I was intrigued when I read the title of a recent TED Talk that claimed that emotions actually change the shape of our hearts.
Cardiologist and author, Dr. Sandeep Jauhar, called on the medical profession to acknowledge the critical role emotions play in coronary health.
He went on to state that although the heart is commonly associated with love, it is not the source of love. He explained that the heart does not generate our feelings, but is responsive to them. And that is why the state of our emotional health is so important to our overall wellbeing.
As examples, he showed how fear and grief set off a cascade of changes such as pinching the shape of the heart muscle, speeding up the heart rate, contraction of blood vessels, and increasing blood pressure – all of which can result in damage to the organ.
The above are all triggers that occur in what is commonly referred to as ‘broken heart syndrome’, a biological event that can cause ‘death by grief’. On the other end of the scale, emotions such as joy and happiness create opposite changes in the heart that support healthy functioning of the organ.
All of these observations have led to studies with some surprising results. The one that caught my interest the most was ‘The Lifestyle Heart Trial’, published in 1990 in The Lancet, a UK science publication.
In it, the subjects, all living with coronary disease, were divided into two groups: the control group, who received regular allopathic practices, and the lifestyle group, who were put on a program of vegetarian diet, moderate exercise, stress management techniques and a social support network.
The results were undisputable. Although diet and exercise played a role in slowing the progression of coronary disease, the prevalent decider was stress management techniques and social connection. Those who receiving loving touch experienced less aortic disease than those who didn’t.
Dr. Jauhar concluded his talk with sharing that over the last 10 years the decline of coronary disease has slowed, at the same time the external stressors of modern life have increased.
It’s time we take stress management seriously. Our lives depend on it.
You can watch Dr. Jauhar’s full 15-minute talk here.
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