A healthy diet is only part of the picture for heart health. Your thoughts and emotions matter too.
While I was at the IFM Convention a couple of weeks ago, I got to listen to Dr. Mimi Guarneri, a cardiologist from Southern California and the winner of the Linus Pauling award this year for her outstanding work. I just finished reading her book, The Heart Speaks, in which she talks about her journey from being a type A, by-the-book cardiologist to someone who has grown to appreciate and respect the power and influence that thoughts, feelings, emotions, and a sense of belonging have on heart health. Because of this, she began support groups for her heart patients that included yoga and meditation, and was initially laughed at by her peers. Today, her classes are full and her programs are a success. In fact, in her book, she quotes Dr. Larry Dossey who said:
“Scientists working in the new field of psychoneuroimmunology have demonstrated the existence of infinite links between parts of the brain concerned with thought and emotion and the neurological and immune systems. Based on these discoveries, we know beyond doubt that thought can become biology.”
I’m always talking about the importance of a healthy diet, but if you’ve ever been to one of my talks, then you’ve heard me speak about ‘primary food’, which is everything in our life except food (which is considered secondary food). This may include career, relationships, your spiritual practice, etc. Whatever balance may look like for you in these areas; that is to say, whatever combination of factors in your area of primary food make you happy or feel a sense of well-being, if they’re not being fulfilled, then the negative impact they have on you emotionally in some ways can be just as bad as eating fast food everyday for lunch.
Eating all the kale and quinoa in the world will not prevent an unhealthy balance of hormones that can arise from constant anger, frustration, or despair. And of course, living under a cloud of constant negative emotions will eventually influence the steps you take–or don’t take–to maintain your health.
Dr. Guarneri tells remarkable stories about some of her patients and how it wasn’t until they overcame emotional issues, opened the lines of communication with their spouses, or found a reason to live (one elderly woman got herself a small dog and it changed her world) that they were able to get on the road to recovery. She also described a high-powered, female executive patient who had no signs of heart disease or risk factors yet who had suffered a heart attack that was brought on by intense anger and an emotional outburst.
And, she tells some fascinating stories about the power of prayer and how one of her patients was transformed by a healer. Not something that you would hear most doctors talk about or even believe in. She certainly didn’t until she saw a miraculous recovery. She even uses the power of healing touch herself on her patients that helped spare one from surgery.
Overall, this book has me taking a look at my life, my relationships, and anywhere I may be harboring negativity or other low energy emotions that could be harming me physically. It has reminded me of the importance of primary food in my life, in addition to diet and exercise.
One night at the conference, I met Dr. Guarneri. A small group of women were talking, and she mentioned to us half jokingly that she would like to give up her practice and start farming. I told her if she wanted some tips on how to get started to go visit my daughter in Northern California. She smiled…
Think about all the ways you may be hurting your heart and the impact it is having on your life or of those around you. Then, commit to turning those actions around to something positive. You may be surprised how far-reaching your actions go.