Eat right and exercise. That’s all we need to do to keep our hearts healthy, right?
It’s not so simple.
We are dynamic human beings, not machines, and, in the case of cardiovascular disease, there is an often-ignored X factor—the emotional health of our hearts.
Research continues to show that chronic stress leads to heart disease independent of all other factors. This means that if you eat a balanced, anti-inflammatory diet and exercise consistently but don’t manage your stress levels, you remain at risk for heart disease.
Then there is broken-heart syndrome, which is a temporary condition that can come on in times of acute stress and grief. Symptoms often mimic a heart attack and can include shortness of breath, sweating and chest pain.
In Ayurveda, like many ancient traditions, heart conditions are emotional in nature just as they are physical. Since every heart is different, ayurvedic physicians consider a person’s constitution when assessing the imbalance and, as a result, recommendations are highly customized.
Each of us is a unique combination of the three “doshas” (or bodily humours): vata, pitta and kapha, with one or two being dominant. This is referred to as the tridosha theory.
Let’s take a look at the three doshas as they relate to heart health.
Vata-dominant types are “airy” with a quick metabolism, lighter body frame and an active and creative mind. They are known for having quick bursts of energy, but are often short on stamina.
• Potential heart stressors: fear, anxiety and insomnia
• Heart Rx: Balance “windy” energy with calming activities, such as nature walks, warm baths and massages.
Pitta-dominant types are fiery individuals who generally have a medium, muscular frame. They tend to be intellectual and driven, possessing natural leadership skills.
• Potential heart stressors: irritability and anger-management problems
• Heart Rx: Release pent-up energy at the gym, and find meaning in life and work by volunteering and seeking a purposeful career.
Kapha-dominant types are settled and earthy, known for their calm demeanor and sense of compassion. Their energy is consistent and they are often averse to change.
• Potential heart stressors: jealousy and envy, lethargy
• Heart Rx: Surround yourself with those who love you—family, friends, coworkers and pets. Your daily routine should be consistent, but be sure to include stimulating music, beautiful surroundings and good conversation. Exercise consistently.