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Here’s How Heart Rate Can Affect Your Health

Have you ever thought of something and felt your heart rate go up?

Usually this happens if the thought causes you to get angry, irritated, annoyed or nervous.  When this happens, scientists are finding that decision making, mood, immune system function and the health of your entire body can become compromised.

A leading research group called The Heart Math Institute has paved the way for assessing Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and its effects on the way the body operates.  Their research has shown that the heart is far more than a pump.  It actually sends messages to the brain and in many ways, directs it.

The following is taken from a Today Show interview with Dr. Rollin McCraty, the Director of Research at The Heart Math Institute.  It’s worth the read.


 An appreciative heart is good medicine

Psychologists once maintained that emotions were purely mental expressions generated by the brain alone. We now know that this is not true — emotions have as much to do with the heart and body as they do with the brain. Of the bodily organs, the heart plays a particularly important role in our emotional experience. The experience of an emotion results from the brain, heart and body acting in concert.

The Institute of Heart Math, a research center dedicated to the study of the heart and the physiology of emotions, has conducted numerous studies identifying the relationship between emotions and the heart. A number of their studies have provided new insight into understanding how the activity of the heart is indeed linked to our emotions and our health, vitality and well-being.

Emotions and the heart

Recent Heart Math studies define a critical link between the heart and brain. The heart is in a constant two-way dialogue with the brain — our emotions change the signals the brain sends to the heart and the heart responds in complex ways. However, we now know that the heart sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. And the brain responds to the heart in many important ways. This research explains how the heart responds to emotional and mental reactions and why certain emotions stress the body and drain our energy. As we experience feelings like anger, frustration, anxiety and insecurity, our heart rhythm patterns become more erratic. These erratic patterns are sent to the emotional centers in the brain, which it recognizes as negative or stressful feelings. These signals create the actual feelings we experience in the heart area and the body. The erratic heart rhythms also block our ability to think clearly.

Many studies have found that the risk of developing heart disease is significantly increased for people who often experience stressful emotions such as irritation, anger or frustration. These emotions create a chain reaction in the body — stress hormone levels increase, blood vessels constrict, blood pressure rises, and the immune system is weakened. If we consistently experience these emotions, it can put a strain on the heart and other organs, and eventually lead to serious health problems.

Conversely, Heart Math’s research shows that when we experience heart-felt emotions like love, care, appreciation and compassion, the heart produces a very different rhythm. In this case it is a smooth pattern that looks like gently rolling hills. Harmonious heart rhythms, which reflect positive emotions, are considered to be indicators of cardiovascular efficiency and nervous system balance. This lets the brain know that the heart feels good and often creates a gentle warm feeling in the area of the heart. Learning to shift out of stressful emotional reactions to these heartfelt emotions can have profound positive effects on the cardiovascular system and on our overall health. It is easy to see how our heart and emotions are linked and how we can shift our heart into a more efficient state by monitoring its rhythms.

Benefits come from being appreciative

The feeling of appreciation is one of the most concrete and easiest positive emotions for individuals to self-generate and sustain for longer periods. Almost anyone can find something to genuinely appreciate. By simply recalling a time when you felt sincere appreciation and recreating that feeling, you can increase your heart rhythm coherence, reduce emotional stress and improve your health.

For people who may initially find it difficult to self-generate a feeling of appreciation in the present moment, experts suggest that they recall a past memory that elicits warm feelings. With practice, most people are able to self-generate feelings of appreciation in real time and no longer need the past time reference. Dr. Rollin McCraty, director of research for the Institute of Heart Math, says, “It’s important to emphasize that it is not a mental image of a memory that creates a shift in our heart rhythm, but rather the emotions associated with the memory. Mental images alone usually do not produce the same significant results that we’ve observed when someone focuses on a positive feeling.”



Some practical steps:

As this article states, having an attitude of appreciation can be your hearts greatest protection.  With that in mind take a hard look at your thought life- is it mostly negative, or mostly positive?  Do you tend to dwell on things that make you angry, irritated or afraid?

The first step to take is to work to eliminate the negative inputs in your life as much as possible.  I mean, do you really NEED to know everything that’s “going on” in the world?  What if it makes you angry, irritated or afraid?

Is that social group really worth being part of if all you do is complain about things and negatively change each others heart rates?  Weird ways to look at things I know, but I promise that it is liberating.

Also keep in mind that slow, deep breathing along with dwelling on feelings of gratitude and appreciation can change your heart rate very quickly.  Use it often and generously in those moments where you are getting angry irritated or afraid.  And if you ever can’t think of something to appreciate, just remember how much you love this newsletter.  LOL!

Here’s to your happy, healthy heart!

 Chris Vercelli  MATm, CPT

Founder: Non-Fiction Fitness

P.S. It’s very common to have bitterness, unforgiveness, anger and other emotional pains buried inside after going through traumatic events in life.  Because of this, sometimes the things we feel now are because of things we are still holding onto from earlier in our lives.  The bible makes it very clear that God can and will take those pains from us so we don’t have to feel them anymore.  I’m living proof that its true, He’s done it for me more times than I can count.
Recently, I was asked to speak about my experiences and what the bible says about this at a local church.  If you feel so inclined, check out the recording by clicking here- The Isaiah 53 Promise

(my part starts about 1 hour and 40 minutes in so you can just scroll to it)

P.P.S. It may be unlike anything you’ve ever seen in church before so consider yourself warned…

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