This excerpt is quoted from “The Heartmath Solution” by Doc Childre and Howard Martin:
“The heart isn’t only open to new possibilities, it actively scans for them, seeking new, intuitive understanding. Ultimately, the head “knows” but the heart “understands.” The heart operates in a more refined range of information-processing capability, and (as we’ll demonstrate) it has a strong influence over how our brain functions.
The heart shows us the inherent core values in our lives and brings us closer to the sense of true security and belonging that we all crave. Heart Intelligence is often accompanied by a solid, secure, and balanced feeling. This we can tell when we’re in contact with the heart by how it feels. The intelligence of the heart acts as an impetus for what some scientists call ‘qualia‘ – our experience of the feelings and qualities of love, compassion, nonjudgement, tolerance, patience, and forgiveness. These qualities are often accompanied by a peaceful, clear state of awareness. When we’re engaged with our hearts, the mind slows down and our thoughts become more rational and focused. The deductive process starts to coalesce into clarity and understanding. We feel more in control, and we perceive life from a more hopeful, optimistic perspective.” (pg. 27)
This excerpt about the Autonomic Nervous System is quoted from “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body” by Daniel G. Amen, M.D.:
“The ANS is made up of two divisions – sympathetic and parasympathetic – that modulate your body’s responses. These two divisions could be thought of as opposing forces. The sympathetic division signals your heart to increase it’s firing rate and increase muscle-cell contraction; and the parasympathetic division sends signals to slow down your heart rate and relax. The sympathetic fibers are activated in times of stress, or emergency “fight-or-flight” situations. The parasympathetic fibers slow the heart down and us to “rest” and “digest.”
Excessive sympathetic stimulation can cause significant heart and blood vessel problems, including angina or heart pain, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, and even heart attacks. Through training we can learn to calm an excessively overactive sympathetic nervous system and improve our heart health.” (pg. 166-167)
Here are a few Brain-Heart Connection Robbers mentioned by Dr. Daniel G. Amen M.D. (pg 170)
Decreased blood flow – I often say that whatever is good for your heart is good for your brain, and whatever is bad for your heart is bad for your brain. Blood flow is critical to your survival. Anything that decreases blood flow to your heart, brain, or body decreases healthy function. Smoking, excessive caffeine, excessive stress, certain medications or abuse drugs, and a lack of exercise all have the potential to damage brain-heart health.
Excessive stress – Constant exposure to stress hormones kills cells in the brain’s memory centers and also decreases HRV (heart rate variability) and hearth health. Research has found that high self-ratings of anxiety and stress within a week were associated with lower levels of HRV. Having stress-management practices is critical to both brain and heart health. Stress hormones may also constrict narrowed blood vessels. In an instructive study from Duke University, researchers asked fifty-eight men and women with coronary artery disease to wear portable monitors for two days. They were asked to write in their diaries what they were doing and feeling. Tension, frustration, and other negative emotions often led to heart monitor recordings that pointed to decreased blood flow in the arteries to the heart. This decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack.
Inflammation – Chronic inflammation from any cause constricts blood flow to the heart and to the brain. Many scientists now think it is one of the major causes of both cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Homosysteine and C-reactive protein tests are laboratory measures of inflammation. Taking steps to decrease inflammation, such as eating right and taking fish oil, are critical to the health of every system in your body.
Excessive alcohol – Daily drinking is associated with a smaller brain, which means poorer decision making, stress, and heartache. In a fascinating study from the Harvard School of Public Health on the preventable causes of death, alcohol use caused 90,000 deaths a year from road traffic and other injuries, violence, chronic liver disease, cancers, alcohol-use disorders, stroke, arrhythmias, and hypertensive disease.