Feelings Are More Than Just Feelings
A "type A" personality isn't the only kind that may put you at risk for heart disease. The personality, characterized by constant hurriedness, intense competitiveness and free-floating hostility, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding how the mind influences the heart. New research is showing that from hostility to love, the way you feel may play a part in determining the health of your heart.
Stressing the Heart
Hostility is one of several feelings that trigger the release of stress hormones into your bloodstream. These hormones cause your coronary arteries to constrict, and at the same time induce a more rapid and powerful heartbeat. They also increase your blood pressure, the tendency for blood clotting and the levels of sugar and fats in your blood. The net result: an increase in demand on your heart.
In a recent study, Duke Medical School researchers asked 58 patients with myocardial ischemia, a painful condition of insufficient blood flow to the heart, to wear heart monitors for 48 hours. The patients were instructed to keep a diary of emotions -- tension, sadness, frustration, happiness and feeling in control -- during the period.
Strengthening the view that stress reduces blood flow to the heart, the researchers found that patients who had stressful feelings were twice as likely to have a bout of ischemic pain an hour later as patients who didn't have stressful feelings.