Emotions are a substantial part of what makes us human. They guide our actions and behavior and dictate how we feel. Besides, they can have a huge effect on our physical health, including our heart health. All emotions we experience are literally heartfelt and can contribute to heart disease.
Emotions should not necessarily be negative to affect the heart. Positive emotions can affect it too. Thus, gracious emotions like sincerity, frankness, bravery, usefulness, boldness and empathy strengthen the heart, whereas bad emotions like nervousness, weakness, remorse, guilt, trickery, anger and treachery weaken it.
Our heart is in continuous dialogue with the brain – emotions that we presently experience change the signals which the brain sends to the heart and the heart responds in diverse and complex ways. However, the heart sends more information to the brain than backward. And the brain responds to it in many significant ways. When we have feelings like anxiety, anger, frustration or insecurity, the heart rhythm becomes more erratic. This erratic pattern is sent to the emotional center in the brain, which is recognized as stressful or negative feeling. These signals create the actual feelings we experience in our hearts.
Various studies found that the risk for heart disease significantly increases in people who frequently experience stressful emotions like frustration, irritation, and anger. They create a chain in the body – blood pressure and hormone levels increase, the heart beats more rapidly, blood vessels constrict and the immune system weakens. When we repeatedly experience such emotions, it can put a strain on the heart and lead to serious heart problems. Similarly, it can be one of the causes of stroke.
Vice versa, positive emotions like appreciation, love, compassion and care produce a different, harmonious heart rhythm. This signals the brain that the heart feels good and frequently creates a gentle warm feeling in the heart area. These good vibes can have a profound positive effect on the cardiovascular system.
However, just like negative emotions can cause excessive mental stimulation and play havoc with stress levels and heart health, so the excess of joy can scatter the spirit. For example, the emotion of joy is directly connected with the heart. An imbalance that results from too much excitement or sudden good news comes as a shock to the body and cardiovascular system. Therefore, great joy and ultimate happiness also act as stressors, although positive, that can affect the heart. People who are constantly on the go, living a life of excess, can develop heart imbalances with anxiety, palpitations, and insomnia due to the heart’s inability to maintain a stable resting phase.
We all know the idiom ‘to die of the broken heart’. To a certain extent this is true, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be an unhappy event. Swiss researchers have discovered that an intensely happy event can bring the same result as an unexpected unpleasant one. A joyful event like a birth of a child or a big win by the team you support can trigger a ‘broken heart syndrome’. That is a sudden weakening of the heart muscle that causes the left ventricle to enlarge abnormally and not to pump well, while other parts of the heart function well. Apart from sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, this condition can result in heart attack and even death.
All that said, both positive and negative emotions have a purpose. Bad emotions allow us to meet challenges, recognize threats and adapt to new situations, while good vibes inspire us and help heal the body. The main thing is counterbalancing the good vibes with the bad ones, once you have recognized how your various emotions are affecting you physically.