Ever thought about how closely your heart and brain are connected? It’s not just poetry; it’s biology!
Recent research has unveiled some mind-blowing connections between the two, showing us that heart health and brain health are more intertwined than we may have imagined.
The Heart-Brain Link
Let’s talk about the heart, and no, not just as a bio-machine that pumps blood. This organ does more than keep the beat. It helps shape our emotions and personality. How? It turns out the heart has a “brain” of its own – a network of neurons, functioning like an emotional processing hub.
Scientifically, the heart's "little brain" is part of the body’s cardiac nervous system, which is involved in regulating our heartbeats and can work separately from the central nervous system. Your mood can directly affect your heart health, which suggests a role in processing memory and emotions.
Impact of Negative Emotions
When emotional stress like anxiety, depression, and anger, becomes chronic, it can spark an increase in the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. That outcome can contribute to inflammation and plaque buildup in arteries which, in turn, may lead to increased risk of heart disease.
Constant tension can lead to long-term heart problems, directly connecting our emotional state and the impact it may have on our heart health.
Positive Mental Health Benefits
All is not doom and gloom, however. Just as negative emotions can impact our heart health, so too can positive emotions. Optimism and emotional vitality, for instance, aren’t just feel-good buzzwords motivational influencers throw around. They have tangible benefits related to cardio health.
One study from Johns Hopkins found that people with a family history of heart disease who kept a more optimistic and positive outlook were one-third less likely to experience a heart attack or other cardiovascular issues within a span of five to 25 years, compared to those with a more negative outlook.
This correlation was observed even in people with multiple risk factors for coronary artery disease. Additionally, positivity in the studied population was associated with a 13 percent lower chance of heart attacks or coronary events.
What does that statistic tell us?
Take a day when you feel you could use a break. Schedule that vacation!. Explore ways to take good care of you when you feel the weight of stress or anxiety. Make time for mind-body focus - whether that’s reading, meditation, music, getting outdoors, or whatever activities help you feel balanced and positive.
Perhaps most importantly, if stress or anxiety seem to never dissipate, don’t hesitate to speak with a doctor or counselor. You are not alone and what’s good for your mind is proven to be good for your heart.
The bond between our heart and brain is a powerful reminder of how interconnected our emotional and physical health really are.
By understanding this connection, we can be more mindful of how we’re feeling - stressed or content – and we can make smart lifestyle choices. Taking proactive steps not only keeps the spirits up but also may help protect that all-important ticker inside our chest.
A happy heart and a happy mind go hand in hand for overall wellness!