The Importance of Looking After Your Heart

Blog > The Importance of Looking After Your Heart

27 February 2020


Each February is National Heart Month. A worthy cause that reflects the importance and health benefits of the human heart.

Keeping the heart healthy, whatever your age might be, is one of the most important things you can do to help prevent or manage heart disease. According to healthassured.org, a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease, which in turn also reduces the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.

With around 2.6 million people in the UK currently living with Coronary Heart Disease, it’s always useful to know what the main high risk heart conditions are, and what they mean:

  • Heart Attack – heart attacks occur when the heart muscle is starved of oxygen-rich blood, causing serious damage to this muscle.
  • Abnormal Heart Rhythm – this means that the heart is beating too fast, too slow, or with an irregular heart pattern.
  • Coronary Heart Disease – CHD affects the heart when Coronary arteries become narrowed by a gradual build-up of fatty material within their walls.
  • Angina – a pain or discomfort felt in the chest, which is usually caused by Coronary Heart Disease.


Below are also some helpful tips from the British Heart Foundation that will help control and maintain a really good balanced health of your own heart:

  • Watching your diet
  • Physical activity
  • Managing your weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Getting regular health screenings
  • Checking your family history


Stated by BHF as well, just making small changes to your daily routine can make a big difference to the health of your heart – which in the long term could save your life.

This important heart awareness month gives people the perfect excuse to sip a glass of red wine. Perhaps seen as a surprise to many but research suggests that red wine is actually known to be very good for the heart, but only in small amounts.

When raising funds for such a worthwhile monthly cause, it’s always good to know that there are many activities for everyone including work colleagues, family members or friends to actively take part in, such as; a Wear Red to Work Day, dye your hair red for the month, or make handmade Valentine’s Day cards.

Anxiety and stress in the workplace:

Suffering from stress or an anxiety disorder while at work can also cause many problems or complications to your heart if you are not taking the necessary steps to look after your own mental well-being.

Mindfulness Exercises on Linked In have provided 10 ways of how you can be more mindful at work:

1. Be Consciously Present

To be mindful at work means to be consciously present in what you’re doing, while you’re doing it, as well as managing your mental and emotional state.

2. Use Short Mindful Exercises At Work

Even one minute of consciously connecting with one of your senses can be classified as a mindful exercise. You don’t need to close your eyes. You don’t even need to be sitting down.

3. Be a Single-Tasker

Nobody can actually multitask. Your brain is madly switching from one thing to the next, often losing data in the process.

4. Use Mindful Reminders

Being on auto-pilot means that you’re not fully present and awake to the opportunities and choices around you. By using some form of reminder, you can be mindful again. The reminder shakes you out of autopilot mode.

5.Slow Down To Speed Up

Effective leaders, workers and entrepreneurs slow down and reflect to make the best decisions and actions – they slow down to speed up.

6. Make Stress Your Friend

If you want to make stress your friend, you need to change the way you think about it and, in turn, your body’s response to it. Mindfulness can help you achieve this change in perception.

7. Feel Gratitude

Actively practising gratitude makes you feel better and has a positive impact on your creativity, health, working relationships and quality of work.

8. Cultivate Humility

Humility is often confused with meekness or timidity but they’re not the same. Humility does not mean seeing yourself as inferior; rather, it means being aware of your natural dependence on and equity with those around you.

9. Accept What You Can’t Change

Acceptance lies at the heart of mindfulness. It means to accept yourself, just as you are now, acknowledging the truth of how things are at this time before trying to change anything.

10. Adopt a Growth Mind Set

Expect and move towards challenges, seeing them as opportunities for inner growth. Don’t mind getting negative feedback – view it as a chance to discover something new.


If you would like to acquire more information about the benefits of mindfulness at work, you can find this out in the book ‘Practical Mindfulness: A step-by-step guide’ by Ken A. Verni. Below are just a few handy pointers it makes:

  • The blend of promoting happiness and personal effectiveness has proven especially attractive to employers, who have found out offering mindfulness training within the workplace has benefitted their employees and themselves.
  • Mindfulness hone people’s skills, making them more focused, better able to juggle priorities, solve problems, cooperate in teams, lead others, and be creative.
  • A happier worker is a more productive worker, and is more likely to stay with the company and show loyalty.

Controlling your own physiology in the workplace:

What is physiology? In simple terms, it relates to the biological mechanisms that constantly work to keep the human body alive and functioning. Depending on what you are feeling and how you are feeling it, this will send all kinds of signals to the brain, whether that may be chemical waves, pressure waves or electromagnetic signals; about what is going on in your human body. This can also be linked with something known as proprioception; which refers to an individual’s personal awareness of both the position and movement of the body.

Whenever we experience a physiological response to something like anxiety in the workplace, our defensive systems suddenly become activated, and pulls our thinking and focus towards danger and threats. Also known as the ‘Fight or Flight’ response, anxiety is an important defensive emotion designed to direct our bodily feelings and emotions, attention, thoughts and behaviour whenever placed in or confronted with a difficult life situation.

The main challenge in managing your anxiety really well is by seizing full control of your own physiology. But how do you get control given that there are so many different signals? You should start with one specific signal, which is the electrical signal of the heart. The heart rate variates between each distance over time. It’s the variance, or Heart Rate Variability (HRV) that’s key.

Whenever you are put under pressure, your HRV becomes super chaotic. So what happens next is that your brain receives a signal from your heart, up through your nerve channels, which when under pressure becomes super chaotic. The consequence of the super chaos means that it shuts off your frontal lobes and as a result, you give yourself a DIY lobotomy; you lobotomise yourself in that highly pressurised moment.

One of the things that you need to learn to do to get control of that physiological response is to switch from a chaotic level to what is called “coherence”. So the thing that underpins brain function is the ability to generate a coherent signal, therefore there is variance but its coherent variance, as opposed to wildly fluctuant variance.

To enable to actually generate a coherent signal from your heart, you have to spend a few minutes each day practising smooth rhythmic breathing. If you do this for at least five minutes every day by smoothly inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for four seconds, you will notice a considerably big improvement in your brain and mind, where you become more perceptive, more forward thinking and better at problem solving.

Perhaps consider introducing rhythmic breathing into your daily routine to see whether it works for you or not? You can do this as part of a mindfulness meditation programme or as stand-alone exercises. Some of these include a five-minute Mindful Breathing Meditation, 10 minute Body-and-Breath Meditation, Body Scan Basics and Mindfulness Walking Meditation.


Resources:

https://www.healthassured.org/blog/british-heart-foundation-heart-month/

http://www.national-awareness-days.com/national-heart-month/

https://MindfulnessExercises.com

D Ken A. Verni (2015). Practical Mindfulness: A step-by-step guide. DK

https://youtu.be/q06YIWCR2Js – ‘Being Brilliant Every Single Day’ Parts 1 & 2 by Dr. Alan Watkins

 

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