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3 Ways Gratitude is Good for Your Heart

Someone holds the door open for you; a barista hands over your steaming cup of liquid fuel, your coworker compliments your new sweater. These are all circumstances that may instantly elicit a response of gratefulness, a simple “thank you,” or a smile to acknowledge the gesture. You likely say “thank you” as much as five times a day. But how often do you mean it? How often do you take time out of your busy day to bask in those feelings of gratitude? Research suggests it probably isn’t as often as it should be. 

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

William Arthur Ward

Thankfulness shouldn’t be a reflex or an afterthought; it should be the driving force that motivates us through our day. After all, it could improve your physical wellbeing and even help extend your lifespan. Gratitude doesn’t cost anything and is an incredible yet underrated remedy for many ailments, including heart conditions. 

What does gratitude mean?

Gratitude is a habit, a way of thinking that focuses on the positive in your life rather than the negative. The key is what you choose to dwell on. Your mind is not an entity outside of your control. You can direct your attitude and cultivate gratitude, even when circumstances may be hard. However, it won’t happen overnight. The physical, emotional, and mental benefits of gratitude are far-reaching, but it may take time and practice to develop these habits and rest in a grateful mindset. 

How gratitude is good for your heart

It is a long-accepted fact that stress, controlling behavior, anxiety, hostility, and depression can contribute to heart conditions. These negative mental states have been connected to heart health for decades, with numerous studies evaluating their damaging effects on this hardworking muscle. However, scientists have only recently started evaluating the benefits of positive mental health, specifically gratitude, and its relation to cardiovascular health. Being grateful can affect your heart in these three incredible ways.

Reduces inflammation that can hamper heart health

A study of 186 men and women with stage B asymptomatic heart failure showed that gratitude played a huge role in physical health and decreased inflammation in the body. In this study, patients had been diagnosed with structural heart disease, putting them in a higher risk category, but had no current or prior symptoms of heart failure. 

This study looked at the connection between general spirituality or gratitude and markers of heart disease in the body. Researchers found that patients who expressed higher feelings of gratitude on various questionnaires were healthier and had less chronic inflammation than those who did not demonstrate as much thankfulness.

Increases heart rate variability

Heart rate variability (HRV) measures the variation of time between heartbeats and is an important indicator of overall heart health. This variation is directly controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS), an involuntary system that is constantly at work, regulating heartbeat, breathing, narrowing and widening of blood vessels, and digestion. HRV is a reflection of the state of the ANS, and when it is lower, the body is generally at a higher risk of heart failure. 

Researchers performed a small pilot study to determine the effects of gratitude on heart health. They asked participants to keep a gratitude journal, writing daily entries over one or two things they were grateful for. After two months, those who kept the gratitude journal showed increased HRV compared to the control group who were not actively pursuing a grateful mindset. 

Improves overall well-being

Scientists generally divide happiness into two branches: hedonic happiness, which is pleasure and life satisfaction, and eudaimonic well-being, or meaning and purpose in life. Research shows that gratitude can increase both types of happiness while reducing stress and depression, decreasing risk factors for heart disease. By improving an overall sense of well-being, gratitude also helps protect cardiovascular health.

Other ways thankfulness can improve your health

Stressful, racing thoughts are one of the leading causes of insomnia. Chronic stress, specifically, can be incredibly detrimental, as it causes the body to remain heightened, with the stress hormone cortisol raging unchecked through your body, increasing heart rate and blood pressure. This can hamper sleep quality and decrease your ability to fall asleep at night. 

Thankfulness helps reset the body and hormonal state, making you more balanced and peaceful. One study of 119 women showed the effects of gratitude on physical health. In this study, these college-aged women were asked to practice the “well-being intervention” of keeping a gratitude journal over two weeks. Data showed that the women keeping the journal reported better sleep and lowered diastolic blood pressure than the control group. 

Gratitude not only reduces stress and improves sleep, but it can benefit your mental health and reduce depression and anxiety while promoting feelings of positivity and improving relationships.

How to be more grateful

Keep a gratitude journal 

Taking time to write down everything you are grateful for is an excellent mental exercise that can help instill habits of gratitude and allow you to see the silver lining in your circumstances. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, and just let your thoughts flow. Don’t worry about spelling, handwriting, or grammar; this journal is for your eyes only and is merely a way to acknowledge and express the many things in your life that you can be thankful for.

Go out of your way to thank people

Instead of just blurting out an instinctual “thank you” and leaving it at that, take the time to follow up and truly express how much the important people in your life mean to you. Write a short note, send flowers, or buy or make a small gift. It doesn’t have to be a grand, expensive gesture, just something to let them know you are thankful for them.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness and gratitude are closely interconnected. Pursue a quiet moment each day where you can be alone with your thoughts and be present in your body. Leave your cellphone in the other room, turn down the lights, and spend five minutes in quiet reflection.

 You can lay down on your bed, sit in a chair, or simply stretch out on the floor and allow your whole body to relax. During this time, turn your focus inward, allow yourself to be present in the current moment, and settle into your thoughts, directing them towards thankfulness. Take stock of the things and people in your life that deserve thanks and quietly, actively exercise appreciation.

Thank your body

Being thankful isn’t just about expressing outward gratitude. Take stock of all of the things in your body that are working hard to keep you alive and healthy. Your heart, lungs, and brain, which work tirelessly to give you movement, breath, and life, are often unrecognized and unappreciated. 

Thank your body by looking after it and giving it the fuel it needs to continue supporting you. Exercise, eat real, whole, and organic foods, spend time basking in the sun, and get a massage or soak your feet. Your body does a lot for you. It’s time to do something in return. 

Change your perspective

Sometimes, the best way to find moments of thankfulness in your life is to look at those less fortunate than yourself and recognize all of the privileges you have in life. Use this opportunity of recognition to help where you can and practice empathy. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or simply bring a meal to a needy friend. 

Next steps

It is never too late to start cultivating healthy habits to improve your health, mindset, and relationships with the important people in your life. Intentional gratitude is one of the easiest ways to achieve your 100 Year Heart and keep you on the path of health. Prioritize thankfulness. It may just save your life. 

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Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD

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About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

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Dr. Lauren Lattanza Fees

20 Minute Virtual Call: $250

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As a Naturopathic Physician, I am trained to treat the whole person and get to the root cause of disease.

I went to Arizona State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a depth in physiology and minor in Spanish. After my undergraduate degree I was working on prerequisite classes towards medical school, which is when I came to learn that my values identified best with the principles of naturopathic medicine. I knew that I wanted to help patients identify the causes of disease and be able to offer treatments which would improve their health rather than simply treating symptoms.

I dedicated the next 4 years to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona where I attained my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. I served as Class President all 4 years, Board of Trustees – Student Trustee, spoke as the Club President for our branch of Toastmasters, and was voted by my peers and attending physicians to earn the Outstanding Leadership Award for the Class of 2020. Throughout medical school I took it upon myself to work alongside MDs, DOs, chiropractors, and functional medicine practitioners in addition to naturopathic physicians.

As a Spanish speaking student, I was able to volunteer with community clinics around Phoenix and provide free healthcare to low-income families. Due to this combined exposure, I came to find my passion in treating cardiometabolic and digestive disorders that are all too common, yet largely preventable. I took the opportunity to learn the broad spectrum of healthcare so I can ensure that I am able to provide my patients with the best options.

About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

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Dr. Jack Wolfson Fees

30 Minute Virtual Call: $1500

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Dr. Jack Wolfson is a board-certified cardiologist, Amazon best-selling author, husband, father, and the nation’s #1 Natural Heart Doctor.

For more than two decades, more than one million people have enjoyed the warmth, compassion, and transformational power of his natural heart health courses and events.

Dr. Wolfson is the founder of Natural Heart Doctor Scottsdale, his heart health practice in Arizona, and Natural Heart Doctor, an online resource center with natural health information. Doctors from across the globe reach out to Dr. Wolfson for training and education in holistic health practices.

He has been named one of America’s Top Functional Medicine Doctors and is a five-time winner of the Natural Choice Awards as a holistic M.D. Dr. Wolfson’s work has been covered by more than 100 media outlets, including NBC, CNN, and the Washington Post. His book “The Paleo Cardiologist: The Natural Way to Heart Health” was an Amazon #1 best-seller.

Dr. Wolfson and his wife Heather have four children and are committed to making the world a better place to live. They provide for those in need (including animals) and support natural health causes through their philanthropic efforts.

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Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

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Stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being with acupuncture at Natural Heart Doctor.

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Our health coaches use evidence based skillful conversation, clinical interventions, and strategies to engage you actively and safely in health behavior changes.

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We use the most advanced testing in the world to assess heart health and to identify the root cause of your health issues.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.