Here is an interesting fact. Feelings have as much to do with the heart as they do with the brain. It’s actually a two-way relationship. Our emotions change the signals the brain sends to the heart and the heart responds to the brain in complex ways. Both depend and influence each other’s function, sort of like how you harmonize with someone when doing a duet. Recent research has shown that the heart communicates to the brain in different ways.
The neurological communication happens when the heart and brain communicate through the transmission of nerve impulses. Like the brain, the heart also has hundreds and thousands of independent neurons in it.
Biochemical communication involves the sending of messages with the use of hormones that are in your bloodstream. Since the heart’s main function is to pump blood and oxygen throughout the body, the hormones get to travel to the brain and to every organ.
Through the use of nerve impulses and hormones, signals are sent to the emotional centers in the brain where it interprets them. Once the brain has identified what kind of feeling they are, the brain can now respond back and tell the body what to do.
In terms of heart-brain communication, it is generally well-known that the efferent (descending) pathways in the autonomic nervous system are involved in the regulation of the heart. It is less appreciated that the majority of fibers in the vagus nerves are afferent (ascending) in nature. The heart sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart.
Once information has been processed by the heart’s intrinsic nervous system, the appropriate signals are sent to the heart’s sinoatrial node and to the other tissues in the heart. Under normal physiological conditions, the heart’s intrinsic nervous system plays an important role in much of the routine control of cardiac function, independent of the central nervous system. The heart’s intrinsic nervous system is vital for the maintenance of cardiovascular stability and efficiency and without it, the heart cannot function properly. The neural output or messages from the intrinsic cardiac nervous system travels to the brain via ascending pathways in both the spinal column and vagus nerves, where it travels to the medulla, hypothalamus, thalamus and amygdala and then to the cerebral cortex.
Studies show that the vagus nerve plays an important role in maintaining physiological homeostasis, which includes reflex pathways that regulate cardiac function. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has been investigated as a therapeutic for a multitude of diseases, such as treatment-resistant epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and asthma. Because of the vagus nerve’s innervation of the heart, VNS has been identified as a potential therapy for cardiovascular disorders, such as cardiac arrest, acute myocardial infarction and stroke. VNS appears to have a promising future in the treatment of several cardiovascular conditions.
The two most important organs in the body, the heart and the brain, are in a constant two-way dialogue. The brain is always aware of any changes in the heart. Upon receiving signals, the brain responds back to the heart, and the heart responds again, and the cycle continues.
Understanding how this dialogue works between the brain and heart is helpful when it comes to your health. If you harbor bad feelings about someone or something, then negative energies will be the response of your brain and heart. If you are a generally angry or stressed out person, it can put a strain on your heart and other organs and eventually lead to serious health problems such as heart attacks.
Research shows that when you experience positive emotions, the heart produces a very different rhythm. This produces a significant increase in coherence, which looks like a very smooth pattern. This pattern is said to be an indicator of good heart rate variability, cardiovascular efficiency and nervous system balance.
It turns out that many things that make us smile and be more appreciative of life also make our hearts happier. There are some strategies you can do to enhance the heart-brain communication.
Relaxation Practices: There are a number of techniques that can achieve serotonin-boosted relaxation. Some include mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi and breathing exercises. Be mindful of your negative thought patterns. Learn to shift out stressful, negative emotions and transform them into positive energy.
Prepare In Advance: Something simple such as organizing your wardrobe, setting up your alarm, preparing your lunchbox in advance can reduce the amount of stressors that you will have to face the next day.
Comic Relief and Laughter: When we laugh, our body releases endorphins, which in turn releases nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is known to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Exercise is another great way to stimulate endorphin release.
Listening to “Dope” Music: Ever listened to a song and got chills? That pleasurable feeling is a consequence of dopamine release when listening to or anticipating your favorite music. Listening to music has been known to reduce anxiety. Studies have shown that upbeat music is proven to improve happiness in as little as two weeks.
A Hug a Day: Physical encounters like hugging or other forms of touch are known to release the hormone and neurotransmitter oxytocin. Oxytocin lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
Taking Care of the Heart Brain: We tend to either focus on our mental health or our physical health, typically not both at the same time. Science has made it clear that taking care of the heart and brain are among the most important things we can do to prolong our lives and make for a happier self.
Nutrition: This is at the core of health. Take time to fuel your body with foods that will nourish both your heart and your brain.
Chiropractic Adjustments: Chiropractic care helps in ensuring the nervous system is working free of dysfunction. The nerve in the upper back runs directly to your heart. If there is nerve interference or any misalignment in the spine, it can put pressure on the heart and reduce proper communication between the brain and body. Spinal health plays a significant role in directing the health of the vagus nerve. Other ways chiropractic adjustments can help the heart include: Reduce chest pain, decrease inflammation throughout the heart, reduce blood pressure, improve the variability of the heart rate, protect the nerves of the heart, and improve lung function.