Laura Budde's picture

The Heart of the Matter

The human heart is a complex and beautiful entity with importance that exists on a variety of levels. When we think of the words we say to someone as coming “from the heart” we make use of that term metaphorically. When considering the heart as a physical structure, an integral part of our anatomy, concepts such as eating heart healthy enter our minds. However, the heart combines the material with the immaterial and plays a very important role in how we relate with others and are able to influence our own wellbeing.

As the physical center of the circulatory system, the heart produces an electromagnetic field (EMF) extending outside the body, that can be measured up to12ft in circumference.1 This EMF is generated as myocytes, heart specific cells, depolarize with each contraction and produce a flow of electricity. Myocytes are organized so that they can interpret hormonal signals and send the information to other body systems.2,3

This information can come in the form of the fight-or-flight response when perceived threats, such as deadlines, expectations, finances, and relationship conflicts arise. This system does not differentiate between threats to our egos and threats to our lives. Our reactivity causes a variety of physiological changes that can damage the cardiovascular system. These include an increase in blood pressure, the stickiness and plumpness of blood platelets, and an increase of stress hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol that prompt the body to move fat stores into the bloodstream, raising cholesterol and increasing the risk of heart attack. 2,3 Over time these perceived threats shift our internal baseline to being more on edge and lead to a lower level of heart rate variability (HRV).4

Our responses to stress can be altered, cynicism can be overcome and patterns of energy can be altered to promote a trusting, healthy heart. Cardiac coherence involves reestablishing our internal baseline to bring about balance in our lives and increasing our HRV.4 Rhythms and patterns can be influenced by practicing conscious awareness of our emotional state and shifting our thoughts and emotions to more positive ones. This can be done through acquiring skills of self-regulation to increase coherence and reestablish wholeness, activating a feeling of calm. Breathing exercises, massage, meditation, and yoga are all beneficial practices to assist the body in reestablishing a more peaceful internal baseline. 5 Evidence suggests that learning to overcome hostility and developing positive social connections can reduce the risk of CVD and improve quality of life.6

It is of utmost importance to slow down and consider the effect that our energy has on our own experience on Earth as well as on the lives of everyone we interact with. Through developing a peaceful demeanor, mental processing improves and even more challenging moments can be encountered with a lowered stress response.3 The heart functions as more than a physical structure and it is our task to guide our hearts toward bridging the multitudes of our being.   

 

 
References
  1. Burleson KO, Schwartz GE. Cardiac torsion and electromagnetic fields: the cardiac bioinformation hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2005;64(6):1109-16 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15823696 DOI:10.1016/j.,ehy.2004.12.023
  2. Goleman D, Gurin  J. Mind Body Medicine, How to Use Your Mind for Better Health. New York: Consumers Union of the United States; 1993:66-83.
    1. Holt-Lunstad J, Smith T, Uchino B. Can Hostility Interfere with the Health Benefits of Giving and Receiving Social Support? The Impact of Cynical Hostility on Cardiovascular Reactivity During Social Support Interactions Among Friends. Annals Of Behavioral Medicine [serial online]. May 2008;35(3):319-330. Accessed January 26, 2014.
    2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. Meditation [monograph online]. 2013. http://ezproxy.chatham.edu:2877/databases/hw/meditation.asp Accessed January 26, 2014.
    3. McCraty R, Zayas M. Cardiac coherence, self-regulation, autonomic stability, and psychosocial well-being. Frontiers in Psychology. September 2014; 5 (1090) Doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01090.
    4. Anderson J, Taylor A. Use of Complementary Therapies by Individuals With or at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease: Results of the 2007 National Health Interview Survey. The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing Iss: Vol. 27(2), March/April 2012, p 96–102.
 

 

 

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