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In this episode, you will learn how stress contributes to heart disease. Resources mentioned in this episode:
- 7 Day Spark
- Wellness Circle
- Submit a Question for the Show
- Guided Mind-Heart Meditation Download
- HeartMath Consultation
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How does stress contribute to heart disease? And what to do about it.
How does stress contribute to heart disease? Does stress even matter when it comes to heart disease or is it just clean living? Let's dive in - and yes, I have a lot more questions for you.
What do you think of as the primary organ? Which one came first? I'll narrow it down for you - which came first...the heart or the brain? It's a rather chicken or the egg type question, right?
If you guessed heart, you are correct! The heart develops first in fetal development - way before the mind. There is a beating heart before the brain starts to develop. While you are reading this article, I want you to think of another question - what do YOU think the number 1 risk factor for a heart attack is? And I will answer the question on down the page.
Why is the heart the primary organ and why does it matter?
Most of us have been taught in school that the heart is constantly responding to "orders" sent by the brain in the form of neural signals. However, it is not as commonly known that the heart actually sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart!
As I mentioned The heart develops first in fetal development - way before the brain. There is a beating heart before the brain starts to develop. The heart is what is considered a PRIMARY organ in the body.
What that means is that all of the data from our environment, all of the information from nature, from other people, from objects around us enters the body through the heart. Then subsequently the heart entrains the brain and there is a 2-way connection and communication happening. The heart actually directs the brain, although often it feels different if you aren’t perceptive of it.
If you think about it, when you get scared - it feels like your brain is scared and sends the message to your heart to start racing.
What actually happens is the HEART perceives the threat, sends the message to the brain, and THEN the brain sends the message back to the heart to start racing as a response to prep for fight or flight.
This communication sets into motion a cascade of events that makes everything work in harmony. But in order for this to take place and to work well, the heart has to be in what is called a coherent state or a coherent heart rate variability.
Heart Rate Variability
Heart Rate Variability is the measure of variations in your heartbeat over a specific time frame. This one of the ways heart health is measured. Coherence is akin to heart intelligence which isn’t often cultivated. It is a rhythmic or a coherent heart rate variability (HRV) that balances the nervous system and emotional state.
Science tells us that the signals the heart continuously sends to the brain actually influence the function of higher brain centers involved in perception, cognition, and emotional processing. Our hearts can also entrain the hearts of other people around us—research illustrates our hearts actually respond and are connected to the oscillations of the earth frequencies. What does that mean? The heart is basically its own brain.
Remember that coherence is like a frequency wave. For example, when you are mad, or angry or frustrated, your heart sends out un-coherent signals, and counter to that, when you feel grateful, you are a literal beacon of a beautiful coherent signal to your brain (and the rest of your body) and also out into the world. If we aren’t in coherence, it makes everything else in our body, easier to get out of whack.
Heart Disease the #1 Killer
Heart disease is the number 1 killer of American men and women, we have lots of different ways to treat it today, from surgical to pharmaceutical intervention. In fact, I think that is why we are so nonchalant about heart disease BECAUSE modern medicine has so many ways to step in and save your life. As you have heard me say time and time again, taking medication for the rest of your life without changing anything else, even having a quadruple bypass doesn't fix it, you are simply temporarily masking the symptoms.
When I ask people about WHY, why are we having such a steep incline in heart disease - often people answer the cause in the consumption of fats. But science actually tells us that isn’t the case.
Why such a steep incline in heart disease?
I can answer it quickly for you in just a few words. But let's dig in a little more to gain some understanding.
How does fat consumption contribute to heart disease?
When you look at the steep incline in heart disease, and the consumption of fats, there actually isn’t a correlation. When people consumed more fat, they actually died LESS of heart disease. Around the 1950s and 60s, humans became obsessed with fat being so dangerous low fat really became the marching orders for everyone and with a snap, we steered away from fat. As I said, we didn’t see a decline in heart disease or cardiovascular events. Why? Probably because we have been consuming fats since the beginning of time. What we haven't been consuming is that white crystallized powder.
How does sugar consumption contribute to heart disease?
Previously, you know prior to refined sugar, we had what, maybe honey? Maybe someone tapped a maple tree? As a species, we had maybe 35g of natural sugar and now we are at about 1700g on average a week (of refined and processed sugar). Heart disease, nutritionally anyway, isn’t a fat problem, its a sugar problem.
When you processed food either directly sweetened with refined sugar or used for shelf stability instead of wild food or whole food, your body doesn’t recognize it and doesn’t know how to extract nutrients or digest the food product. In the simplest of terms, this creates a stress response, sending your body into a tailspin and having to try to use all of its energy to digest it.
On top of that, the heart is an electrical machine, so a proper balance of minerals is necessary, and if your body can’t extract the nutrients from the processed food or the mineral absorption is blocked by excess sugars - well then it can’t function as it should and eventually you land in cardiovascular disease land.
How does cholesterol consumption contribute to heart disease?
Now another common answer is that high-cholesterol causes heart disease. And that’s not really the case either, but you have likely heard it from doctors and marketing campaigns. If you want to know what your cholesterol levels really mean, check out this from a few weeks ago, How to reduce Cholesterol without medication.
Some docs are finally open to and telling people that heart disease is caused by inflammation (which is true) but they likely aren’t telling you how to manage it yet. It’s not their fault, they genuinely don’t know, they are probably telling you to reduce it without the how.
How does smoking or lack of exercise contribute to heart disease?
Another common answer to what causes heart disease is lack of movement? Or smoking? Which isn’t inherently wrong, just know that they don’t occur in a vacuum, none of the physical symptoms do. But it is true that humans were built to run, hike, carry, we were built to work physically. The human form is meant to move and now people don’t move at all and that is definitely a factor.
All of those physical causes, it's important to know and recognize that cardiovascular disease isn’t just a physical disease - which is what I am getting at here, it's also a disease that affects and is affected by the energy or emotions.
How does stress contribute to heart disease?
In the beginning, I mentioned that the heart is the input place that brings in data, it's the primary organ. The heart, records everything, like a memory in the brain, things like emotional/mental stress over the course of a person's life. So you can not smoke or drink, you can eat a beautiful bountiful nutrition diet, you can work out like a champ, but if you have emotional turmoil or high stress chronically - it will stress the heart - and ultimately lead to cardiovascular disease.
That is why it is so very important to take a holistic approach to bring the body into balance. You have to balance the emotional, energetic, and physical components to every. single. disease process.
Leading us back to...
What is the proven most frequent predictive issue for a heart attack?
More predictive than diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, or even smoking? The feeling of social isolation, or loneliness.
Yes, a FEELING or emotion is a better predictor for heart attacks or cardiac events than any of those other PHYSICAL malfunctions. Which along with supporting the physical body or your human suit as I like to say, it is also vitally important to be aware, connected, coherent in your heart. Your heart sets the rhythm literally and energetically for the rest of your body.
We know, studies prove this to us, and it's even well known in conventional medicine, that people who have heart attacks or strokes tend to sink into depression and stress after it occurs. And its equally as well know that people who are sad or depressed or have high stress have a much higher chance of having an adverse cardiovascular event.
So aside from nutrition, because there are so many avenues to talk about there, let's talk about how to support the heart and the brain or mental state together. Think of this as moving PAST standard recommendations and treatments.
Now that we know how stress contributes to heart disease...let's look at what to do about it.
Remedies to Help the Heart and Heart Disease
It's an herbal heart tonic, or strengthener. Helps the aging heart to use its blood and oxygen more efficiently and helps it to beat more efficiently. Less likely to have arrhythmias. And it grows almost everywhere in North America!
Hawthorne lowers blood pressure and evens out the heart rate. It is probably the best remedy physically best for any kind of heart condition.
On a spiritual level, Hawthorne works to put the heart back in charge as the primary organ of perception, making decisions from the heart versus the head.
Arjuna is another really great broad spectrum cardiovascular herb. Ayurvedic herb. Normalizes blood pressure, fats, rhythm, function, circulation to the extremities. Any kind of heart stuff. Red bark of the tree. The pigments are the same as the superfruits and treat tachycardia so very well.
Mothers wort or sometimes called just motherwort works to gently lower blood pressure, and gently ease palpitations or rapid heart rate and also works in the mind for anxiety and overall inflammation in the body.
Hibiscus Tea is another really great herbal treatment but its more for prevention than treatment. Reach for Hibiscus Tea if you have a family history of heart disease or even if you don't and have a high-stress lifestyle.
Heart Math is a tool I use in my practice in North Texas, and one I guide my virtual clients through with their own tools. Using HRV technology, I take a baseline reading to assess their coherence or their mind-heart connection. Then over a period of 4-6 sessions, we work through a series of exercises while monitoring to teach and ensure heart-brain coherence. heart signals have a significant effect on brain function—influencing emotional processing as well as higher cognitive faculties such as attention, perception, memory, and problem-solving. In other words, not only does the heart respond to the brain, but the brain continuously responds to the heart.
By learning to generate increased heart rhythm coherence, by sustaining this coherence and positive emotions/energy, you not only benefit the entire body, but also profoundly affect how you perceive, think, feel, and perform.
Physiologically, the coherence state is marked by the development of a smooth, sine-wave-like pattern in the heart rate variability trace. This characteristic pattern, called heart rhythm coherence, is the primary indicator of the psychophysiological coherence state, and is what the emWave Pro measures and quantifies. A number of important physiological changes occur during coherence. The two branches of the ANS synchronize with one another, and there is an overall shift in autonomic balance toward increased parasympathetic activity. There is also increased physiological entrainment—a number of different bodily systems synchronize to the rhythm generated by the heart (see figure below). Finally, there is increased synchronization between the activity of the heart and brain.
It’s important to differentiate, coherence is different than relaxation or the technique of meditation as I will share a favorite meditation technique for the mind-heart connection below.
There are fundamental physiological and psychological differences between relaxation and coherence. At the physiological level, relaxation is characterized by an overall reduction in the autonomic outflow. The autonomic outflow is how the body regulates bodily functions such as heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination, and sexual arousal. Additionally, relaxation shifts Autonomic Nervous System (the system responsible for all those unconscious bodily functions) balance towards increased parasympathetic activity (parasympathetic activity is the rest and digest or the opposite of fight or flight) you might some up increased parasympathetic activity as “relaxation.“
Coherence is also associated with a relative increase in parasympathetic activity or activity, thus encompassing what I would consider the key element of importance for the relaxation response, but is physiologically distinct from relaxation in that the system oscillates at its natural resonant frequency. This allows for increased harmony and synchronization in the nervous system and mind-heart communication rather than the depression of the signal.
The psychological characteristics of these states are also very different. Relaxation is an important but low-energy state in which the individual rests both the body and mind, typically the goal is to clear the mind or disengage from cognitive and emotional processes. Coherence is distinct because it generally involves the active engagement of emotions. Psychologically or mentally, coherence is experienced as a calm, balanced, BUT energized AND responsive. This is a state that is conducive to everyday functioning and interaction, and performance of tasks. Including tasks requiring mental alertness or acuity, focus, problem-solving, and decision-making, as well as physical activity and coordination.
What working with my HeartMath system does for you is to teach you (or your kiddo) to self activate this state of coherence. What this does (and is proven to do in children and adults) is:
- Improve listening skills
- Improve ability to focus
- Reduce fatigue
- Improve body and muscle tension
- Reduce pain
- Improve sleep
- Improve depression
- Improve digestion, heartburn, stomach upset
- HeartMath brings you into your state of optimal functioning and performance starting with the primary organ, the heart.
Adaptogens are one of my favorite categories of herbs/foods because they work by filling in the gaps for what the body needs. A way to think of an adaptogen is like a really good friend. The one that comes over to vent because they have had a terrible day, but when that friend walks in the room and sees you over the moon excited about something that has happened for you, they immediately flip the switch to joy to celebrate with you. Some examples of my FAVorite adaptogens include reishi and holy basil.
These are always a great adjunct therapy, especially on the emotional release front. Some of my favorite for the heart are Juniper, Rose,Ylang-Ylang, Lavender, Valor, and Peppermint. These also blend really nicely with the Heart Math treatment. These essential oils are beneficial to the heart and mind-heart connection on a physical and energetic or emotional level. You can diffuse these or apply them to your heart (or other pulse points) and third eye, or simply apply to your toe tips.
One of my favorite techniques for syncing up the mind and the heart is to place one hand over your heart and one hand over your forehead. Breathe in and imagine a cord connecting the two. It can look like anything you wish, for some might look like a braided rope, for others, it might look like a data cord, for even others, it could just be wisps of energy. Anything you see is perfect. Once you image the connection, you feel the breath moving between the two, the mind and the heart, the heart, and the mind, then you can feel the energy, the messages moving between the two. Finish the energy work by taking one last breath and allowing the energy to settle in your heart. This is where you make decisions from. This is where you are.
You can download a full audio mediation here:
Need more help? Be sure and check out AudreyChristie.com/work-with-Audrey to schedule a complimentary appointment.
So let’s do a quick recap.
To wrap this up, how does stress contribute to heart disease? Simple - because your heart is your primary organ of perception, sending orders to your brain to react. Remember heart disease is no joke and often the allopathic cure is as damaging as the disease, especially long term. It's important to take a yes AND approach, yes I will take the meds or the surgical intervention my doctor recommends but I will also see how I can take a holistic approach to bring the body into balance. Balancing the emotional, energetic, and physical components to achieve true healing and not depend on this medication or repeated surgeries.
You can download a full audio mediation here: