Taking Care of Your Heart During Turbulent Times: Is Your Heart Talking to You?
by Mikele Ketchem @Canton Olive Branch
Article 7- February 21, 2020
Hello fellow Olive Branch Customers! Today is February 21, 2020, and it’s a brisk 33 degrees on a sunny day here in Canton, Ohio. Have you recovered from the holidays? Were the holidays particularly rough this past year? With February being national heart month across the country, many of us in the health industry are abuzz in heart health. Talks and sales of fish oils, antioxidants, anti-anxiety herbals, homeopathy, and many others surface when people come into the Olive Branch. Stress, anxiety, and depression are common complaints which can bring about varying levels of discomfort with those seeking relief. Nonetheless, did you know that overwhelming stress, anxiety, and depression have a link to your heart health? Believe it or not, if you listen closely, your body talks to you on many conscious and subconscious levels to alert you to things you need to be aware of. In this short article for February, we will discuss how our daily dose of stress, depression, and anxiety can play into the muscle that keeps you alive with every pump: Your heart.
Your Amazing Heart
Here’s some things to ponder about your heart:
- Contracts about 115,000 times per day;
- Pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood per day;
- The heart runs on an electrical cardiac conduction system
- The human heart weighs just less than 1 pound. However, the male heart weighs just 2 ounces heavier than a woman’s heart.
Some Startling Statistics to Ponder
According to an article in Science Daily, a study of 221,677 participants from Australia, researchers found that:
- Among women, high/very high psychological distress was associated with a 44% increased risk of stroke; and
- In men ages 45 to 79, high/very high versus low psychological distress was associated with a 30% increased risk of heart attack, with weaker estimates in those 80 or older
One thing that we can take away from these statistics is that stress is a part of life – we can’t escape it. The fight-or-flight response is an evolutionary survival mechanism that has been a popular topic in Darwinism since the 1800’s that predicates our survival as a species. Anyways, that is a total differing topic that won’t be discussed, but is relevant because the fight-or-flight response comes from a part of our brains called the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for the regulation of emotions including fear and emotional, arousal, and memory. When we talk about anxiety and stress in correlation to heart health, the amygdala does play a part.
Positive and Negative Stress
As first stated, we experience stress and anxiety on a daily basis. Stress in general is not a bad thing, as a little worry and stress is normal – even beneficial. There is even the topic of positive and negative stress. Positive stress is stress that makes us take positive action to make changes, work harder, get that promotion, run that extra mile, or work that extra shift. However, it’s when anxiety and stress become chronic that can put you at risk for heart issues if they are not corrected early. Negative stress is when stress becomes chronic and overwhelming that it causes us to not function normally in our daily lives. This is when the connection of stress to our hearts really starts to open up.
Beyond Normal Stress
What happens when stress and anxiety go beyond normal, and cause us to go into negative stress? Mental and psychological disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder have a higher prevalence in these situations. According to Harvard University, chronic negative anxiety changes our hormonal and physiological reactions in conjunction with our adrenal cortex that change how our amygdala functions. People with anxiety disorders have rollercoaster ups and downs with anxiety that can raise blood pressure and even heart rhythm disturbances. Even scarier, platelets which are our clotting agents in our blood, become stickier which makes blood more likely to clot increasing the odds of a heart attack occurring. Beyond this, stress and anxiety can be a precursor to increasing odds to developing heart disease as a whole.
Do You CRP?
One of the sources used for this article from Harvard University has a quiz to see if you may have generalized anxiety disorder. The purpose of the quiz is not to diagnose you, but to give you an idea if you identify with more than three items on the quiz you should discuss options with a qualified medical professional: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/anxiety-and-heart-disease-a-complex-connection One thing that sends many individuals to the emergency room daily is the feeling of a heart attack: racing heart, pain in the center of the chest, left arm pain, sweating, and confusion to name a few. Depending on the individual and the circumstances, the emergency room may run tests to see if you are actually enduring a true heart attack. A typical inexpensive blood test called a CRP, or c-reactive protein, is a blood indicator that gives an overall global risk assessment of an individual having a future heart attack.
What is CRP?
CRP is the c-reactive protein critical component of the immune system which is a set of proteins that our bodies make when faced with a major infection or trauma. The CRP level of an individual is related to how much inflammatory proteins are present in the blood that can predict the occurrence of a heart attack, stroke, sudden cardiac death, and the development of peripheral arterial disease, or PAD. Need a visual on how CRP and your heart health is measured? Paul Ridker, MD in his article gives us just that in figure 2 below:
Figure 2. hs-CRP is a stronger predictor of heart attack and stroke than LDL cholesterol. Adapted with permission from Ridker et al (N Engl J Med. 2002;347:1557–1565).5 Copyright © 2002 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved.
I Got My CRP Blood Test. How Do I Read It?
According to Dr. Ridker: Interpreting CRP results is straightforward (Figure 4). All laboratories should report values in mg/L (milligrams per liter). Levels of CRP less than 1 mg/L are desirable and reflect a low overall cardiovascular risk. Levels of CRP between 1 and 3 mg/L are indicative of moderate risk, while levels of CRP in excess of 3 mg/L suggest quite elevated vascular risk
Figure 4. Clinical interpretation of hs-CRP for cardiovascular risk prediction. Adapted from Yeh and Willerson (Circulation 2003;107:370–372).
My Heart is Ok, but I have Been Diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder. Maybe Even Heart Disease. Now What?
So, you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety/depression. Maybe even heart disease or a heart issue What now? The important thing to do is not panic, but to educate yourself. Many professionals recommend talk therapy, medications, exercise, and others to help quell anxiety and depression to keep heart issues at bay. A cardiologist may also be needed for advanced heart issues that need intricate treatments. However, if anxiety and depression are at a stage that can be helped without the need of drugs with dangerous side effects, it may be worth your time to look at natural alternatives. At the Olive Branch, there are numerous anti-anxiety/anti-depression options that have little or no side effects at all such as:
- Terry Naturally AnxioCalm
- Our house brand of stress-ease
- Acai – to help lower C-Reactive Protein
- And others!
Author Final Thoughts
While stress is a part of our daily lives, as well as a survival necessity and a given in life, it is important to recognize when stress/anxiety/depression become too overwhelming and it becomes too hard to function on a daily basis. One thing I feel many of us feel is ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help due to stigmas on mental health in our society. Please understand that you are human, and we as humans are emotional beings. Many anxiety disorders are based on buried emotions that need to be addressed at our core to help us move on with our lives.
By all means, if you feel that you have any symptoms of overwhelming stress, anxiety, or depression, please seek the advice of a doctor and/or a natural doctor to get multiple opinions to ensure that all avenues have been addressed in your heart and mental health. Exercise, a good nutritious diet, quality sleep, meditation, yoga, quality social time, and spiritual time all are good helpers to keep the heart young and ticking well. Let’s not forget laughter – life’s old heart remedy for a healthy heart. Remember, our emotions and our heart are connected. Listen to your heart and your emotions. Take care of your heart! Remember to take care of yourself, and your heart will take care of you. God Bless.
~In Good Health,
Mikele Ketchem, MBA, COI
@Canton Olive Branch
Disclaimer: While we at The Olive Branch do not prescribe, nor recommend going against the advice of any medical professional, we do ask that you educate yourself. It would be helpful to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your doctor to see what works best for you. The best possible outcome for this scenario would be to heal yourself naturally, and get off or avoid side effects from synthetic medications for treatment. There are quite a few treatments that greatly assist and can even help you get off your medications. This article is meant for informational purposes, and is not intended to replace any medical advice from a qualified medical professional.
Anxiety and Heart Disease: A Complex Connection. (2017, October). Retrieved from health.harvard.edu: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/anxiety-and-heart-disease-a-complex-connection
Anxiety, depression, other mental distress may increase heart attack, stroke risk in adults over 45. (2018, August 28). Retrieved from ScienceDaily.com: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180828085920.htm
Ridker, P. M. (2003, September 23). C-Reactive Protein: A Simple Test to Help Predict Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke. Retrieved from www.ahajournals.org: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/01.CIR.0000093381.57779.67
Taking Anxiety to Heart. (2018, September 04). Retrieved from https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/news/taking-anxiety-to-heart
Wells, D. (2017, July 06). Fun Facts About the Heart You Didn’t Know. Retrieved from healthline.com: https://www.healthline.com/health/fun-facts-about-the-heart#1