The Nation's Health + [Heart disease reversal]

Heart disease reversal: Gratitude

The holidays and the end of the year may be a good time to reflect on how grateful we should be for having the freedom to discuss the ideas we share on this Blog, the Track Your Plaque website, online and offline.

Although I rant and rave against the status quo in heart disease, the shameful profiteering of my colleagues and hospitals, the cut-throat marketing practices of drug and device manufacturers, I am truly grateful that, in the U.S., I have the extraordinary freedom to say these things. You have the freedom to agree or disagree and none of us pays a price for truth.

I've been reflecting myself a great deal on this idea of happiness and gratitude being a critical component of coronary plaque regression and dropping your heart scan score. (See The Heart Scan Blog from earlier this week.) The more I think about this, the more I think that it is indeed true: Harboring anger and resentment, regrets, irritability, all those petty emotions that most of us know are not good for us, erode our chances for success in dropping your heart scan score.

We could rationalize it this way: Anger and other negative emotions are adrenaline-driven states, also characterized by activation of the "sympathetic" nervous system. (Despite its name, the sympathetic system is not sympathetic, as in compassionate; its the "fight-or-flight" activator that accelerates heart rate and blood pressure.)

Happiness, contentment, and gratitude are "parasympathetic" states characterized by slower heart rates, deeper respiration, greater variation in beat-to-beat heart rates (a powerful predictor for health and the basis for the HeartMath program of Lew Childre), lower blood pressure, and even a subtle change in brain waves. In other words, happiness is not just a mental and emotional state, it is a constellation of physical phenomena.

Even though I pick on Dr. Dean Ornish for his stubborn adherence to the outdated low-fat mantra, I do agree with him on the value of happiness. His book, Love and Survival, articulates this concept. Ornish has even said on several occasions that it wasn't the diet that was most important but the connection and warmth that was created by the comraderie created by participation in the Ornish Program group sessions.

I am personally grateful that the concepts I promote are gaining a following and that I can say so without fear of prosecution. I am grateful that Track Your Plaque followers are not just sharing our concepts, but obtaining genuine and powerful health advice that will help keep them home and healthy, away from hospitals, procedures, and the dangers of heart disease.

I hope you share in my gratitude and are thankful for all the truly wonderful things that surround us. I wish you all a wonderful holiday and long, healthy life filled with gratitude.