Jennifer Allen: Heart Health Awareness month

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VALENTINE’S DAY may be over, but don’t pack away the love hearts just yet. You see, February is Heart Health Awareness month, so direct some of that love at yourself and take a moment to appreciate the great work your heart does.

  • Your heart beats about 115,000 times each day.
  • Your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood every day.
  • Your heart is one of the hungriest users of Co-enzyme Q 10 in your whole body

It certainly is a busy centre of activity which never gets a day off. All the more reason why rest and relaxation are so important. You want your heart to be as coherent as possible.

Every stress, from getting cut off in traffic, watching 24-7 news, to fighting with your kids, your spouse or your in-laws, or worrying about how you’re going to pay your next bill, all of these jolt your heart out of coherence.

That’s because, your heart and your mind are in constant communication and how one is feeling will impact on the other. Yes, we know the medulla, in the brain, governs involuntary processes throughout the body, heart rate and breathing amongst them.

But there are just as many, if not more, signals going from the heart to the brain. So the types of stimuli you surround yourself with have  a measurable effect on your heart health.

Have a quick think about everyday things you may or may not do that influence your heart health:

  • Consuming excessive amounts of salt, sugar, caffeine and cheap fats
  • Engaging in arguments, little or large, on a daily basis
  • Using online content to switch off, such as spending time on social media, or watching drama on TV for that matter
  • Going for a walk or getting some type of exercise each day
  • Listening to uplifting music or reading inspirational content

You see how simple choices can tip the scale towards good heart health or bad.

How often do you feel frustrated, powerless, worried or fearful? We know that it’s perceived stress which upsets homeostasis in our bodies. In other words, whether a situation is actually stressful or not, is immaterial.

But if you perceive it as stressful, that’s what throws your health off balance. In our modern world, this is particularly toxic, as a lot of the stressors we encounter are online. Think of cyber attacks and online bullying.

While it is hard to see how that looks in our real world, our body reacts just as it would to an immediate physical threat. But there is no direct outlet for that surge in stress hormones.

The heart becomes more incoherent the more of these stressors we are expoed to. Drip-feed enough of these into our daily routine and we start to feel like we are constantly under attack.

So what should you do? For a start, bring it back to basics. Plug out several times throughout your week. Look up, breathe in and take a  moment to notice your surroundings. Get outdoors, particularly around plants.
If that’s not an option, can you bring some plants inside? Exposure to living, green things is therapeutic for the heart. Exposure to natural daylight regulates your body clock and this in turn helps to create that all-important heart coherence.
Regardless of whether you have a heart pathology or not, we can all benefit from nourishing the heart through our environment. Laughter, for example, releases immune boosting hormones which reduce inflammation, boost immunity, increase longevity and support a healthy cardiovascular system.
We know that people who may have  a less than ideal diet but have a cheerful disposition develop less health problems to begin with and have better recovery outcomes when they do become sick.
The good news is that so many of these factors are within your control. You decide what you eat, how you talk, who you choose to spend time with, how much sleep you get and how active you are.
Even if for some reason being physically active is not an option for you, at least spend time focusing your attention on how it would feel to go for a walk, perform a yoga move, dance, swim and so on.
Your brain doesn’t distinguish between what you can imagine when you really focus your mind and what is actually happening in your environment.
So choose your thoughts carefully! Don’t overlook toxic load in terms of pesticides, plastics in your clothing, furnishings, food packaging and chemical dyes, preservatives and additives in your food, pharmaceuticals, alcohol and street drugs.
Can you see how the cumulative effect of all of these may have a detrimental impact on the extraordinary work your heart carries out each day?
Just because it’s out of sight, doesn’t mean it has to be out of mind. Gratitude is powerfully beneficial for the heart. Why not start by being grateful for your heart itself?