It’s Heart Month! It starts off today with the American Heart Association’s National Go Red Day, “raising awareness that heart disease and stroke kill nearly 1 in 3 women a year.” This entire month, you will hear lots of reminders to take care of your heart by “staying physically active.” There is no doubt about it, exercise is one of the best ways to care for the function of your heart. In the next few blogs, we will look at the amazing, powerful protection that movement provides to this fist-sized muscle that pumps fuel to every cell in your body.
Yet, scientists are discovering our heart is so much more than a collection of muscle cells that pumps blood.
The heart has a network of nerves so functionally sophisticated as to earn the description of a “heart brain.” Containing over 40,000 neurons, this “little brain” gives the heart the ability to independently sense, process information, make decisions, and even to demonstrate a type of learning and memory. The heart also secretes hormones, such as oxytocin, the “love” or “bonding hormone.” Scientists are discovering how this “heart brain” not only affects our whole body but people around us as well. HeartMath Institute
The connection between our heart’s health and our mental and emotional state is clear as well. Studies such as The Canadian Nova Scotia Health Study found that, independent of their heart disease risk factors they had, people who felt more positive emotions were 22% less likely to develop heart diseae over a 10 year period than people who had a more negative emotional outlook.
Since this connection between the heart, brain and body so strongly effects our heart health, we need to steer clear of recommendations to exercise that only leave you feeling guilty. Struggling to get enough exercise because you “should” is clearly counterproductive.
Let’s take a Whole-person Fitness approach to heart health. In this Happy Whole-Heart blog series, we will explore the solid evidence about the powerful protection exercise provides for the heart in a guilt-free, “should-free” way that leaves you feeling positive and inspired to enjoy a happy heart.