February is American Heart Month and when most of us think about taking care of our heart health, the first things that come to mind are diet and exercise. But did you know that stress has a major impact on your heart health as well?
When you don't manage stress effectively you place an unnecessary burden on the one muscle that keeps you alive: your heart. When you're stressed, your body goes into "fight or flight" mode. The brain then releases hormones that cause your heart to pump faster, thicken your blood, and raise blood pressure. If you constantly experience this stress response, it eventually changes the way your heart and blood system function--putting you at risk for heart disease.
But the good news is that there's a "cure" you can use anytime, anywhere to change the way you respond to stress and actually lower blood pressure and protect your heart from the deadly grip of stress. Cardiologist, Dr. John Kennedy, developed 'The 15 Minute Heart Cure'--a set of simple breathing techniques that creates a connection between the heart and brain. This method helps you calm down, reenergize, and protects your heart all at the same time.
To get the most out of using this technique, try to do it at the same time each day. I like to do it before bed to shake off a stressful day.
B in B-R-E-A-T-H-E = Beginning. Begin in a quiet space where you won't be interrupted for about 15 minutes. Begin with a positive attitude. View this time as a gift to your health. Seated in a comfortable position, try to clear all thoughts and bring focus to the your breath, slowly inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
R in B-R-E-A-T-H-E = Relaxation. Relaxation brought about by this technique creates changes in brain waves and the rhythm of your heart. Visualize yourself walking on a 'path to relaxation', perhaps a beautiful hiking path. With each step, you become more and more relaxed.
E in B-R-E-A-T-H-E = Envision. Walt Disney, Steve Jobs and Deepak Chopra are called visionaries for good reason. Research shows envisioning is an important part of achieving a goal - be it a story, a revolutionary digital device, or a new paradigm in medicine. Imagine your heart as powerful and strong. Research also shows that imagery can lower your heart rate, lower blood pressure, and strengthen your immune system.
A in B-R-E-A-T-H-E = Apply. In Dr. Kennedy's book, there are heart-healing images and metaphors for you to apply during your 15-minute practice and during stressful moments. Tapping into the imagery, even from memory, can help break the cycle of stress in the moment it is happening.
T in B-R-E-A-T-H-E = Treatment. Your time spent with this technique is no different than taking time for a spa-treatment. See this time as a 15-minute oasis that you create.
H in B-R-E-A-T-H-E = Heal. This technique will strengthen neural networks that connect your heart and brain so that your body easily shifts from stress response to relaxation response. Healing is more likely to occur in a relaxed state, bringing more oxygen into muscles, lowering pulse rate and blood pressure, and enhancing immune response.
E in B-R-E-A-T-H-E = End. After 15-minutes of mindful focus on the breath and heart-healing imagery, you will feel deeply relaxed and energized and revitalized. As you end your session, quietly notice your surroundings and visualize how you can use the technique throughout your day.
- Detailed instructions on the BREATHE™ technique by Dr. John Kennedy http://www.johnmkennedymd.com/breath-techniq.html
- Dr. Kennedy’s Website: http://www.johnmkennedymd.com
- The BREATHE™ APP: http://encardiawellness.com/focusBreathing.html
- Kennedy, John. The 15 Minute Heart Cure: The Natural Way to Release Stress and Heal Your Heart in Just Minutes a Day. (2009). Wiley. http://www.amazon.com/15-Minute-Heart-Cure-Natural-ebook/dp/B00DNKYFUK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448554071&sr=8-1&keywords=15+min+heart+cure