Average Reading Time: 1 minute and 57 seconds
Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for men and women in industrialized countries around the world. For decades, researchers have been implicating our psychology as a causative factor in heart disease. While some studies have not found this link, a large number of studies do agree that one’s state of mind – namely optimism or pessimism – may play an important role in one’s heart health and longevity.
For example, in a recent 11-year study of more than 2800 men and women between the ages of 56 and 72, researchers found that those who were more pessimistic were 2.2 times more likely to die of heart disease than those who were less pessimistic. (1,2)
A pessimistic outlook has been linked to increased risk of stroke, poor arterial health, heart failure, slowed recovery from heart surgeries and the increased incidence of coronary heart disease. (1)
Ayurvedic Heart Health
Think of the heart as a busy parking structure, where there are regularly more cars than there are parking spaces. If each parking space were a stress receptor and each car were a stressor, the heart could become easily overwhelmed by stress.
Unfortunately, the heart has a vital interest in being made aware of all stressors on the radar screen, as it must be ready to flee from, fight or ignore the threat that may be poised for attack.
Humans are well-equipped to deal with stress, but if the stress is long-term and excess, as we manage 60-hour work weeks, shuttling, raising and feeding children, financial and family worries and responsibilities, the heart can easily run out of parking spaces – stressing the heart beyond its capacity.
According to Ayurveda, the heart is the seat of “Ojas,” a substance responsible for vitality, youthfulness, radiance, immunity, sexual vigor, spirituality and longevity. Ojas is a substance that is manufactured after 30 days of the most subtle aspects of digestion… so the strength and efficiency of one’s digestion really matters! Stress, processed foods, excessive behaviors and a lack of sleep are some of the causes of decreased production of ojas and storage of ojas in the heart.
The concept is well-supported by the science, as these ojas-reducing behaviors are directly linked to the four major causative risk factors of heart disease: high blood sugar, high blood pressure, smoking and high blood lipids. (1) In Ayurveda, striving to live a more wholesome, peaceful, optimistic, giving, loving, joyful, calm, nature-based, or what is called a sattvic lifestyle, is the key to a happy heart. (1)
In Ayurveda, there are a handful of foods and herbs that are natural ojas-builders. They are:
- Raw or vat-pasteurized milk
- Coconut meat or oil
- Raw honey
Traditionally in Ayurveda, these were mixed into warm milk before bed to boost immunity, support sleep and build ojas.