By Sarah A LoBisco, ND

No doubt that what we are exposed to in the environment can affect our moods. For example, does this Upstate NY heat make your heart sing with gratitude or your head curse in anger?

You may have heard that cultivating “an attitude of gratitude” can affect your mood and your overall enjoyment of life, but did you know that that it can also decrease your chance of cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory disorders?

I’ve written about the power of the environment on your gene expression and health and within our cellular environment is our emotional biochemistry. A powerful connection exists between nurturing relationships and physical health in the medical literature. Therefore, it may be just as important to have a night of quality conversation with your organic foods.  In fact, social isolation and feeling disconnected is the number one risk factor for a negative cardiovascular event. Dr. Bland summarizes this form of risk factor as “poverty”, poverty of social connection, meaning, hope, and joy in life.

About a year ago, I blogged on this:

The heart itself has a “brain” and contains hormonal and healing effects to the whole body. Beyond numbers and weight, it’s the sense of isolation that is the primary predictor if one will die or live in all cause mortality. It isn’t just a cliche, emotions play a big part in heart health! Studies show that you can literally have a heart attack from a broken heart. According to a study in Circulation:

Acute psychological stress is associated with an abrupt increase in the risk of cardiovascular events. Intense grief in the days after the death of a significant person may trigger the onset of acute myocardial infarction (MI), but this relationship has not been systematically studied.

More and more studies supporting the power of this mind-heart connection are appearing. Dr. Guarneri, MD, author of The Heart Speaks, and one our presenters in Arizona, is one leader in this movement for physicians to become more holistic in their heart care. She gave us several tear-jerking presentations that reminded us about the importance of why we came to the conference. It wasn’t just about learning to prevent heart disease with healthy diets and pills that manipulated our patient’s biochemical risk factors (though that was part of it). It was just as importantly about improving their quality of life with their quantity of years.

The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) did a wonderful write-up on Dr. Guarneri’s contribution on how different aspects of our heart’s expression affect our biology, psychology, and social connectedness:

  • The mental heart: affected by hostility, stress and depression
  • The emotional heart: affected by loss
  • The intelligent heart that has a nervous system of its own and communicates with the brain and other parts of the body
  • The spiritual heart that yearns for a higher purpose
  • The universal heart that communicates with others

Guarneri writes that stress is comparable in power to hypertension as a risk factor for cardiac disease. Adrenaline, the major hormone associated with the stress response, raises blood pressure, increases heart rate, narrows blood vessels, makes platelets stickier, and raises cholesterol all of which increase the risk of a cardiac event. Between 75% and 90% of all visits to healthcare practitioners are linked to stress-related disorders; the Mayo Clinic has concluded that psychological stress is the strongest indicator of future cardiac events.”

Pretty powerful stuff! Therefore, next time your significant other complains about not spending enough time together, best to take note, not just for relationship survival, but for your own longevity.

I’ve provided more on this topic at Make sure to check it out and provide feedback. After all joining in on the discussion be a good exercise in heart connection!


MARK HOUSTON, MD, MS. Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors, Noninvasive Cardiovascular Testing, and Metabolic Cardiology. June 2, 2012.  IFM Phoenix, AZ. A New Era in Preventing, Managing, and Reversing Cardiovascular and Metabolic Dysfunction

SHILPA SAXENA, MD. Clinical Solutions: Functional Medicine to the Metabolic Disease Rescue. June 2, 2012.  IFM  Phoenix, AZ. A New Era in Preventing, Managing, and Reversing Cardiovascular and Metabolic Dysfunction.

MARK HOUSTON, MD, MS . Release the Pressure: Effective Interventions for the Treatment of Hypertension. June 2, 2012.  IFM  Phoenix, AZ. A New Era in Preventing, Managing, and Reversing Cardiovascular and Metabolic Dysfunction.

MIMI GUARNERI, MD. The Healing Path: Integrative Mind-Body Cardiology. June 2, 2012.  IFM  Phoenix, AZ. A New Era in Preventing, Managing, and Reversing Cardiovascular and Metabolic Dysfunction.

Institute for Functional Medicine. The Heart Connection in Cardiometabolic Syndrome. The Institute of Functional Medicine Year of the Heart Resource Center. June 20, 2012.