It takes more than just a good looking body.
Every September is dedicated to a healthy human heart.
Organisations like The Heart and Stroke Foundation use this opportunity to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease in South Africa and to highlight the importance of a healthy lifestyle and appropriate treatment.
And they do it with good reason: heart disease and strokes is the second biggest killer in South Africa, after HIV/AIDS.
I want to tell you how massage can contribute to keeping your heart healthy and help those whose hearts need some extra TLC after a cardiac procedure.
Heart disease is a killer.
But don’t think it happens to older people only. Heart disease now affects people of working age, with more than half of deaths occurring in people under the age of 65 years.
Here are some of the shocking statistics quoted by the foundation:
However, one of the important contributors to heart disease which I think we often forget about, is just how closely the body and the mind is integrated.
Emotions have a huge effect on how healthy your heart is.
When you brain is affected by emotions, so are your heart, according to Dr Srini Pillay whether you already have a heart condition or not.
Now imagine in this country and the high stress levels we experience everyday whether from the threat of violence and crime, poverty, economic conditions, unstable political situation etc.
Yes, we are neglecting heart health when we skip exercise, eat unhealthy foods, overeat, smoke or drink alcohol excessively but being stressed for a long time and experiencing negative emotions can be as dangerous due to underlying biological and neurochemical mechanisms which link the body and mind.
This makes long-term stress and negative emotions risk factors for heart disease as much as lifestyle choices and conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
Also, being stressed often leads to unhealthy behaviours such as inactivity etc.
It is important to control your worry and stress, not just because you will worry less and feel better, but because less worry means less stress for your heart.
DEPRESSION AND YOUR HEART
Specific studies linking depression and heart disease further show that the link between these conditions is a two-way street.
According to the Harvard Medical School , not only does depression appear to promote heart disease, but it can also result from a heart attack.
As Dr Carrie Steckl of Columbia College in Missouri, US explains, mental health problems are linked to cardiac problems and vice versa.
“(S)trong psychological health is tied to better heart health and that a healthy heart is linked to better mental health. Now that’s a pretty potent motivator to pay attention to mental health as much as our cardiac well-being.”
If we can help people with heart disease achieve emotional well-being, perhaps we can reduce their risk for another cardiac event - .Dr Carrie Steckl of Columbia College
Not surprising then that a new emotion-based approach to heart health, called cardiac psychology, is being developed. The objective is to provide a holistic service to cardiac patients which include physical and mental health.
Cardiovascular rehabilitation protocols can include a variety of psychology-based programmes, psycho-educational programs, psychotherapies, educational training, stress management, biofeedback, counselling sessions and relaxation techniques.
Why do I include massage under psychologically-based treatments?
Because in my experience of working with cardiac patients, more than anything, massage provides them with another tool to counteract high levels of anxiety caused by post-op trauma, fear, no longer trusting their bodies and facing their mortality.
MASSAGE AND HEART HEALTH
In the light of what we understand about mind and body, it makes sense that massage can support mental and emotional functions by influencing the body.
In turn a calmer mind will make for a calmer body.
It is not unusual for people who have undergone procedures for heart valve disease to develop depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder post surgery.
A study published in BMC Nursing in 2013 describes patients’ perception of their recovery journey with the aim of better understanding their lived experience.
Interviews with ten patients indicated that they struggled to resume normal living because of a lack of physical strength and their inability to re-establish balance in overall living.
The researchers identified the following themes:
Feeling fragile after heart surgery is well described, and predisposed individuals have a higher risk of suffering depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder even months after heart valve surgery For others the experience was not too stressful and they quickly achieved emotional closure.
Although the patients interviewed felt weak with a changed body, after a long recovery process they regained vitality and returned to their daily life.
Read the full article here.
Body-mind or mind-body? If you are struggling with physical and mental pain and feel that the dominant health paradigm’s dualistic approach to mind and body seems inadequate to explain anything, I want to talk to you. Join me under the tree in my garden for a cup of rooibos tea and let’s talk massage and SomaSense!