Even alternative practitioners can emphasise the importance of nutrition and still overlook another vital aspect that also has a part to play in maintaining a healthy heart.
Someone who follows all the right nutritional guidelines can still suffer heart problems. It is as though all the metaphors surrounding the heart – such as ‘a broken heart’, a ‘lonely heart’, and so on – can literally be true.
It’s important, therefore, not to become too isolated in your life. Instead, join social groups and pursue interests that involve regular contact with others. Studies have shown that people who feel they are part of a wider community suffer less heart disease than those who lead a more solitary life. Even having a pet can help give more purpose to our lives.
Similarly, having spiritual values, conventional or otherwise, can also help us shift the focus from our day-to-day hassles, as can praying. Indeed, prayer can speed recovery after heart surgery (see main article).
Meditation can help reduce stress levels and enable us to see ‘the bigger picture’.
Gentle, regular and non-competitive exercise can also help. One study discovered that hatha yoga (the popular form that involves body control) could actually reverse heart disease. A group of 42 men with heart disease were split into two groups: one group carried out yoga, aerobic exercise and modified its diet; the other group followed the diet recommended by the American Medical Association and its advice on other risk factors. After a year, the yoga group had significantly fewer angina (chest pain) attacks every week, and fewer individuals in the yoga group needed to undergo surgery (J Assoc Physicians, 2000; 48: 687-94).
Hypnosis has been shown to lower blood pressure, but it’s important that you find a qualified practitioner.