Healing Your Heart

Why did I have a heart attack? Will I ever be OK again? Patients frequently have these two questions rolling around in their minds when they find themselves ill and suffering from heart disease. Although modern medicine does not completely understand why people get heart ailments, we have a pretty good understanding that what people do in the way of their daily habits is very important. What they eat, drink and consume can help determine if they will come down with heart related illness.

For example, a person who smokes cigarettes will have more than two times the chance of developing heart blockages when compared to a non-smoker. Similarly, people who are obese are much more likely to develop Type II Diabetes. Ninety-five percent of diabetics will develop heart disease.

So although it is clear that “we are what we eat,” what many people are just coming to understand is that we are also “what we think and feel.” Our feelings, our emotions, can also have an impact on whether or not we will develop heart disease. A mind/body and spiritual connection exists with heart ailments. Heart disease affects us on all levels.

For example in a study of over 900 Finnish men in 1997, it was discovered that the men who had the worst response to stress on mental stress tests, had the most cholesterol buildup in their carotid arteries. This abnormality was most common in men under the age of 55. It has been suggested that stress may have an effect on the cellular lining of our arteries and may help lead to the deposition of cholesterol deposits.

The Hormonal Connection

Indeed, much of the current treatment in cardiology is directed towards the hormonal system of the body. Medications called Beta Blockers, ACE inhibitors and ACE receptor blockers are commonly used. These drugs influence the hormonal pathways of the body. They help lower the hormones that cause the arteries to constrict. They also have a powerful effect on the inner cell lining called the endothelial lining of our blood vessels.

If a hormonal influence can be altered with medications it makes sense that our hormonal system could also be affected by what we think and feel. Certainly, this is true. Medical studies have now shown that anxiety and depression strongly influence the heart. Depression is known to cause a 2-3 fold doubling of the chance of dying after a major heart attack and patients with anxiety have twice the chance of being readmitted to the hospital after suffering an unstable chest pain.

Clearly, a mind/body/spirit connection exists in heart illness. How then can we come to heal the heart? By this I mean how can we get better, not just on a physical level but on all levels?

Step One: Heal The Physical Problem

First and foremost, we have to do what we can to correct our physical ailment. Many times I have had patients come to me who wanted to get better but didn’t want to address their physical issues. We are physical beings. We cannot ignore our physical condition. Seeing our physician and following proper medical treatment should come first.

We should pay particular attention to what we eat, reducing our saturated fat and caloric consumption. I often recommend to patients that they follow the Mediterranean Diet. This eating plan is rich in fish, vegetables and legumes. It avoids animal fats. People who follow the Mediterranean Diet have shown to have a low incidence of heart disease even while consuming moderate amounts of fat.

We should also not underestimate the influence of physical exercise. Numerous clinical studies have shown that people who exercise live longer. They feel better and are able to do more than people who don’t exercise.

Step Two: Heal the Emotional, Mental and Spiritual Aspects

Once we have covered the physical bases, we can then move on to the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of treating our heart disease. The first step is to acknowledge that something could need improvement. Without understanding that we need help no one can become completely well. How do I know if I need help? Listen to your heart. Are you sad? Lonely? Do you find yourself getting angry and don’t really know why? These are a few of the tip offs that you might benefit from pursuing deeper inner heart work.

Once you have recognized that you might have a problem, the next step is to find a form of therapy that is right for you.

Perhaps, meditation gives you the most benefit. Various meditation groups exist in every city. Seek out a mediation group and practice. The key here is to do the work.

Psychotherapy is another modality that can be extremely helpful. Contact a psychotherapist and once again be open to doing the work. Give yourself time to get comfortable and time to make some progress.

My own spiritual journey has led me to offer healing modalities that relate to prayer. I have seen deep prayer work wonders with countless patients with actual heart disease. The type of prayer practice I find useful for people just starting is a form of repetitive prayer. I call it practicing remembrance. In this practice we are remembering God, who is love.

You should plan on setting aside 15 to 30 minutes for your prayer. You may think this is a long time, but it will go quickly. Seek out a quiet room and seat yourself comfortably. Find a set of beads (prayer beads or a necklace with 100 beads) to use. While sitting silently with the eyes closed, just begin repeating the name of God. Let this name fall gently from the tongue down into the heart. It is almost as if you are watching a drop of God’s light descend down into the heart. You may want to bow your head to help keep your focus on the heart. Slowly, gently, keep repeating the name of God. You should do this 500-700 times which will take 15-30 minutes.

Amazingly what you will find when you start practicing remembrance, is that your heart will feel lighter. An opening occurs with most people. They feel more open and alive. Often the sadness and pain will begin to fly away. In a short time, a peace will begin to swell filling the heart. Once this happens, true healing of the heart has begun.

About the Author

Kirk Laman, DO FACC is a board certified cardiologist. He teaches workshops for heart patients and people suffering from emotional heart conditions. For more information see www.drlaman.com


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