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Feb
13

A Happy Heart Is a Healthier Heart

St. Valentine’s Day is the 14th, so let’s get to the heart of the matter. I need to tell you something important about your health.

No doubt, you are familiar with the stylized symbol of the red heart, the universal symbol for Valentine’s Day and romantic love. The shape of the heart can be seen on Valentine’s Day cards, on candy boxes, and other symbols of love representing passion and strong emotion.  The heart is, in some cultures, considered the seat of human emotions, or the seat of the soul.

The color red symbolizes blood, which is the essential life fluid that carries oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. We know that the human heart is a living, dynamic community of millions of hardworking cells that doesn’t rest until the day we die.

Modern science tells us that the real seat of human emotions is located within the limbic system at the core of the brain, not the heart.  But often language betrays science and reverts to an earlier, more primitive understanding of the heart’s symbolic role. For example, we use expressions like “my heart beats for you,” or “my heart is broken.”  Sometimes we say things like, “he has a heart of stone (emotion-less),” or “she has a heart of gold (goodness).” Whenever we say things from the heart, we are being honest and true.

So what I am about to say comes from my heart to yours.

Depression can adversely affect your heart.

A study in The Journal of the American Medical Association supports this statement.  It shows that an abundance of negative emotions (like anger, envy, worry) literally doubles the risk for ischemia, a condition characterized by an insufficient blood supply to the heart, compared to those who have more positive emotions.  There is much more research about this topic.  But for now, another way to say this is, “A happy heart is a healthier heart.”

There is also a lot of research about depression and heart disease going together, like companions.  It’s not a healthy relationship.

An article on Web MD states that “depression can break your heart.” We don’t fully understand which comes first…depression or heart disease.  It appears that one can lead to the other.

The article states that “depression is an important risk factor for heart disease along with high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure. A study conducted in Baltimore, MD found that of 1,551 people who were free of heart disease, those who had a history of depression, were 4 times more likely than those who did not to suffer a heart attack in the next 14 years.”

The Dennis H. Jones Living Well Network is in the business of assessing and   preventing the effects of depression.  If something like stress or depression is standing in the way of your happiness, call the Front Porch at 901-762-8558.  A counselor will talk to you and assess your thoughts and feelings to determine if you need professional help for depression.  Your heart will thank you for it.

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=21761

JAMA, 277 (1997): 1521-6. E Gullette et al., “Effects of Mental Stress on Myocardial Ischemia during Daily Life”.*

Written by:

Myra Bennett, D.Min, LCPT