The mind and body are intricately connected, each one impacting the way the other functions. For instance, mental conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression can significantly increase your risk of developing physical conditions, including heart disease. They can also lead to a lack of motivation to engage in acts of self-care, like exercise or healthy eating, that would be beneficial for cardiovascular health.
On the other hand, physical health issues can negatively impact mental health equally. In fact, they can cause issues like depression. For example, if you’re unable to be as mobile or physically active as you’d like or are used to, this can lead to frustration and feeling demoralized. However, mind-body techniques such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, increase relaxation, and promote more positive mental health.1
Mindfulness, or the practice of staying present and engaged in the current moment, can have some serious benefits for heart health. It can significantly aid in stress reduction and tends to enable those who practice it to make healthier lifestyle choices. This is because when conscious and truly living in the moment, you gain the ability to make decisions based off of what your body is actually feeling and craving at that time. In other words, you’re more in tune with yourself and your actual needs, as opposed to making choices based off of what would temporarily relieve stress or offer instant, yet fleeting, gratification.
Because high-stress levels and unhealthy lifestyle choices have been linked to heart disease, working your “mindfulness muscle” and making it a priority can be extremely helpful for maintaining good heart health.2
The best news? You can start right now. What is your left foot doing right now? What sensations do you currently notice in your abdomen? What thoughts are racing through your mind in the background? And your breath; what does that feel like? Is it shallow or deep? Boom! You did it. By taking a moment to notice these things, you were just being mindful. Simply doing this randomly throughout each day, you’re practicing mindfulness and with a little effort on your part, you can begin to witness your state of awareness naturally continue to expand. Powerful stuff.
Meditation is typically thought of as a more structured form of mindfulness that also aids in cultivating greater focus and awareness. As such, this practice is rapidly gaining recognition as a tool for maintaining heart health. In fact, research has shown that medication can help to improve sleep quality, cholesterol levels, and reduce inflammation, and lower stress, all of which can result in improvements in heart health.3 This research also suggests that developing a regular meditation practice can additionally lower blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.3 Another study which followed 201 people with coronary heart disease for five years found that those who took a meditation class had a 48% reduction in their overall risk of heart attack, stroke, and premature death.4
New to meditation and want to give it a shot? Read our article to learn how to get started here.
Yoga is yet another ancient practice, developed in India, that combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and mindfulness all into one. Over the years, it’s become well known throughout the world for promoting flexibility, strength, and balance.
However, its benefits extend far beyond the muscular-skeletal system. Research shows that practicing yoga on a regular basis may help lower heart disease risk as much as conventional exercise. It can also help lower blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels, as well as weight, all of which are extremely beneficial for heart health. Not only that, but yoga can also improve cardiovascular efficiency and endurance, making it a valuable practice for overall cardiovascular fitness.5
To see for yourself just how powerful these practices are for your personal heart health, begin Creating Tags anytime you engage in these practices. As you do, take notice of how your heart rate responds over time by viewing your Tag Insights.
You can also easily share these insights with your physician with the Share with Doctor feature so you can work closely with them to monitor any changes in your heart health, and create any necessary health plan adjustments accordingly.
Whether new or not to these practices, the Cardiogram app can also help keep you accountable. In the Habits section, you enroll in our Yoga or Mediation habit.