by Dr. Jennifer Harrison
Ah, the human heart; the subject of so many poems and songs about heartache as well as joy and love. Everyone knows that the heart pumps blood to your brain and the rest of your body, that exercise is good for your heart and that too much stress can lead to heart attacks. It’s also common knowledge that a fatty diet, drinking too much alcohol and smoking can damage your heart. However, here are 3 things that you and your doctor probably don’t know about your heart.
1. Heart rate variability, which is “the change in the time intervals between adjacent heartbeats”, is not only impacted upon by our emotions and stress levels, but can also be used as a determinant for our health. When there is coherence, meaning when your heart rate is rhythmically consistent, your heart is much healthier.
2. The heart has a brain. Research shows that the heart has its own nervous system which can act independently from our main nervous system i.e. the brain, spinal cord and nerves. In fact, the heart generates its own rhythm or heart rate. In addition, the heart actually sends messages to the brain. Research shows that these messages from the heart “actually influence a person’s behaviour.”
3. Eliminating negative thought loops improves your heart rate variability and stress hormone levels. The HeartMath Institute has created several different techniques designed to not only get rid of negative thought patterns but to also create sustained positive emotional states. The HEART LOCK-IN technique involves focusing on the heart as well as the feelings of love and gratitude. People who learned and used these techniques for a month were found on average to have a 23 percent decrease in cortisol (a stress hormone).