February is national heart month, with many organisations such as the British Heart Foundation trying to raise awareness in preventing heart disease.
Sowhat is a healthy heart? And how can I get one? Well the majority of us are all born with a healthy heart. The heart functions via a little node that tells the heart to constantly beat at a regular pace, generally around 70 beats per minute (bpm). But when we exercise, we require the heart to beat harder and faster, to pump more blood and oxygen around our body. This is done via our sympathetic nerves that originate from our Thoracic spine (our back). These nerves are “accelerators”. They speed things up, make our heart beat faster, and our body work harder. But when we stop exercising, our body needs to apply the “breaks”, and slow things down. This is done through our parasympathetic nerves that originate from the brain itself, and pass very close to the upper cervical spine (your neck), on their way to your heart.
Now if these nerves, the “break” and the “accelerator”, are not working and communicating, then your heart rate will not regulate as well. So when we challenge ourselves with exercise or change from sitting to standing, our heart does not respond as well.
How can Chiropractic help heart health?
Recent studies have shown that this control of the “break” and “accelerator” nerves, measured as heart rate variability (HRV), can be influenced and potentially improved through Chiropractic care. A recent paper published in 2014(1) showed improved HRV after Chiropractic neck adjustments, indicating better autonomic control of the heart. This confirmed earlier papers published in 2006(2) showing similar results. So seeing your Chiropractor can potentially help your hearts ability to respond to a change in activity or environment.
Other key factors affecting our heart health include
a balanced diet
getting good quality sleep
avoid smoking and
avoid drinking in excess.
Remember, your heart is a muscle, so use it or lose it. Even if you start walking just 10minutes a day, 5 days a week, you will have strengthened your heart. Do it! Poor diets stress out our body, asking it to digest and process complex foods (eg. processed foods and junk foods). Keep food simple, and keep it fresh and your body will more easily break it down into nutrients and waste. Sleep is extremely important in controlling stress levels as well, and allows our body to heal and regenerate. Get in a good habit with your sleeping times, keep the room dark and avoid the iPad and phone a few hours before bed. Remember, good habits take time to form.
Taking these simple measures can improve heart function and help prevent your heart health deteriorating. Don’t wait for your heart to tell you its unhealthy, take action now!