Tag Archives: yoga

Heart Attack: It’s a Family Affair

A recent study confirms what we probably knew already: the tendency to heart disease runs in families. An international study of about 30,000 adults showed that having a parent that had a heart attack in their 40s or younger made it two-and-a-half times more likely that their offspring would have a heart attack. The risk is six times higher if both parents had heart attacks before age 50. (See http://www.everydayhealth.com/heart-health/news/heart-attacks-are-all-in-the-family.aspx for more info on the study.)

While genetics may be a determinant in heart health, the good news is that lifestyle can help to combat the genes you were handed at birth. Regular exercise, good nutrition, lowering stress, and reducing weight can all help to keep your heart working well. A key vital sign to heart health (and stress) is heart rate variability. To download a short PDF explaining HRV and stress, go to http://beathealthy.com/education/stressandhrv.pdf.

HRV: The Vital Sign Your Doctor Never Mentioned

Heart rate variability (HRV) is a critical vital sign that can predict a number of different disease states, including heart attack and probably recovery from heart attack—but it’s not one of the things your doctor measures (at least our doctor doesn’t). You know your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Why don’t you know your HRV levels? To download a short PDF explaining HRV, go to http://beathealthy.com/education/hrvbackground.pdf

A Trusting Heart Is a Healthy Heart

Stephen Boyle of Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina says that people who are cynical, suspicious of other people and their motives, are 25% more likely to develop heart disease. Boyle postulates that distrust of others creates greater stress and hostility, which can cause spikes in an immune-system protein called C3 that has been linked with various diseases, including diabetes. The participants (more than 300 Vietnam War veterans) with higher scores on hostility showed an increase in these proteins, while the non-hostile men showed no such increase.

Everything Is Connected—Even Our Food

The more we learn about ourselves, our world and the universe, the more we see that everything is connected to everything else. We once viewed systems as machines that could be taken apart piece by piece to understand how they worked. The problem is that when you study a piece of a system in isolation, it may not behave as it does in within the system as a whole.

We are finding this is particularly true in nutrition. Many people take vitamin and mineral supplements to assure they get all the nutrition they need to stay healthy. But recent studies have shown that nutritional supplements do not have the same benefits as nutrients derived from eating food. In February 2009, a study by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) on 161,808 postmenopausal women concluded that those who took multivitamins did not have a lower death rate than others and were just as likely to develop cardiovascular disease or cancers of the lung, colon/rectum, breast, and endometrium—those most common in women.

It is likely that in natural foods, there are many interrelationships between the nutrients and micronutrients that act to provide protection against disease. We can’t take these apart and still derive the same benefits. Whole, fresh foods are our best bet for living a healthy life.

Make Stress Sit Up and Beg

Tired of stress running your life? It’s time to take the upper hand! You can use SweetBeat to monitor heart rate variability (HRV) to reduce your overall levels of stress. If you monitor your HRV on a regular basis, you will soon start recognizing recurring stressors such as commuting or listening to the person in the next cubicle complain.  You can use SweetBeat’s Relax screen to reduce stress in real time. You can also change your exposure to stressors—OK, you still have to commute, but you could listen to music through earphones rather than to the complainer next door.

Over time, as you become more adept at stress reduction, you may find that your overall HRV is higher, indicating lower stress levels. You might even have to reduce your SweetBeat setting for stress sensitivity to compensate for the improvement in your body’s response to stress!

Patterns in Our Lives, Our Hearts

The human brain is a pattern-recognition system. Like all animals, we need to be able to detect patterns in our environment. Back in the day, if we hadn’t figured out that when we saw a particular pattern of movement in the bushes, it was a tiger and not a deer, it might have been the end of the story! Our  brains are always collecting and comparing sensory inputs to see if we can detect patterns. If a possible pattern turns out to be false, we discard it, even as we add new, proven patterns to our mental libraries.

A healthy heart creates fractal patterns. (Scientists are now using fractal analysis to diagnose heart disease.) Animated fractals are absorbing and calming as we watch them change; a good way to soothe us when we feel stressed.

Change Your Brain, Change Yourself

Sometimes we hear people say, “That’s just the way I am,” as though they had been fated to be a certain way, and there’s nothing to be done about it. Nothing could be further from the truth!

“Neuroplasticity” is a term that describes the brain’s ability to change structurally and functionally in response to the environment. Once scientists thought that after a critical growth period in youth, the brain became static. We now know that the brain is capable of change throughout life. We can change in response to injury, when the brain reroutes functions to work around physical damage. And we can deliberately create change, as happens when we learn a new language or how to play the guitar.

This means that for all of us, the ability to change what we know, how we feel, and what we do IS “just the way we are”!