The Heart-It's Not Just A Pump
Posted on March 02, 2011 by Nicole Isler, One of Thousands of Life Coaches on Noomii.
The heart, it's a pump, it's a muscle but it is so much more than that.
The symbol of the heart is used to represent love and romance. There’s enough research to show that there is a definite reason for that. In celebration of American Heart Month let’s take a deeper look at what role the heart plays in our body, our health and wellbeing, beyond cholesterol and heart rate.
The heart has captivated interest all through history. Aristotle identified the heart as the most important organ of the body, the first to form according to his observations. He went so far as to describe it as the center of vitality in the body.
Back in second century A.D. Galen wrote common ideas about the heart being the source of the body’s innate heat and as the organ most closely related to the soul. He also observed carefully many of its unusual physical properties. “The heart is a hard flesh, not easily injured. In hardness, tension, general strength, and resistance to injury, the fibers of the heart far surpass all others, for no other instrument performs such continuous, hard work as the heart.”
Leonardo, with his incredible ability to draw, observed the heart with a great deal of accuracy. He stated, “The heart is of such density that fire can scarcely damage it.” The heart, as Master Nicolaus observed in the late twelfth century, was the primary “spiritual member” of the body, that it was the seat of all emotions.
It was once thought that emotions were purely mental expressions sent out by the brain. Emotions are really your internal guidance system expressed through your physical body. Emotions have as much to do with the heart and body as they do with the brain. They allow you to monitor and identify what you are thinking by what you are feeling. The heart plays an important role in this emotional experience and ultimately your health and longevity.
According to Dr. Rollin McCraty of the Institute of HeartMath the heart actually sends messages to the brain. Does that mean your heart can sense your emotional state? The heart is in a constant two-way dialogue with the brain – our emotions change the signals the brain sends to the heart and the heart responds in complex ways. Emotions create a chain reaction in the body that connect the thinking to the feeling and are then expressed in the physical body.
On the negative side, as we experience emotions such as anger, frustration, anxiety and loneliness, it causes our heart rhythm patterns to become more erratic. These erratic patterns are sent to the emotional centers in the brain, which the brain recognizes as negative, stressful feelings. These signals create actual feelings we experience in the heart area and the body. The erratic heart rhythms also block our ability to think clearly. Stress hormone levels increase, blood vessels constrict, blood pressure rises, and the immune system is weakened. If we consistently experience these emotions, it can put a strain on the heart and other organs, and eventually lead to serious health problems.
Reports show that living in a pro-longed state of stressful feelings and loneliness may increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In fact, people who feel lonely are many times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those who have strong emotional connections to others. Approximately 20% of patients that suffer a heart attack also suffer from depressing, negative thoughts. For someone that suffers from loneliness, getting through the day becomes more important than living a long life when you feel you have no one else to live for or share life with.
Risk of dying within six months following a heart attack could be four times greater if someone remains depressed and lonely. Heart attack survivors are discovering there’s more they need for recovery beyond healthy changes in diet and exercise. Clearly, companionship plays a vital role in our health, wellbeing and longevity.
Sudden deep feelings of despair have even caused some people to experience “The Broken Heart Syndrome”. A person receives word that a loved one has died, they become instantly distraught. The person feels as though they are suffering from a heart attack, when actually the sudden emotional stress triggers a severe but reversible heart muscle weakness that only mimics a heart attack. This condition is “Stress Cardiomyopathy” and is called “The Broken Heart Syndrome” or the “Love Trauma Syndrome”. First described in Japan 15 years ago, Broken Heart Syndrome occurs because reactive trauma floods the body with adrenaline and similar stress hormones, which over-stimulate the nervous system and stun the heart muscle.
On the brighter side, when we experience emotions like love, gratitude, appreciation and compassion, the heart produces a very different rhythm. It’s a smooth, wavy pattern that looks like gently rolling hills. Harmonious heart rhythms, which reflect positive emotions, are considered to be indicators of cardiovascular efficiency and strength as well as assisting nervous system balance. When the brain knows the heart feels good it often creates a gentle warm feeling in the area of the heart. Shifting out of stressful, fear based emotional reactions to your love based emotions have a profound positive effect on your cardiovascular system and your overall health. So yes, it appears there is a link between your heart, your health and your emotions.
Love is a positive high frequency emotion which can heal and help us overcome obstacles. Studies of the heart’s rhythms have discovered that when we feel love, or any positive emotion such as compassion, caring, or gratitude, the heart sends messages to the brain and secretes hormones that positively affect our health.
A number of studies have provided insight into understanding how the activity of the heart is indeed linked to our emotions, our health, vitality and well-being. In one study at Yale, men and women who felt the most loved and supported had substantially less blockage in their coronary arteries. Another study at Case Western Reserve University studied almost 10,000 married men and found that those that answered “yes” to the question “Does your wife show you her love?” had significantly less chest pain. Researchers at Duke surveyed men and women with heart disease, those who were single and lacked confidants were three times as likely to have died after five years.
Relationships of any kind, and feeling connected to others has a powerful influence on our wellbeing. Positive emotional connections with other people enhance not only the quality of our lives but also strengthen our basic survival. Feelings of love and intimacy are at the root of what makes us well and when in lack, what makes us sick.
Laughter is another friend of the heart. You actually reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack when you include humor in your daily life. Laughter produces Endorphins, "natural endogenous morphine-like substances, or simply put, your body’s natural pain killer. Endorphins are associated with the feeling of bliss and help us “bond” with other people. Laughter really is the best medicine. That would explain why happy people are typically the healthiest and resist illness that others seem to “always come down with”. There’s something to be said for positive thinking.
If the emotional heart is happy, in a high positive frequency, the physical heart will generally be healthy as well. Heart disease stems from emotional problems that manifest in the physical body. All illness begins at the soul level, moves to the emotional, then manifests in the physical.
Nothing heals better – emotionally – biochemically – physically and mentally than love. The best love for healing – is balanced love with compassion, acceptance, and understanding. It is a spiritual and emotional high and is more powerful as it grows. Yes, Love is actually real “medicine”.