According to the HeartMath Institute (www.heartmath.org) the heart sends more messages to the brain than the brain sends to the heart! Research in the last 20 years shows that the heart’s electromagnetic field is 50 times stronger than the brain’s and our hearts contain an intelligence that we need to tune into and focus on more in our lives if we want overall health. Heart health comprises many facets, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual and none of these should be ignored to obtain optimal health and relief from stress, worry and anxiety. Chronic stress and anxiety, which many of us suffer from in today’s fast paced world, lead to increased levels of cortisol and eventually the frontal cortex of the brain starts to shrink. This is responsible for reasoning, compassion and decision making so when we are stressed, we are not making good clear decisions for our health and wellbeing.
There are some other things that affect our hearts negatively. These are: holding onto anger, resentment and other negative feelings, smoking, lack of exercise, processed and fatty foods, overwork and lack of joy in life.
So what can we do to enhance the function of our hearts and live a more heart-centred life? According to the HeartMath’s research, the more we tune into our hearts, the more we can slow our heart rate down, decrease cortisol and increase DHEA, the anti-aging hormone. Try this simple technique from their programme:
- Take your attention to your heart.
- Breathe slowly in and out of your heart.
- Allow a positive feeling in your heart such as ease, appreciation, gratitude or love. For example, imagine a special place where you feel peaceful. Beneficial hormones are released, your immune system improves, and every cell benefits!
The more often you can do this, the more beneficial effect on your whole body.
Lots of foods also help to nourish our hearts, decreasing our risk of a heart attack and decreasing bad cholesterol.
The most important of these are:
- Wild caught fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and trout which are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Organic nuts such as Almonds and Walnuts which contain healthy fats, magnesium and vitamin E.
- Organic Blueberries, cranberries and raspberries, full of anthocyanins and phytonutrients.
- Flaxseeds (freshly ground is best), high in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Red wine and grapes for the resveratrol, an antioxidant that protects the heart from damage.
- Red, yellow and orange organic veggies for the carotenoids, fibre and vitamins.
- Organic Tomatoes for the lycopenes, another wonderful antioxidant.
- Organic Spinach, kale and other greens for the magnesium, iron and calcium.
- Organic Asparagus, high in folate, fibre and beneficial hormones.
- Organic Broccoli for the folate, vitamins and minerals.
My favourite mineral for the heart would have to be magnesium. Paul Pitchford in Healing With Whole Foods says that magnesium allows calcium to function properly in the tissues of the heart and that it restrains the “anxiety peptide” (amino acids in the brain that contribute to anxiety). Green foods like chlorophyll, Barley Grass, Wheat Grass, kale and Spirulina are good sources of magnesium as are nuts and whole-grains.
The absolute best herb for the heart is Hawthorn Berries. It can be recommended for balancing both high and low blood pressure as it can dilate the coronary blood vessels and slow down the contractility of the heart muscle. It has a tonifying effect on the vascular system. A teaspoon of the dried berries can be taken as a tea two to three times a day.
Intuitively we have always known the importance of our heart. We say things like “have a heart”, “speak from your heart”, “get to the heart of the matter” and “put your heart into it”. Practicing some simple techniques from the HeartMath Institute, including foods to nourish the heart, exercising regularly and letting go of old emotional hurts and resentments will help us to live a more healthy, heart-based life.