How Heartbreak Causes Cardiovascular Disease
Did you know that cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined?
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States (and soon the world). Women are also more likely than men to have other conditions associated with heart disease, like diabetes, obesity and depression.
Most times, cardiovascular disease is self-inflicted through poor diet, high stress and, I would argue, the lack of loving, nurturing relationships. In this video, I explain how a loss of a partner, a bad breakup or an all-around "heartbreak" plays a role in cardiovascular heath.
Heartbreak And Heart Attacks
Cardiovascular disease is also called heart disease because it include heart attacks, strokes, and a number of other conditions affecting the structure and function of the heart. Most associate a poor diet, lack of exercise and stressful situations to heart disease, but the emotional health of a person should also be considered.
For years, doctors thought the connection between mental health and heart health was strictly behavioral: a person who was depressed found relief from smoking, drinking or eating fatty foods and therefore developed heart disease. However research has shown that people who feel lonely, depressed, and isolated are many times more likely to get sick and die prematurely from heart problems than those who have a sense of connection, community and love.
In fact, researchers at John Hopkins University discovered that sudden emotional stress could result in severe weakness in the heart muscle. Their study revealed that many people are misdiagnosed with a massive heart attack when, they have actually had a surge in stress hormones that temporarily “stunned” the heart. Researchers labeled it “broken heart” syndrome and it was more common in women.
Broken heart syndrome, also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, can strike even if you’re healthy. It is the heart's reaction to a surge of stress hormones — that can be caused by an emotionally stressful event. It could be the death of a loved one or even a divorce, breakup or physical separation, betrayal or romantic rejection.
In broken heart syndrome, a part of your heart temporarily enlarges and doesn’t pump well, while the rest of your heart functions normally or with even more forceful contractions. Researchers are just starting to learn the causes, and how to diagnose and treat it.
The symptoms are similar to a heart attack — chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, a sense of weakness. Broken heart syndrome can lead to severe heart muscle failure but, most times, it is treatable and people recover within a couple days or weeks.
The Head-Heart Connection
It makes sense a broken heart would lead to, well, uh, a broken heart but research also shows the biological and chemical factors that trigger mental health issues could increase a person's risk for heart disease.
The relationship between depression and heart disease is a two-way street. Studies have shown that people who are depressed are about twice as likely to develop heart disease, and that people who already have heart disease are three times as likely to be depressed as other people. Depression can be helped through therapy and natural supplements to make you feel better and decrease your risk of heart attack risk.
Anxiety can often cause panic attacks, which mimic heart attacks. However, research also shows that generalized anxiety disorder, characterized by constant anxiety even about mundane matters, appears to increase the risk of heart attacks. When someone is anxious, they experience an increased heart rate and blood pressure which puts extra strain on their heart.
Another extremely common symptom related to anxiety, particularly in women, is the sensation that the heart is racing or beating too fast. As with depression, therapy and natural supplements can help treat anxiety. Anxiety often stems from stress, so reducing stress can help to reduce the techniques that aim to quell the stress response can also be effective for easing anxiety.
Your body reacts to life-threatening stress with a “fight-or-flight” response. The brain triggers a cascade of chemicals and hormones that speed the heart rate, quicken breathing, increase blood pressure, activate your blood-clotting system and boost the amount of energy (sugar) supplied to muscles. All of these changes enable your body to respond to an impending threat.
Unfortunately, the body does a poor job of discriminating between grave, imminent dangers and less momentous, ongoing sources of stress.
Research does not firmly link stress and heart disease, but there’s a growing belief that it’s an additional risk factor. In 2004, The Lancet published a study that involved over 24,000 participants from 52 countries. Roughly 11,000 patients who had just had a first heart attack were asked about various forms of stress they had experienced in the preceding 12 months. Members of a control group, who were matched to the patients for age and gender but had no history of heart disease, underwent similar assessments.
The results showed that increased stress levels were a greater risk for heart attack than hypertension, obesity and even diabetes. The types of stress a person experiences may also be a factor.
Work Stress: Harvard researchers found that women with stressful jobs had a 40% increased risk of heart disease compared with their less-stressed colleagues. Even further, research has shown that women who worked overtime hours regularly (ten to eleven hours each day) had a 70% higher risk of heart disease compared with those who worked normal working hours (seven to eight hours per day).
Money Stress: Duke researchers revealed that heart attacks rose when the stock market crashed. They reviewed medical records for 11,590 people who had undergone testing for heart disease during a three-year period, and then compared monthly heart attack rates with stock market levels. Heart attacks increased steadily from September 2008 to March 2009, a bad time for the stock market.
Caregiver Stress: Women who cared for a disabled spouse for at least nine hours a week were significantly more at risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease compared with women who had no care-giving duties, according to findings from the Nurses’ Health Study. This large study followed more than 54,000 female nurses over a four-year period.
Menopause And Heart Disease
Another risk factor that is often overlooked is menopause. Menopause, and its accompanying drop in heart-protecting estrogen, increases the risk for heart disease. Early menopause (starting at age 45 or younger) is a risk factor. Researchers found in an 8-year study that women who enter menopause early were twice as likely to suffer from heart disease and stroke.
What To Do
Moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes five times weekly will strengthen your heart. Examples include walking, bicycling, dancing and swimming.
Exercise has been proven to have positive effects on blood flow and blood vessels, especially the capillaries. Capillaries are the smallest blood vessels in your body. They are responsible for transporting nutrients and wastes to and from your body's tissues. The more capillaries, the less the heart has to work to pump blood to those tissues. Research has shown that exercise helps to increase capillary density which brings more oxygen to your muscles and improves their ability to perform. Researchers have also found evidence that exercise training helps your body grow new capillaries.
Avoid unhealthy fats and trans fats. Trans fats simultaneously increase your harmful cholesterol levels and decrease your beneficial cholesterol levels. Tans fats are found in most commercially prepared foods, like baked goods, boxed foods, canned foods, frozen foods and deep-fried foods. If partially hydrogenated oil or shortening is listed on a nutrition label, the food contains some trans fats.
You should also limit the amount of animal fats you consume. Animal fats contain saturated fats and too many saturated fats can lead to unhealthy levels of the bad cholesterol that makes heart blood flow difficult.
Choose a high-protein, low fat meal, like my Wellness Solution here.
If you're worried about heart disease, eating omega-3 rich foods could reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack. 1-2 servings of fish each week is still your best choice but you can also find omega-3s in flaxseed, flaxseed oil and walnuts. Vectomega contains up 50 times higher triglyceride fish oil than other omega oil supplements because Vectomega is not fish oil. The fatty acids in wild salmon are bound to phospholipids instead of triglycerides making them more stable.
Vitamin C helps slow down the progression of hardening of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. A Danish study that followed more than 100,000 people found that those with the highest plasma vitamin C levels had significantly reduced rates of heart disease and all-cause mortality. Take at least 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day. The best option is liposomal vitamin C,but buffered vitamin C is helpful for people who experience digestion problems when taking Vitamin C. Even better, is Catie's Whole Food Vitamin C Plus drink.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3 is also known as niacin. Niacin reduces the risk of heart disease and lowers harmful cholesterol while raising good cholesterol. There's good evidence that Niacin helps reduce atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries in some people. For people who have already had a heart attack, niacin seems to lower the risk of a second one. Take 50 mg of B3 as niacinamide as part of a B-complex that contains a full spectrum of B vitamins, including thiamin, B12 and riboflavin. Activated B with SRT is the best I have found.
DMG - N,N-Dimethylglycine
Research has shown that DMG helps all cardiovascular functions by supporting normal triglyceride and cholesterol levels, reducing angina and improving circulation.
NEO40 is a custom formula that helps to naturally restore and replenish your body’s nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide, or nitrogen oxide, helps relax the arteries, which helps to regulate blood pressure and increase the amount of oxygen being delivered through your body. NEO40 helps boost the efficiency of the body’s nitrate pathway so that more nitric oxide is available when and where it’s needed.
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The statements and products referred to throughout this site have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. They are the expressed opinion of John Gray for the sole purpose of educating the public regarding their health, happiness and improved quality of relationships. Individual results may vary. Seek the advice of a competent health care professional for your specific health concerns.