Updated: Jun 25
Discover the transformative power of holistic heart health as we delve into the interconnected influences that shape our well-being. In this blog, we uncover the startling statistic that up to 90% of heart disease cases are preventable through healthy lifestyle modifications. Join us on a journey through the four chambers of heart wellness - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual - and unlock the keys to a vibrant, heart-healthy life.
It is a heartbreaking statistic that diseases of the heart are the number one cause of death in the United States for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups (CDC.gov, 2023). Heart disease accounts for 700,000 deaths yearly, nearly 1 in 5 people or one every 33 seconds. But what is even harder to digest is up to 90% of heart disease is preventable with healthy lifestyle modifications.
The heart is the center chakra of the seven major chakra systems and bridges the upper and lower chakras. It is the center of connection, connecting us to ourselves, our community, and spirit. The heart is responsible for love, joy, gratitude, and forgiveness. It is the physical organ responsible for pumping oxygenated blood through our body, responsible for life.
When navigating a heart health journey, covering the whole heart in a holistic journey is essential. In my signature approach, The Heart of Eating ©, I break heart health into four major categories – similar to the four chambers of the heart: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Just like the chambers work together to manage the heartbeat, the living pulse, and pumping blood, delivering nutrients to the cells and tissues of the body, these four categories of wellness are all scientifically proven to be interwoven influences on the overall well-being of the heart.
Holistic Wellness to Prevent Heart Disease (Four Chambers of Heart Health)
Chamber 1 – Right Atrium: Physical Well-being
Nutrition is one of the most influential components to reducing heart disease risk while providing the body with the nourishment it needs to function optimally. Our food can heal the gut, decrease inflammation, change gene expression, and prolong vitality. On the contrary, imbalanced menus can cause the opposite and increase the risk of developing complications with the heart. In the right atrium, the heart receives deoxygenated blood and prepares it for the lungs to replenish it with oxygen. This process symbolizes how physical well-being – such as nutrition, hydration, herbal medicine, and other self-care practices – prepares the body for optimal functioning.
Key beneficial nutrients you may see in discussing heart health include fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and a variety of antioxidants. Food has synergistic properties, and knowing how to combine the nutrients may reduce the risk of premature heart attack or stroke. However, food is not the only component of physical well-being. We also want to consider the beverages we drink and other sources of nourishment, such as herbal medicine. Maintaining adequate hydration is essential for blood pressure and fluidity, reducing blood clot risk. Herbal medicine can provide benefits in reducing the risk of heart disease by decreasing inflammation, providing antioxidants to the body, balancing blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing stress, and improving digestive wellness. Hawthorn, for example, is known for its use in heart healing, helping to regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Properly combining nourishing foods, drinks, and herbs can add years to your life and prevent heart disease. A healthful diet focuses on high-fiber, beneficial fatty acids, colorful fruits and vegetables, balanced protein, balanced electrolytes, hydration, and the strategic use of herbal medicine – like heart tonics - as necessary. Other forms of physical self-care that decrease the risk of heart disease include proper sleep schedule, breathing practices, movement, and reducing/eliminating disrupting behaviors, like drinking and smoking.
Chamber 2 – Right Ventricle: Mental Well-being
The mental aspect of heart healing relates to our thought process. How we think leads to how we feel (emotions), so you will often see mental and emotional health overlap. I separated the two in The Heart of Eating because mental well-being begins with our thoughts and perceptions. Mental health is a broad topic, and while The Heart of Eating doesn't cover the depths of mental health, it does break down how mental health can influence heart disease, including our relationship with food, our bodies, and stress. The heart's right ventricle delivers the deoxygenated blood to the lungs, where it receives fresh oxygen to circulate through the body. Mental health relates to the right ventricle as it represents the constant need to refresh and renew the mind, allowing for mental clarity, resilience, and coping with life's challenges.
I have always said nutrition is 20% science and 80% behavior. Most everyone knows fresh fruits and vegetables are beneficial and healing. One of our struggles with the relationship with food is implementing balanced eating. To take that one step further, society has misdirected our focus and intention with food to be more body image related than health-focused, causing many people to take healthful eating too far or the complete opposite and creating resentful eating behaviors. Disordered eating is not quite the same as an eating disorder, but chronic dieting and unhealthy meal structure can increase the risk of developing heart disease (more on this to come). You can read more about gentle nutrition in a previous post here.
Other mental health aspects of managing the risk of heart disease include identifying thoughts that lead to negative feelings, reframing thoughts to be neutral or beneficial, identifying and targeting stress, and practicing resilience. The heart-brain connection is a bi-directional communication pathway between the heart and the brain through electrical impulses, hormones, and the nervous system. This connection brings together the emotional and mental wellness impacts on heart health.
Chamber 3 Left Atrium: Emotional Well-being
The heart is the center of emotion. It is the center of connection to ourselves and everyone around us. It is our primary connection to our spiritual source. Certain thoughts we think lead to emotions, either good or bad. Unmanaged emotions have the ability to become trapped in the body and fuel the fire of disease. It is because of the intricate connection between the mind and the heart that ties the emotional well-being to the left atrium. The left atrium is where we receive freshly oxygenated blood from the lungs. We are better prepared for emotional development once we refresh and renew our thoughts (from the right ventricle).
Unhealthy emotional states, such as anger, hostility, or social isolation (loneliness), increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, while feelings of gratitude, love, and connection can decrease our chances. We want to recognize and manage emotions healthfully. Emotions are energy in motion and can manifest into disease or imbalances when trapped or stagnant. We can build emotional resilience through mindfulness activities, meditation, reiki, EFT/TFT (tapping), self-compassion and self-awareness, and actions promoting joy and fulfillment. We can build compassionate relationships with ourselves and others. Practicing self-compassion shapes emotional intelligence and transforms our thoughts to be more accepting and creative (enhancing cognition).
Chamber 4 Left Ventricle: Spiritual Well-being
When discussing spiritual diseases of the heart, it is important to note that "spiritual" can have different interpretations and meanings depending on one's beliefs and cultural context. In a broader sense, spirituality has a connection with heart disease. It refers to disturbances or imbalances in the innermost aspects of a person's being, which may affect their spiritual well-being. The left ventricle is the last chamber within the heart responsible for pumping the revitalized blood to the rest of the body, providing life-giving nutrients. Similarly, spirituality connects us to something greater than ourselves, recognizing the life-giving relationship, a sense of purpose or meaning, and interconnectedness.
A few examples of imbalances within a person's spirituality include feeling that life has no purpose or meaning, disconnection from morals, values, or beliefs, and lack of self-reflection resulting in disharmony or conflict, with unresolved emotions. Negative attitudes and beliefs can lead us to behaviors like envy, hatred, arrogance, or greed that can hinder a person's spiritual growth. As I previously mentioned, this negative energy creates stress and blockages in the body, which can ignite dis-ease.
Spirituality is a deeply personal and individual aspect of a person's life; therefore, the relationship spirituality has with increased heart disease risk is related to the individual's beliefs, values, and culture. Spiritual distress can lead to poor self-care or unhealthy behaviors and coping strategies, social isolation, and increased stress response – all contributing factors to the development of cardiovascular disease.
Heart disease remains a significant threat to public health, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals each year. However, it is a staggering realization that up to 90% of heart disease cases are preventable through healthy lifestyle modifications. This data emphasizes the importance of taking a holistic approach to heart health, addressing the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our well-being.
Taking a comprehensive approach to heart health, such as the signature approach outlined in The Heart of Eating ©, allows us to acknowledge and address the interconnected influences on our well-being. By embracing holistic wellness to prevent heart disease, including healthy lifestyle modifications and fostering balance in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our lives, we can make significant strides in nurturing our heart and promoting a vibrant, heart-healthy life.
If you are interested in learning more about preventing heart disease, book your free one-on-one discovery call now for one of my nutritional coaching packages. Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to stay up-to-date on more health and wellness tidbits!