Heart Health—Detoxify Your Heart
By Fabiola Castillo
One of the most vital organs in the human body is the cardiac muscle or the heart
. Certain emotional stresses such as worry, sadness, and frustration can make you prone to heart disease
. Learn how to protect one of the most important organs in the body.
Women are well-endowed with emotions in their lives. We feel joys very intensely, and take setbacks very seriously. According to Dr. Mehmet Oz in his book You: Being Beautiful
, powerful negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, and depression have a greater impact on women’s hearts
than they do on men’s. He mentions that “men’s hearts aren’t as responsive to emotional stimuli” and that “emotion is a more important predictor of heart problems in women.” Such strong emotions can cause a woman’s blood vessels to become spastic and shut down like a boa constrictor squeezing its victim.Do you display anxiety?
Too much anxiety can contribute to high blood pressure. Signs of distress include too much sweating and tightness in the chest. You might want to try walking or yoga to calm yourself down.Do you display anger?
Anger can put excess stress on the heart
. Whenever you feel anger, blood rushes to your hands and face. This is where the old saying “he/she became red with anger” comes from. You might want to try relaxing by taking a few deep breaths, listening to mellow music, or meditating.Thinking positively
Approximately 30 percent of all heart attacks
are attributed to stressful emotions according to a research study conducted by the Landmark Interheart Study in which 24,000 people in over 53 countries were surveyed in 2004. Heart attacks rank at the same level with hypertension (high blood pressure) and abdominal fat. They all stress the heart by elevating your heart rate and inundating your body with high levels toxic hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Negative emotional stress also increases blood clotting thus contributing to the risk of heart disease
. Stress also has an indirect role in heart disease by interfering with a healthy diet, exercise, and adequate sleep according to Karina Davidson, PhD, co-director of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.Managing your emotions
Many women channel stress through anger, anxiety, and depression, and each emotion has a deep impact on the heart says Redford Williams, MD, in his book In Control
The following is a list of ways to help you cope with negative emotional stress and promote a healthier heart:
- Lift yourself out of depression Heart disease and depression are linked to each other in two ways. The first way is reactive depression in which many people suffer from depression as a result of a heart attack according to Dr. Oz. The second scenario is that heart disease is the result of depression. An increasing number of health experts find credibility in this second possibility. Research has shown that depression elevates stress hormones, which, in turn, causes platelets to clump up. Over a period of time, blood containing large packs of platelets damages blood vessels and causes the walls of the arteries to thicken up and harden. Atherosclerosis is the result. Blood containing too many clumped up platelets makes the blood more viscous or resistant to flow.
If symptoms of depression such as insomnia and fatigue persist for more than two weeks, consult with your health care provider. If needed, seek professional help from a psychologist or psychotherapist or obtain antidepressant medications from your medical doctor.
As you cope with depression, be sure to keep an active exercise schedule. Health professionals say that exercising for 30 minutes a day, five days a week feeds your brain with feel-good chemicals.
For supplemental support, take 50 or 100 mg per day of 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan). 5-HTP is a naturally occurring amino acid and a precursor molecule to a neurotransmitter called serotonin. One capsule a day can elevate your body’s serotonin levels and help get you out of the depression mode according to Judith Orloff, MD, in her book Emotional Freedom. This supplement is considered safe but is not without rare side effects which include nausea, diarrhea, headache, and low sex drive. Always talk with your health care provider before taking any supplements.
- Evaluate your anger Men and women feel the same amount of anger except that women are taught that it is socially unacceptable to yell or throw things, says Dr. Davidson. Women are likely to channel anger through gossip, sarcasm, and passive-aggressive behavior. Research scientists refer to passive-aggressive behavior as hostility. However you express your anger, you are putting stress on the heart.
As you become angry, question yourself to see if your anger is justified, says Dr. Williams:
- Is this something that is important to me?
- Is there something I can do about it?
- Is my response appropriate for this circumstance?
- Are my actions worth it in this situation?
If you answered “no” to any one of these questions, you need to calm down. Take a few deep breaths and remove yourself from the situation by doing something else. You can either meditate or listen to quiet music. If you answered “yes” to everything, then do something to change the situation. If are upset with your significant other, for instance, discuss what it was that made you mad, explain how it affects you, and ask him or her to make changes so that it does not happen again. Try to assert yourself. Do not get angered.
In close relationships such as long-time friends or spouses, it is a good idea to express your thoughts and frustrations. In a study conducted in 2007, women who held on to their emotions or opinions when they had a disagreement with their spouses had four times the risk of dying of heart disease than those who opened up and said something about it.
If certain long-term behavioral patterns have an affect on your ability to express or deal with your anger issues, seek a cognitive behavioral therapist who can assist you in breaking them.
- Enhance your calm That part of the brain that causes you to worry and have anxiety is called the amygdala. The amygdala raises your level of alertness whenever you are in danger. For women, they are programmed to worry. They worry all the time especially when it involves the safety of their own children. When anxiety runs wild, blood vessels open up, blood pressure goes up, and heart rate elevates…..classic sympathetic nervous system response.
Anxiety can be dealt with by calming down, meditating, walking, or practicing yoga. You also want to get rid of junk food from your diet. Foods that are high in sugar and/or fat give you heart palpitations and an immediate, short-term boost in energy. This makes it difficult to enhance your calm if you are already feeling anxious. Such foods might initiate an anxiety episode.
If your job promotes continuous anxiety on your part, consider making changes in your job or find another job. People with elevated levels of work stress are 50 percent more likely than other people to undergo heart disease according to an article published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work and Environmental Health. This article defines work stress as feeling powerless to make changes coupled with high demands, low pay, and organizational injustice.
If something triggers your anxiety, seek others to help you with your tasks, says Nieca Goldberg, MD in her book The Women’s Healthy Heart Program. According to Dr. Goldberg, you should not try to do everything yourself. For instance, if cleaning the house is such a chore for you, ask your spouse or your kids to help out in the cleaning. Otherwise, choose another day to do the house work.