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Many Emotions Can Damage the Heart

Most people know that anger is bad for your heart's health, but loneliness and depression affect your heart, too.

It's Tougher on Women continued...

Goldberg, who wrote Women Are Not Small Men: Life-saving Strategies for Preventing and Healing Heart Disease in Women, also cites a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins. The researchers found that sudden emotional stress could result in severe weakness in the heart muscle, making it seem as though the person was having a heart attack. This "broken heart syndrome," says Goldberg, was more common in women.

"I think it's a common thing that women put themselves last on the list and feel very time-pressed to go to exercise or take down time for themselves," says Goldberg, who feels it's especially important to help women identify their support network.

Balancing the Emotions

"Any imbalance in an emotional state - when one emotion dominates or overrides the others - can predispose one to heart disease," says Frank Lipman, MD, an integrative physician, board-certified internist, and licensed acupuncturist. "Learning to deal with emotions is extremely important."

But studying these emotional states is difficult, concedes Lipman, the author of Total Renewal: 7 Key Steps to Resilience, Vitality and Long-Term Health. "It's not something you can measure easily." Nonetheless, emotions can get stuck in the body. When you release these emotional holding patterns physically, he says, you're releasing emotional states, as well.

Lipman has facilitated these releases in patients through acupuncture. He also refers some patients to body workers and healers, who are able to shift energy in the body.

How Doctors Can Help Eradicate Negative Emotions

Asking about the patient's emotional state should clearly be part of the medical history, even though doctor-patient time is often abbreviated, says Goldberg. Helping people make changes in their lives to improve health means recognizing the potential barriers that go beyond the person being able to afford their medicine and going to the gym.

Understanding patients' fears and anxieties is very important, she says. Sometimes, careful observation does the trick, such as noting whether anxiety is provoking patients to sit very forward in a chair or whether they look as though they're not taking care of themselves or putting on weight.

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