Mind + Soul

Mind Your Health: The Connection Between Anxiety and Heart Health

It was little wonder that chest pain, pressure, tightness, shortness of breath, and palpitations seemed to rule Jim’s life.

An excerpt from my book, It’s Always the Heart….

An exhausted, yet anxious, forty-five-year-old Jim walked into the exam room after several sleepless nights and an endless stream of twelve-hour workdays. Like the everyday stresses and strains in his life, his symptoms were not really new. In fact, as I would find out later in the exam, they had been steadily building for quite some time—perhaps even years. He did not really know where to start, so he began erratically telling me fragmented bits of information about an overwhelming number of complaints. He nervously answered yes to nearly every question I asked about the symptoms he had been experiencing. It was little wonder that chest pain, pressure, tightness, shortness of breath, and palpitations seemed to rule Jim’s life. His day was filled with chasing after the ever-elusive, unobtainable approval of others, when in reality, his focus should have been centered upon pleasing God.

Harvard Health believes that about a quarter of people with cardiovascular disease have some kind of anxiety problem and, in some cases, the anxiety seems to make the heart condition worse. As the association between anxiety and heart disease has not been fully studied, Dr. Una McCann from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine believes the connection is strong. “It’s my view and my personal clinical experience that anxiety disorders can play a major role in heart disease,” says Dr. McCann.

According to the Mayo Clinic, many people think anxiety is restricted to your mind, but your physical health is affected as well.

According to the Mayo Clinic, many people think anxiety is restricted to your mind, but your physical health is affected as well. Anxiety can cause abnormal heart rhythms, higher blood pressure, faster blood clotting, and lead to higher levels of insulin and cholesterol. Whatever it may cause, the answer is to address it spiritually in order to be healed physically.

If you struggle with anxiety, it’s important to keep things in perspective by reminding yourself that God really is in control. Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” When you feel anxious, stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that He is control and will help you through. Rely on Him. Lean on Him. Trust Him.

I know that anxiety must also be addressed from a physical standpoint, and the Mayo Clinic lists some great tips below!

1) Exercise is a powerful stress reducer. It’s best if you develop a regular routine and work out most days of the week. Start out slowly and gradually increase the amount and intensity.

2) Avoid alcohol and other sedatives as they can worsen anxiety

3) Use relaxation techniques. Visualization, meditation, and yoga are examples of relaxation techniques that can ease anxiety

4) Make sleep a priority. Do what you can to make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep.

5) Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking coffee. Both nicotine and caffeine can worsen anxiety.

 

Mind Your Health: The Connection Between Depression & Heart Health

A  cheerful  heart  is  good  medicine,  but  a  crushed  spirit dries up the bones. —Proverbs 17:22

An excerpt from my book, It’s Always the Heart

Realizing the severity of the symptoms, Mrs. Tallent (as we will call her)  had the presence of mind to slowly lower herself to the floor of the bathroom and crawl to the telephone to call her daughter, who summoned the paramedics to Mrs. Tallent’s home. On the paramedics’ arrival, Mrs. Tallent was pale and short of breath, and she had broken into a cold sweat.  She was still having chest discomfort, and it was becoming harder to breathe.

Hearing the emergency-room physician declare, “Mrs. Tallent, you are having a heart attack,” felt like a dream.

The nausea didn’t subside even when lying down, causing her to feel as though she were going to pass out at any moment. On arrival at her local small-town emergency room, she was taken to the chest pain center,  and her clinical situation was quickly assessed.  Following blood tests and an electrocardiogram,  treatment was initiated to relieve Mary’s symptoms. Hearing the emergency-room physician declare, “Mrs. Tallent, you are having a heart attack,” felt like a dream—Looking back on that evening, I’m not sure I’ll ever witness a moment that would better illustrate the confidence and comfort alluded to by David in Psalm23:4:  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

God warns us the Devil works at times through our physical illnesses to introduce doubt and fear, which was precisely how Mrs. Tallent would be attacked now that she had faced death from interruption of blood flow to her most vital organ. There were no other blockages,  but the damage remained in Mary’s mind. I was confident that God would use Mrs. Tallent’s near-death experience as a beautiful example of how someone can heal physically and spiritually from an attack on his or her most important organ. God gives hearts the same importance in spiritual health as well as physical health. Experience had taught me that despite her standing on a solid foundation, it would take a healing of Mrs. Tallent’s spiritual heart as she battled the lies of the Devil that she would always have a heart problem.

Research shows that depression can increase the risk of heart disease and can worsen an existing condition. According to the American Psychological Association, long-term studies reveal that men and women diagnosed with clinical depression are more than twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease or suffer a heart attack. On the other hand, happy people have healthier levels of fibrinogen and cortisol in their blood, making them less vulnerable to cardiovascular disease. This research reflects the truth found in Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine,  but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Just like any other condition, we must address the spiritual and physical condition of the heart to experience healing.

Just like any other condition, we must address the spiritual and physical condition of the heart to experience healing. Depression can make us feel hopeless, and the only thing that will actually change this is God’s hope. God’s hope is encouraging and motivating, and His Word is full of scriptures reflecting this. Proverbs 23:18 says, “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off”. Psalm 37:9 tells us, “Those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land”, and Psalm 42:5 says, “Why are you downcast, o my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God”. When facing depression, put your hope in Him.

Depression must also be addressed physically. The Cleveland Clinic gives great tips on dealing with depression. Check them out below!

1)     Get dressed every day

2)     Get out and walk daily

3)     Resume hobbies and social activities you enjoy

4)     Share your feeling with your spouse, friend, or member of the clergy

5)     Don’t use harmful habits to cope, such as smoking, using drugs, drinking excessively or                  overeating. These harmful habits increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Mind Your Health: The Connection Between Stress and Heart Disease

The blockage was so tight, blood was getting through, literally, only one drop  at  a  time. 

An excerpt from my book, It’s Always the Heart….

The blockage was so tight, blood was getting through, literally, only one drop at a time.  How he kept from suffering a massive heart attack in the eight days prior to coming in on his own terms, truly only God knows. It reminded me that even when we make bad decisions that are potentially harmful to our lives, God still protects us.

 The morning after his heart-cath procedure, Mr. Important (as we will call him) confided in me that the natural stresses associated with his thirty-four-year marriage—as well as the relationship(or lack thereof) with his children—had weighed heavily on his chest. Relationships have to be nurtured, and by his own admission, he had always been driven to be superior at providing financially for the loved ones in his life, but rarely nurturing. Time spent at becoming, as he put it, “a self-made man” stole the time away from nurturing relationships with his wife and children.

It had been only three short months since Mr. Important’s stent procedure, when he came in forhis first post-stent evaluation. In stark contrast to his attitude during our first office visit, his hardened heart had already begun softening to God’s Word…. In short, God was leading him to a point of understanding that a long-lasting change in his physical heart would first require a change in his spiritual heart.

The Bible tells us in Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Many times we lose sight of this command because we let the demands and pressures of this world become more important. When our motives become more about “me, me, me” and less about “Him, Him, Him”, stress begins to creep in.

The American Psychological Association has discovered that “prolonged stress due to the pressures at home, on the job, or from other sources can contribute to abnormally high blood pressure and circulation problems”. The American Heart Association believes “stress may affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk.” It’s obvious that stress can impact our heart health. But what do we do about it?

First, let’s address our spiritual condition. Throughout the Bible, the scriptures address the condition of stress, but one of my favorite scriptures is found in Psalm 118:5-6 (ESV). It says, “out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Instead of living in stress, call out to the Lord and He will set you free. It may sound too simple for some of our over-complicated lives, but isn’t that the beauty of this passage? God’s answer to our mounds and mounds of worry, pressure, and stress isn’t to complicate our lives even further, but to simplify them. SIMPLY CALL ON HIM, and He will set you free.

Now that we’ve addressed the spiritual condition of the heart, we also need to address the physical condition. How you handle stress also influences your cardiovascular system’s response. So, it’s important that we handle stress in a healthy manner. Below are a few tips for on managing stress.

1)     Follow a Regular Sleep Routine

        Regular sleep can help you decompress and rejuvenate after a stressful day.

2)     Exercise Regularly

        The endorphins released when exercising can help improve your stress levels.

3)     Practice Deep Breathing

Take a few minutes every day and practice breathing in through your nose, letting your   abdomen expand and hold your breath for a count of three. Then, breathe out slowly through your mouth. Repeat this 3-5 times.

4)     Ask For Help

Sometimes we need a support network that can offer alternative strategies to help manage stress levels.

Happiness Protects Your Heart

Did you know that March 20, 2017 was the official International Day of Happiness around the world?

Did you know that March 20, 2017 was the official International Day of Happiness around the world? There has been a profound shift in attitudes across the world, and we, as a people, are beginning to recognize that progress isn’t only about growing an economy…about money. Progress is also about increasing our happiness and wellbeing.

This paradigm shift can even be found on the global political stage. In 2011, the UN recognized happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and began working towards an approach to promote happiness across the globe as a symbol of progress. In honor of this resolution, March 20th has been established as the annual International Day of Happiness.

As a doctor, I consider this an incredible sign! I firmly believe regardless of whether it’s the physical heart causing the symptoms, the condition of the spiritual heart must be addressed before complete healing can occur. We see the physical manifestations of poor spiritual health all the time. Maybe you’re stressed, overwhelmed, or perhaps battling an addiction. We don’t just feel these things emotionally and mentally. We experience them physically, too. Spiritual health is just as important as physical health!

Spiritual health is just as important as physical health!

In 1 Thessalonians, the Bible tell us to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We were created to be joyful, and we are not, our hearts manifest this issue. For example, a scientific study concluded in 2005 that happiness predicts lower heart rate and blood pressure. In 2008, research also uncovered a link between happiness and heart rate variability, which is associated with risk for various diseases. If that isn’t enough, an additional study in 2010 found that expressing positive emotions regularly over time puts people at a 22% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease. In essence, happiness protects the heart.

Happiness protects the heart

Since happiness can seem like such an abstract idea, I’ve listed ideas from the official website for the International Day of Happiness on how to increase happiness.  I want to challenge each of you to begin practicing these “disciplines” daily.

1.    Do things for others

       Helping others is not only good for them, but it also connect us to our community                            making us happier.

2.    Connect with people

       People with strong social relationships are happier, healthier, and live longer.

3.    Take care of your body

       Being active makes us happier. It improves our mood and can even lift us out of a depression.

4.    Be comfortable with who you are

       Learning to accept ourselves and being kinder to ourselves when things go wrong, increases                our enjoyment of life, resilience, and well being.

5.    Be part of something bigger

       Meaning and purpose make people happier. People who possess meaning and purpose feel                more in control and less stressed and anxious.

 

Heart Health Lessons Women Taught Me

Women's History Month has been a great time for us to reflect on the impact that women have had on hearts around the world. It's been full of encouraging stories marked by courage and love. We've learned how a healthy heart can truly make an impact on the world around us and the people in our lives. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the women in my life for the inspiration that they are to me on a daily basis. Your hearts are strong, beautiful, and brave. 

Because this has been such a great series, I wanted to highlight some very important things that all of us should remember when it comes to our heart health. Check out the list below for some important reminders exampled to us by women across the world about heart health. 

Heart Health Lessons Women Taught Me

1. When we have healthy spiritual hearts, we impact others

2. We must focus on maintaining our heart health, not just treating sickness

3. A strong heart can rejoice in the midst of difficult situations

4. We must be determined about your heart health

5. A compassionate heart will relieve the suffering of others

6. Self discipline is the first step towards heart health 

7. A hopeful heart has a purpose for the future

8. A faithful heart always wins

9. Proper nutrition is the first line of defense to foster good heart health

10. Forgiveness is part of heart health

11. Community is key to achieving and maintaining health

12. Do not let your heart grow weary…Perseverance is a discipline of the heart that anchors you in the face of adversity. Develop it for a healthy heart

13. The heart of a warrior sees past personal battles and fights for the future of others. 

14. A kind heart gives guidance to others

15. A faithful heart is beautiful 

 

The Future Belongs To Those Who Believe

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”  I believe women are inspirational and key figures in helping all of us live out our dreams; ultimately impacting our hearts in a special and unique way. That is why I want to join in and celebrate Women’s History Month with all of you.

There are so many inspirational women that have played an important role in furthering our understanding of the heart and the important role that it plays for all of us. From medical advances to incredible fitness accomplishments, women have motivated us to stand up and make a difference in our hearts and the hearts of others.

Like many of you, I have amazing women in my life that have impacted hearts and history. For starters, my wife, Mary, has inspired me and motivated me to believe in and pursue my dreams. There is no crazy or insane idea of mine that she won’t encourage and cheer on. In fact, without her, It’s Always the Heart wouldn’t be able to reach out and teach so many people about the importance of heart health! Mary Catherine Constantine is one who believes in the beauty of her dreams and the dreams of others, and because of that, she has impacted my heart and the hearts of countless others! She is the most inspiring woman that I know.

Who is the most inspiring woman in your life?

Who is the most inspiring woman in your life? How has she impacted your heart and your history? What has she done for you? I want to challenge you to take this opportunity to make sure she knows how inspirational she is. Write her a letter. Shoot her a text or even tag her in this post. Remind her of how amazing, unique, and important she really is.

And, as we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month, make sure to sign up for our newsletter so you can continue to be inspired and motivated by the amazing women that have made a difference in, what I believe is the most important thing in our lives, our hearts!

 

From the Heart,

Arthur E. Constantine, M.D.

P.S.

You can sign up for my newsletter in 2 ways!

1)     Click here http://www.itsalwaystheheart.com/contac                

                                           OR

 2)   Click the “Sign Up” button on my facebook page @itsalwaystheheart

 

Anxiety and the Heart

As you let go of your anxieties and expectations, hope miraculously manifests and helps you to trust God for your tomorrows.

God always delivers His promises. God’s faithfulness has been shown in all circumstances, but perhaps not at the time I expected it. The important thing to remember is that God is always faithful.

What is required of us is to stand firm in faith as we wait on His timing.

Anxiety and the Heart by Arthur Constantine

As a cardiologist, I have witnessed many instances of His faithfulness. From the “mundane” continued good health after an initial heart attack and stent to the “spectacular” healing of one of my patients from cancer, His faithfulness is always amazing.

My patient, Linda, was convinced she had heart disease since our introduction in my office over 20 years ago. Every annual visit or frequent unscheduled “urgent” visit was always the same. The results of her tests revealed no issue with her physical heart.  

Everyone could see the worry in her eyes; the office nurse, receptionist, the EKG technician could all see it. Even other patients in the waiting room knew her symptoms! However, no matter the evidence that her heart was strong and healthy, Linda always left unsatisfied.

There was no convincing Linda that her physical heart was not the problem. She was physically experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath, palpitations, a rapid heartbeat and a slow heartbeat which gave her the feeling that she was going to pass out. Nothing made anatomical sense. Early on, I would try unsuccessfully to convince Linda she was OK, yet, I left our appointments as unsatisfied as she was. Frustrated that I could not heal her, I felt discussing God’s truth with her would be best. Visit after visit, asking how she was doing only focused on what was not true. My job was much more rewarding as I encouraged her by focusing on God’s truth. Each appointment, I reminded Linda that God loved her until the next visit for more of the same.

One morning, my Bible reading focused on hope and faith in Hebrews 6:13-20. Later that day, I saw Linda in the office. She told me that two months earlier she went through a major surgical procedure to treat – not cure – a diagnosis of liver cancer. One would think all attention and efforts would now be focused on recovery from cancer, but remarkably, Linda’s heart remained to be her concern! I encouraged her to place all her prayer and effort on healing from this very serious diagnosis that left Linda’s other doctors with no hope of cure.

Over the next three years, Linda would look better physically, but there was something more than just her physical appearance. One visit, three years after the cancer surgery, I was amazed to come into the office to see Linda a different person. For the first time in 22 years, I saw peace in her eyes and joy in her heart. Physically, she had improved, but spiritually and emotionally, this was not the same person.

As we spoke, she even sounded different. I was instinctively led to hug her and tell her how wonderful she looked and for the first time, I didn’t have to convince her of it! As I apologized for keeping her waiting longer than usual, it took me by surprise to hear Linda say, “You are worth waiting for.” Linda went on to share an incredible experience she had while in the waiting room. As she waited for our appointment, Linda looked across at an elderly woman waiting to see her doctor. Linda felt the woman needed someone to talk to, so she rose from her chair and walked over to sit next to the woman. Linda shared that she felt God wanted her to speak with the woman as it looked like she needed comforting. Although I was somewhat perplexed to hear this come from Linda, I could see Linda truly enjoyed sharing her heart with this patient. It was how wonderful it was to see Linda’s heart so healed that she was now able to give of herself to help someone else’s heart! As I told Linda this, she began to cry. This time, I knew they were tears of joy and not tears of fear.

Linda confessed that over the last 22 years, she needed to come in to see me because at least for the moment, it would uplift her heart to hear how much God loved her and that all would be OK. Now, with what looked like a cure from a disease thought to be unresponsive to chemotherapy, Linda could see and feel in her heart how much God truly loved her. Before she heard it, but now she believed it.

God is faithful and His grace is always enough for all of us, all the time!