Mainstream medicine likes to create silos around health. They tell you that you have a liver problem, or a kidney problem. A heart problem or a brain problem. This is just plain wrong.
Yes, you have a problem. And it is a total body problem.
The human body is a marvel of interconnected systems. Everything affects everything. Perhaps one of the most fascinating relationships exists between the nervous system and heart health. While the heart is often seen as the rhythmic powerhouse driving our circulatory system, the intricate dance between the nervous system and the heart plays a vital role in maintaining cardiovascular health. In this article, we dive into the fascinating dynamic between these two systems and how understanding this relationship can lead to heart health.
The Autonomic Nervous System:
At the center of the heart-brain connection is the autonomic nervous system (ANS), a complex network that regulates involuntary bodily functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. The ANS is further divided into two branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). These branches work in harmony to maintain balance and respond to the body’s needs.
Sympathetic Nervous System: The Accelerator
The SNS is often referred to as the “fight or flight” system. When the body perceives a threat or stress, the SNS kicks into gear, releasing hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine that increase heart rate, dilate airways, and redirect blood flow to essential organs dedicated to survival. While this response is crucial for immediate threats, chronic activation can contribute to heart-related issues, including high blood pressure and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Parasympathetic Nervous System: The Brakes
Conversely, the PNS is like the body’s relaxation and recovery system. It counteracts the effects of the SNS, slowing heart rate, promoting digestion, and conserving energy. Adequate activation of the PNS is essential for recovery and maintaining a healthy balance. Imbalances, where the SNS dominates, can lead to prolonged stress responses that negatively impact heart health over time.
A Test of Autonomic Function:
One key indicator of the dynamic interplay between the nervous system and heart health is heart rate variability (HRV). HRV measures the variation in time between each heartbeat, reflecting the influence of the autonomic nervous system. Higher HRV is generally associated with better cardiovascular health, indicating a flexible and responsive autonomic system.
Chronic Stress and Heart Health:
The modern pace of life often exposes individuals to chronic stress, which can dysregulate the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. Prolonged activation of the SNS can lead to increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and inflammation – all of which contribute to the development of heart disease. At NHD, we use theThink Well part of our practice to get people on the right track. Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, gratitude and deep breathing maneuvers can positively impact heart health by restoring balance to the autonomic nervous system.
Beyond the autonomic nervous system, emerging research suggests a more profound connection between the mind and heart. Positive emotions, social connections, and a sense of purpose have been linked to better cardiovascular outcomes. Practices like meditation and biofeedback, which involve conscious regulation of physiological processes, show promise in improving heart health by influencing the autonomic nervous system.
Understanding the heart-brain connection is very important for health and wellness, not only for cardiovascular conditions, but everything else as well. We feel that the doctor you need to see to optimize the heart-brain connection is the doctor of chiropractic.
Grab a free discovery call with one of our NHD coaches to make sure you are on track for the 100 Year Heart.