Self-care isn’t only about personally lowering the risks of developing heart disease, it’s also a care for those who already cope with heart disease. For the mind-body-spirit specialist, we spend our days caring for our clients and understanding the demands that are placed on their lives and our own. As caregivers, we often hear our clients say they may be under a great deal of stress and anxiety coping with themselves, their personal lifestyles, or a loved one who has heart disease.
Ask for help. Learn to say no. Deal with stress.
We often think we should or have to shoulder many responsibilities ourselves. We don't have time to express emotions, admit feelings, or have downtime. We have to be ready to react and act on a moment's notice.
Part of maintaining a healthy heart as a caregiver is the reduction of contributing factors of heart disease. By leaning on the appropriate supportive shoulders of others and by addressing situations that require the reduction of physical and psychological symptoms of stress, we can effectively and significantly maintain a healthy heart.
Heart failure is also an outcome of heart disease, and breathlessness can occur when the heart becomes too weak to circulate blood. Heart disease is caused by damage to all or part of the heart, damage to the coronary arteries, or a poor supply of nutrients and oxygen to the organ. A person with poor circulation can suffer from a variety of discomforts including pooling of the fluid in the extremities (like the toes), cold hands and feet, fatigue and achiness created by an accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles.
Two great ways to help prevent or manage your circulation, blood pressure and cholesterol are eating right and being physically active. This will strengthen the heart and circulatory system, reduce cholesterol, and maintain blood pressure.
A third way is to have regularly scheduled massages which reduce inflammation of skeletal muscle, much like anti-inflammatory medications do, that have been acutely damaged through daily activity, stress, and exercise. Good circulation brings damaged, tense muscles the oxygen rich blood they need to heal.
Massage therapy facilitates circulation because the pressure created by the massage technique actually moves blood through the congested areas. The release of this same pressure causes new blood to flow in. The squeezing and pulling also flushes lactic acid from the muscles and improves the circulation of the lymph fluid which carries metabolic waste away from muscles and internal organs, resulting in lower blood pressure and improved body function.
In conjunction with massage therapy treatments, Reiki work has been known to induce deep relaxation, help people cope with difficulties, relieve emotional stress, and improve overall wellbeing. Reiki may improve heart rate variability among patients who have had a heart attack.
A study performed by researchers at Yale University sought to determine whether Reiki treatments were beneficial to patients who had suffered a heart attack three days prior. The study broke patients into three groups: one group that rested quietly, a second group that listened to meditative music and a third group that underwent Reiki treatment. The group that underwent Reiki treatment experienced the greatest amount of change in heart rate variability of the three groups.(1)
In a recent study in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers concluded massage therapy could serve as an effective intervention in controlling blood pressure. The study showed that the immediate results of lowered blood pressure lasted up to 72 hours after a massage therapy session.(2)
Research published in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery indicates that massage therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety and muscular tension, as well as enhance relaxation and satisfaction after cardiac surgery.(3)
To sum up, massage therapy supports all who wish to maintain a healthier heart by addressing contributing factors of their current cardiovascular conditions. With doctor-approval, massage therapy with Reiki will induce states of physical and mental relaxation, which will help alleviate the effects of chronic stress and anxiety on the whole body.
Massage therapy will increase flexibility, functionality and tone muscles. It will improve overall blood flow and lymph circulation while decreasing the chances of stroke-causing clots.
Chronic and acute pain is noticeably less which interrupt the brain’s “fight, freeze or flight” response. Mind-body specialties are a welcome tool in the medical setting for the reduction of anxiety before or after surgical procedures.
3-Bauer BA, Cutshall SM, Wentworth LJ, Engen D, Messner PK, Wood CM, Brekke KM, Kelly RF, Sundt TM 3rd. Effect of massage therapy on pain, anxiety,
and tension after cardiac surgery: a randomized study. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2010 May;16(2)