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Bless Your Heart: How Emotions Affect Our Health

Though I was born and raised on the shores of beautiful Lake Erie, I have lived in the South now for almost half of my life. In the South they have a saying — “bless your heart” — that means different things depending on the circumstances. For our purposes, we will focus on the positive side of this familiar phrase.

We all can be a blessing to the hearts of others, but in order to live a healthy life, we need to be aware of how we are taking care of our own heart as well.

There is a clear and documented connection between our emotional wellness and heart health. Research has shown the links between anxiety, depression, unforgiveness, anger — and heart disease.

“It’s my view and my personal clinical experience that anxiety disorders can play a major role in heart disease,” says Dr. Una McCann, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Dr. Una explains that when someone is anxious, their body reacts in ways that can put an extra strain on their heart. Anxiety may have an association with heart disorders and cardiac risk factors, including rapid heart rate (tachycardia), increased blood pressure and decreased heart rate variability — all of which lead to heart disease.

Many scientific studies show a direct connection between high levels of anger and heart disease. The Hopkins study of more than 1,300 male medical students found that those who were quick to anger were three times more likely to develop premature heart disease and five times more likely to have an early heart attack.

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