This question touches on an area that represents one of the great frontiers in science and medicine, which is of tremendous personal interest to me. The truth is the nerve connections between the brain and the heart are stronger than we ever imagined. The heart also has its own independent nervous system which can take over several important functions from the brain, including storing and maintaining our identity and certain memories. We believe that it is this strong nervous connection between the heart and mind that allows our emotions to strongly influence our heart.
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On one hand, very stressful experiences can cause an apical ballooning syndrome, or Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, where the main pumping chambers balloon outwards with markedly decreased function. While the heart usually recovers from these insults, a Takotsubo’s can also result in heart failure and even death. On a positive side, we know that happiness and gratitude are strong emotional qualities in almost all centenarians, that elite group of individuals that live with excellent health and quality of life beyond 100 years of age. Clearly their positive emotions are help to propel them towards excellent health, with a high level of sustained function from all organ systems.
And this is not a mystery, it is built into our physiology. Strong nervous connections link our heart to our brains and emotions. The heart can even produce emotions, contributing to its own health and our mental health, helping to shape emotional content. For a deeper discussion of this topic, please see my presentations on YOUTUBE.
The Mind Body Connection – Your Health Is 90% Mental (120 minutes)
Explore evidence for the dynamic and powerful system within you (20 minutes).
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