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Home Health Heart Health for Women Brain in the Heart

Brain in the Heart

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The Mind Body Connection is not Just in Your Head!

There is a physical connection between the heart and the brain. In fact they are both made up of the same types of cells. Interestingly, poets have claimed for centuries that the heart has a "mind" of its own, hinting that there is a brain in the heart. Could it be true that the heart has a brain? If so, what does this tell us about emotional stress and health concerns?

Have you ever felt a pain in your heart when you were going through a bad break up or when you were dealing with the death of a close loved one?   Technically your heart wasn't getting physically stabbed and there probably wasn't a person sitting on your chest so where does the pain come from?

Recent Research Reveals a Brain in the Heart

In the past doctors used to believe that the pain was psychological stress because they considered emotional stress to be purely psychological. They thought that people were mentally creating the pain because they were feeling like their heart was breaking. For them the brain in the heart syndrome was purely a mental state with no physical connection to the heart. Luckily, doctors have been starting to come around to the idea that emotional stress is playing a big role in causing physical heart problems.

Research over the past couple of years has shown that sudden intense emotional feelings such as grief, anger, or fear can have a direct effect on the heart and can even be fatal. They state that ongoing long-term emotional stress can actually shorten our lives by increasing the risk of heart problems or heart disease. Studies have shown that certain people are at a higher risk for physical heart damage than others because of their emotional state or even their personality type. The people who are at a higher risk are:

  • People who have a pessimistic view of the world or suffer from depression and hopelessness. They are specifically at a higher risk for heart attacks or to die from sudden heart death.
  • People who deal with chronic anxiety are at a higher risk for heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, or to die from sudden heart death.
  • People who are dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, the death of a spouse, or abuse are at a higher risk for heart attacks and heart death.
  • People with a type D personality, those unable to share emotions and have a pessimistic view on life, are at a higher risk for heart attacks.
  • People with a type A personality, those who suffer from anxiety and direct it outward as aggressive or hostile behaviors, are at a higher risk for heart attacks.
  • People who have angry or hostile temperaments are at a higher risk for heart death.
  • People who suffer from sudden acute fear, grief, or anger are at a higher risk to suffer from a stunned heart which can lead to heart death.
  • People who frequently suffer from sudden acute fear, grief, or anger are at a higher risk for sudden heart death due to abnormal heart rhythms that are life-threatening.

Doctors are still studying the physical risks that emotional stress causes. It does indeed seem that there is a brain in the heart. There are even some doctors who don't believe in the physical risks because they believe emotions are purely psychological and we only think that we feel physical heart pain. Even so, the studies seem to show strong evidence that emotional stress can cause heart damage and even death. Due to these studies our healthy heart plan should include more than managing cholesterol and blood pressure. It should also include managing our emotional health.