (for energy…you need energy for fight or flight).  As cholesterol travels through the coronary arteries, it binds to these micro tears causing the initial and subsequent buildup of plaque, commonly known as atherosclerosis. While there are other factors associated with stress and coronary heart disease, this is a good place to begin. Stress is rampant in our American Society, and one of many signs of it is the vast numbers of people suffering from insomnia, which may also be related to heart disease. 

The renowned cardiologist Dean Ornish wrote a book titled Love and Survival. Dr. Ornish was the first researcher to prove that atherosclerosis can be reversed. His program involved physical exercise, proper nutrition, support groups (friends) and meditation (what he called the open heart meditation). As he often says, the media and the medical community didn’t want to hear about love, they wanted to hear about aerobics and broccoli. Welcome to the western mind. Its’ quite possible that love (in all the many ways it can be expressed) is the X-factor of coronary heart disease.

Stress Tip for the Day:
To focus on heart health, I would address the four areas of wellness (mind, body, spirits and emotions).  Of course, physical heart health would included healthy nutritious eating habits (e.g., Omego 3 oils, no trans-fats, etc.) as well as a routine cardiovascular physical fitness program. Heart health would also include a quiet time routine such as meditation and or guided mental imagery. To open the portals of the heart , one must regularly work on forgiveness. Gratitude is also very important: The expression of counting our blessings comes to mind (we don’t do this enough in our entitlement society). Humor (comic relief) is also very important. There is even a passage in the Bible that supports this notion, “A merry heart does good like medicine, but a poor spirit drieth the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22). Lastly, the expression of love and compassion, such as random acts of kindness (perhaps not even random) is essential. In helping others, we help heal ourselves. There is much we can do to augment the health of the heart, on all levels.
Links, Books and/or Movies Worth Noting:
Dean Ornish has a great book titled Love and Survival. I highly recommend it. I also recommend the book, Random Acts of Kindness. This blog was inspired by an interview I had for an upcoming article in the Huffington Post.
Quote for the Day:
“In the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” —Kahlil Gibran
“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden where the flowers are dead.” — Oscar Wilde
Photo For the Day
It seemed only fitting to include a photo of a water lily today. Enjoy!
Brian Luke Seaward, Ph.D. is an internationally renowned expert in the fields of stress management, mind-body-spirit healing and stress and human spirituality. He is the author of over 12 books including the bestsellers, Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water, Stressed Is Desserts Spelled Backward, The Art of Calm, Quiet Mind, Fearless Heart and Managing Stress (7e) and the newly released, A Beautiful World: The Earth Song Journals. He can be reached through his website: www.brianlukeseaward.net
© Brian Luke Seaward, Ph.D.

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