THE HEART SOLUTION
Use Your Brain to Strengthen and Soothe Your Heart
Whatever is good for your heart is good for your brain, and whatever is good for your brain is good for your heart.
From Dr. Amen's book "Change your Brain Change your Body:"
Three times in my life I have had crushing ch\est pain, the kind of chest pain that felt like an NFL lineman was sitting on my rib cage. The first time, I was twenty-six years old and in medical school in Okla-. homa. My grandfather had his second heart attack at the age of seventy-five. He was a warmhearted, kind, happy man who loved to do things for others. He had many, many friends and he had been a candy maker who owned his own shop on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles for many years. The candy, and the inflammation caused by excessive sugar, likely contributed to his heart disease. I was named after him and he was my best friend growing up.
After his heart attack, Grandpa became very depressed for the first time in his life. Those who loved him were very surprised by the change. He had trouble sleeping at night, cried easily, and lost a lot of weight. The antidepressants then, in 1980, were not much help to him, and he died within a short time. At his funeral I had crushing chest pain. His loss was overwhelming and I truly sobbed for the first time in my life. What I found out later, tgi.my sad dismay, was that people who suffer a depressive episode after a heart-.attack are three times more likely to die in the next two and a half years than those who do not have depression. If only I knew, I would have pushed for them to treat his depression more aggressively. As I was writing this book, my first grandchild, Elias, was born. The day of his birth I had constant thoughts of my grandfather and how important he was in my life, which, I am sure, will help drive me to be a good grandpa too, but without all the candy.
The second time I had chest pain was at age forty-five at three o'clock in the morning. I. woke up holding my chest, panicked, and couldn't breathe. Before bed that night, I was reading Dean Ornish's book Love and Survival. In it, he wrote about a study where researchers asked ten thousand men one question, "Does your wife show you her love?" The men who answered no had significantly more illnesses and, in fact, died early. At the time, I had been in a twenty-year marriage that was filled with stress and chronic unhappiness. I had to answer the question as a definite no. The chest pain was a reflection of my unconscious mind telling me that the lack of love was killing me.
The third time I had chest pain, at age fifty-one, was during another period of grief when I had lost a very close friend. When I could no longer talk to my friend, my heart ached. I couldn't sleep, my mind raced, and the crushing pain in my chest returned. I also remember that when my other grandfather died, my father's mother used to hold her chest and cry with pain and sorrow. Grief is manifested physically, often through chest pain. After my own experiences, I researched the physical effects of grief.
Scientific studies report that grief triggers a storm of hormonal activity. Stress chemicals, such as adrenaline and Cortisol, are pumped into the bloodstream. They cause the heart'to beat irregularly, causing the feeling of fluttering in your chest, and they cause spasms of the blood vessels that supply the heart, also causing pain. If the heart is already compromised by atherosclerosis (fortunately for me, mine was not), it can set the stage for a heart attack by constricting blood vessels, rupturing atherosclerotic plaques, and forming blood clots or triggering dangerous abnormal heart rhythms.
In my last experience, I felt so terrible that I decided to do a SPECT scan on myself during grief. I had already done ten other scans over the years, so I had a pretty good idea of my own brain pattern. In this study, I found that my emotional brain was significantly overactive, especially in the anterior cingu-late gyrus—as I was stuck on thoughts of missing my friend—and my insular cortex, an area of the brain that often sends stress signals to other parts of the body, especially the heart. I needed to calm my brain in order to soothe my heart. The brain's stress is clearly played out in every organ of the body, but most especially in the heart. Your heart and brain are completely intertwined with each other.
The brain-heart connection is beautifully and consistently displayed throughout our language.
"My heart is broken."
"You make my heart beat fast"
"I miss you with all my heart."
"He's a heartthrob."
"She's a heartbreaker."
"She ripped out my heart."
"I am so nervous that my heart is beating out of my chest"
"He's got a lot of heart."
This chapter will look at the brain-heart connection and how you can optimize it to enhance your overall heart health. Boosting brain health improves heart health. Improving heart health also enhances your brain. Let's start by examining two of the body's brain-heart systems: the autonomic nervous system and heart rate variability. Then we will look at a number of brain-heart connection robbers and boosters.
The Heart Solution
Need for excitement
Diabetes/blood sugar spikes
Decreased blood flow from any cause
Unbalanced hormone levels
Positive emotion, love, gratitude, appreciation
Ability to regulate mood and emotion
Hand warming Hypnosis
Holding a puppy
Eating more fruits and vegetables
Balanced hormone levels
I FULLY RECOMMEND DR. AMEN'S BOOK. IT SHOULD BE IN YOUR LIBRARY AS ONE OF YOUR HEALTH BOOKS, FOR A LIFE OF GOOD HEALTH, IF YOU APPLY ALL THE WONDERFUL TEACHING DR. AMEN GIVES YOU.