During the month of February, we talk a lot about the heart, in terms of valentines, love and relationships, but we don’t really ever equate that to the actual heart that beats in our chests, keeping us alive. What’s interesting is that these two seemingly vastly different things – the notion of love and paper hearts and a blood-pumping lump of flesh are more connected than you’d expect. If we decide to run with this season’s theme of love and to embrace and cultivate the sentiment full-heartedly, we just might improve the health of the organ that is arguably the most important of them all.
What we know from a health standpoint is that stress and anxiety cause a lot of problems in the body. In people with generalized anxiety, studies have shown higher rates of heart attack and cardiac events. Anxiety is intertwined with the body’s stress response (fight or flight) and when there is a constant pattern of ups and downs, it can cause repercussions like high blood pressure, heart rhythm disturbances, and heart attacks. Not too mention, living under sustained stress or anxiety raises the hormone cortisol for longer durations resulting in inflammation that can damage artery linings, promote plaque accumulation and trigger blood clots. This sets the stage for future cardiac issues.