The Staggering Level of Heart Disease
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. In fact, 1 in 4 people in America will die of some form of heart disease, Coronary Heart Disease being the most prevalent. The CDC says high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for the disease. Additionally, the CDC explains:
“Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:
Overweight and obesity
Excessive alcohol use”
Here’s my question: Why are we really having heart attacks and experiencing this level of heart disease? What is at the root of the motivations for our lifestyle choices that create so much heart disease in so many of us? My answer is based on the intelligence within, personal experience, and science. And that answer is: we don’t express love to ourselves and others as often as we could. In fact, we spend the majority of our day—up to 80% on average, or 40,000/50,000 thoughts a day—thinking negative thoughts. Such thoughts include self-defeating beliefs and put-downs, as well as taking pot shots at others or getting angry over the littlest things. And why do we do this? Training.
We have been trained to believe we are not good enough. No matter how it happened, and there is no one to blame in particular. Most of us picked up the message over the years that we are inadequate, unworthy, less than, and incapable. These are all lies, but when we were growing up, we believed everything we were taught by caregivers and society, not knowing which parts to ignore. Now, as adults, we spend a lot of our time validating and continuing a mindset that isn’t even true.
What can we do about all of this? The best answer to that question is to become aware of this phenomenon and then know in our hearts the lies we believe about ourselves will be corrected through two means. One of those means is through the greater intelligence within each of us—the soul self, the authentic self, the true self, or the Godself—the one who has the ultimate power of experience and healing. This is the one who works behind the scenes providing us with opportunities to recognize the lies we were taught and then assist us in correcting it.
The second means of correcting this lie that we are not good enough comes through the person we believe we are—the one who is attached to our names, our roles, and our concepts about ourselves and the world. This is often referred to the mind-created self, the ego, or the false self. This is the person who is responsible for the 40,000 negative thoughts a day and the one who trains the next generation to do the same. This is the one who generates negativity through incorrect beliefs and the resulting misperceptions. The false self-helps us because, with awareness, each negative belief, thought, or word is now a red flag to help us wake up to how we spend our lives each day. Do we really want to experience all of this negativity? Most of us don’t. It certainly isn’t natural to us. By being aware, we create the space to let go of harmful beliefs that originate from the I’m not good enough mantra playing under the radar in our minds. This resets our internal balance and healing happens in some way on all levels—including in our hearts. This healing begins with love—well, more correctly, an aspect of love—kindness.
Oxytocin – Your New Best Friend
I couldn’t wait to get to Glasgow to listen to a talk given by one of my all-time favorite authors, Dr. David Hamilton, author of many books, including The Five Side Effects of Kindness. Dr. Hamilton worked in the pharmaceutical industry, but now spends his time teaching about the powerful, healing effects of kindness on the brain, the immune system, and the heart. I learned so many cool things from Dr. Hamilton. I’d like to share some of that with you now to inspire you to dig further into Dr. Hamilton’s books and learn how you can protect and heal your heart with kindness.
Dr. Hamilton explained that kindness produces oxytocin, a hormone that is now often referred to as the love hormone. While oxytocin has long been known to be an important facilitator for childbirth, this special neuropeptide has a huge effect on emotions. More specifically, oxytocin is what Dr. Hamilton noted as cardio-protective. This means the more oxytocin released from the brain’s pituitary gland, the healthier your heart might be.
In his book, The Five Side Effects of Kindness, Dr. Hamilton talks about a study known as The Roseto Effect. Roseto is a town in Pennsylvania where a study was done 50 years ago on the residents because no one had ever died of a heart attack there until 1970. After looking at every possible cause, and after years of research, scientists came to the conclusion that the close-knit community bonds shared between the residents is what was responsible for this amazing statistic on heart disease. This is a powerful conclusion.
Oxytocin as a cardioprotective hormone is one of many tools we have to help us heal our hearts. We all know we can eat better, exercise, and reduce our stress and that these actions will also assist in the prevention and healing of heart disease. But, most of us don’t realize how powerful kindness is in playing a role in the health of our hearts. Here’s how it works. As Dr. Hamilton explains,
“Oxytocin causes cells along the walls of our arteries to relax. Then the arteries widen or dilate, in what is known as vasodilation. This means three things: 1) that more blood can flow through the arteries; 2) that more blood flow can be delivered to the heart and other organs, and 3) that blood pressure is reduced. And reduced blood pressure means protection against heart attack and stroke.” [i]
So, just how does kindness produce oxytocin? In short, every time we are kind to ourselves or another person, the oxytocin flows from our brains and floods our bodies with that heart-healthy hormone. It would seem clear, then, that the answer to preventing heart disease or healing the heart in any way would be to express and experience kindness.
What are some ways we can produce oxytocin throughout the day? Dr. Hamilton says we can be inspired, comfort another (person or animal), connect with others in a heartfelt way, support someone through a difficult time, just think about being kind, or giving hugs. It’s really that simple.
Kindness has such wonderful effects on our hearts, minds, bodies, souls. In Dr. Hamilton’s book, The Five Effects of Kindness, he explains many more ways kindness enhances and heals our lives. You’d be amazed! I know I was. I won’t spoil it for you here. I recommend getting the book and find out the myriad of benefits kindness provides us. Dr. Hamilton does a great job of making it interesting, easy to understand, fun, and informative. It is a book that can change your life or the life of a loved one for the better.
Take time to notice what makes you angry, unhappy, eat unhealthy foods, or attack another with words. Be aware of the beliefs and thoughts that make your heart hurt. Then, know you have the power to change any unhappy beliefs and thoughts that don’t allow kindness in your day. You have loads of support within you, your soul self is always there. And books like Dr. Hamilton’s can be just the external assistance you have been looking for to help heal your heart, and your life.
As a note, I had a blast hanging out with Dr. Hamilton in Glasgow. I’d recommend taking in one of his speaking events any chance you get. He is super intelligent, super great at public speaking and super kind. Imagine that!
[i] Hamilton, David Dr., The Five Effects of Kindness, London, Hay House, 2017, p.47.
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