Sunday, 29 September 2013

Power of the Heart: Positive Emotions Prolong Health

"Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease."–Hippocrates

As far back as the middle of the last century, it was recognized that the heart "overtaxed by constant emotional influences or excessive physical effort and thus deprived of its appropriate rest" suffers disorders of function and becomes vulnerable to disease (Hilton, 1863). An early editorial on the relationships between mind and heart accepted the proposition that in about half of patients, heart failure was precipitated by gross emotional upsets. Current research suggests that the progression of a number of diseases is influenced by the consequences of carrying effort beyond physiological tolerance into a condition of depletion and exhaustion that leads to dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system.

Unspecified negative emotional arousal, often described as stress, distress or upset, has been associated with a variety of pathological conditions, including hypertension, silent myocardial ischemia, sudden cardiac death, coronary disease, cardiac arrhythmia, sleep disorders, diabetes, digestive disorders, fatigue and many other disorders. Stress and negative emotions have been shown to increase disease severity and worsen prognosis in individuals suffering from a number of different pathologies. On the other hand, positive emotions and effective emotional self-regulation skills have been shown to prolong health and significantly reduce premature mortality.


Power of the Heart

Up until a few years ago, the suggestion that someone could ‘die of a broken heart’ would never have been taken literally,” says Dr. Guarneri. “Recently, however, we’ve learned that emotions resulting from grief really can affect the heart, and in turn, overall health.”

Stress, overwhelm and other emotional factors also have a significant effect on the heart, as Dr. Guarneri discusses in The Heart Speaks. The highly acclaimed book describes her journey from a stressed, overworked conventional cardiologist to one who learned to integrate “whole person” mind-body approaches such as stress reduction, guided imagery, yoga, meditation, exercise and proper nutrition into her own life and the lives of her patients—with amazing results.

“What we as physicians need to practice above all else is the art of healing,” Dr. Guarneri explains. “It is not just about ‘fixing’ patients, but about helping them learn to heal themselves, often starting with the ‘injuries’ to the heart that may have been building up over many years of stress, anger, sadness, and the like. We have the power to help patients learn to live purposefully, to embrace the joy in living and discover how to renew their spiritual and emotional health and, in turn, their physical health.”

No comments:

Post a Comment