Keeping your Heart Healthy

March 12th 2020

Host Kimberly King joins Heather Schwartz to discuss Heart Health! February is Heart Health Month- take a look at how you can take care of your heart through both good nutrition as well as emotionally. Heather Scwartz is a licensed Psychotherapist with an MS in Clinical Psychology, and she currently works as a Clinician at St. Jude Medical Center. Tune in and learn more!

The advice and informational content does not necessarily represent the views of mother's market and kitchen mother's recommends consulting your health professional for your personal medical condition.

Hello, I'm Kimberly King, and welcome to the mother's market podcast, a show dedicated to the truth he and goodness of the human condition. On today's show, February is heart, and it's time to take a look at how we can take care of our hearts, not only through good nutrition, but also emotionally. So listen, close and learn how to keep your ticker in great shape.

Plus later, we'll tell you what's going on around town. But first up, Heather shorts is a Licensed Psychotherapist with an MS in Clinical Psychology and is a certified amide specialist. Heather comes from an education and private practice back around where she is specialized in distorted eating anxiety and trauma, Heather currently works as a clinician at St. Jude Medical Center in cardiac rehab and Dr. Dan or nines Lifestyle Medicine Program, as well as St. Jude Wellness Center, where she designed a carnal teaches a course entitled psychology of heating, and we welcome her to the mother's market podcast. How are you, Heather?

I'm great, thank you.

Thanks for being here, and why don't you fill our audience a little bit on your mission and... Well, your work, before we get to today's show topic... Yes, thank you. So we are supporting the wellness mission for St. Jude Medical and pieces of that is including your heart, your heart health, what other aspects besides diet and exercise really matter to your heart health?

So today we're talking about a healthy heart and how it is... So today we're talking about a healthy heart and how it's about more than just diet and exercise. So, Heather, how are you? And what do you do?

Right, so I'm working in cardiac rehabilitation and part of that is not just IT and exercise, yes, we know that's a major factor in heart disease, but we're also looking at other factors that are major contributors to heart health.

So I love the fact that it is what your courses are entitled, The Psychology of Eating, but you are calling this or you're working on the heart health.

Right, so with the idea in St. Jude, Medical, our mission is wellness, so although I teach Psychology of Eating, we do a stress-less class, six weeks to wellness, it's all leading up to your whole self wellness, so you need to get a handle on each aspect for that overall wellness.

So what is stress resilience and emotional competency... Sorry, I'm having a... What is stress resilience and emotional competency and why do those matter? Great question. So often times when you hear about heart disease, these things are not mentioned, but what we now know is stress resilience, so if stress is the belief that you don't have what it takes, then resilience is living in the posture of adapting well in the face of adversity so bouncing back, many people are much more resilient than they give themselves credit for, so I help build resilience in the people that I see.


Yeah, so can you talk a little bit about the five emotional factors to heart disease?

Absolutely, so again, when people hear heart disease, they think obesity, they think don't eat red meat, do they think I've got to exercise, but there's also other components here, so what we now know is number one emotional trauma, so death of a spouse, mental or physical abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, these things are now major factors, if they are not resolved, to is the struggle that people have with negative emotions, so inability to identify or share those emotions, those vulnerable pieces. I'm number three is gonna be chronic anxiety and hopelessness, so not necessarily a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder or depression, but these symptoms that go untreated, number four is isolation, and we have a kind of saying in the hospital system that isolation breeds disease, so that's what we see, when people start isolating on their own, they're not connecting, that create some serious concern and lastly is acute fear, grief, anger, and what we know about anger, specifically in cardiac rehabilitation, is that a anger ends up being sadness bodyguard, so it's much more appropriate to be angry fly off the handle that it is to show your vulnerable side of hurt, Sadness and Pain.

Wow, this is incredible, and this is probably something new that I've heard about heart disease rather than just really the main components, I suppose, but you really have done a deep dive on this and I love that, and especially I would think in the elderly community where you see this, a lot of people that have been isolated, how do you go about helping with... Especially being resilient. How do you build that?

Great question. So there's three main factors that I work with in resilience, so we wanna ensure that they have safe, vulnerable connections with others, and if they don't have them, how to create those... A lot of times, we see different cultures how that's not honor, that's not talked about, showing your feelings ends up being weakness, so we have to reframe that for people, we also wanna reframe difficult situations, not seeing them as insurmountable or hopeless, that's a big win in resilience. And lastly, a guiding towards acceptance and appreciation of all lives changes, people come in and they say, everything's good. If nothing changes but life and is of itself that we have to roll with the punches and kind of helping people along that journey. And is true, life is constantly changing and you have to remain flexible, but I think it's nice that you wrap your arms around these people and these patients and say, You know what, we can help you.

So that's really interesting, I think one other thing you said is, isolation breeds disease, and it's about giving them coping skills, I suppose, in every situation.

Yeah, so how exactly do these emotional components physically harm us? A great question, and I love this question, people need to be asking this question rather than just taking my word for it, but we'll often hear stress kills stress as a killer. Stress will harm you. But what does that mean?

So we now know that the fight or flight response, if it's not taken care of, creates adrenaline, cortisol, stress hormones all throughout your body, the problem is, we don't tend to run them off anymore. We're not being chased by a tiger. They sit in US and they stew in us, so then we end up getting our heart rate, raise our blood pressure spikes, our blood is more easily to be plotted, it damages your Memory Center and increases adipose tissue around your mid-section, which is just a fancy term for a spare tire, and that's exactly where it accumulates, that's called our stress fat, and it's also our dangerous fat, so that's what we see more over-raising inflammation markers over time is our major concern because that leads to hardening of the arteries, and that's what we don't want... And so thank you for stretching that out and talking about that too, because again, it's so general when people say stress kills, so those are the kind of things... I mean, you also mentioned PTSD or emotional abuse, and people don't really necessarily see that, or isolation, people don't see that, so it's checking in on people and saying, How are you... But no, just don't accept... I'm fine.

Well, yeah, yeah, and if you think about it, we all... We have this visceral feeling that someone may not be well, even though they may look fine, if their spouse dies, there's this conversation about, I'm worried about Bob, but nobody talks about exactly why. Why are you concerned about Bob? He's able-bodied, he's not more with the obese, he's functioning, yet we're still concerned, it's like we have this role knowing that something might be off, and you also mentioned something about that flat tire, are there any other physical signs that we should be looking at, especially related to the heart that we can see physically, that we should be looking at is certainly you wanna look for changes, so if you could, you could run up the stairs really well a couple of months ago, and now you're out of breath, things like that, extra fatigue, things that they're moving towards abnormal for you. We wanna look at that.

This is great advice. There's something else, what is the ROSE study?

Yes, so going back a few years after President Roosevelt died of blood pressure related complications, President Eisenhower had a massive heart attack, so the government started funding studies to identify why heart disease was around and developed.

So some of the most interesting observations came from a town in Eastern Pennsylvania that were settled by Southern immigrants from Italy, my people, and what they found out was that their protection and traditions of their old country, their old style of living were present so often they lived three generations to a house, grandparents lived with grandkids, they had strong community ties, they had wide celebrations for life cycles, there was very little crime reported, and it was highly unusual to see these people alone in the town.

So there was a lot of research going on, they theorized that, well, they must eat a low fat diet and eat fish... That wasn't the case at all. They smoked unfiltered cigars, they worked in quarries, they drink wine with a band on, and they had these huge heavy Italian meals, so they were stumped, and after much research, they came to the conclusion that this town was thriving because they were nourished by each other. It was love is probably the love of family and love of being not isolated, and people checked in on them and they said... Yeah, as you said, they thrive on the having people around and celebrating and Dr. Dean Arne, he actually wrote a book called Love and survival about heart disease, and he does a great job kind of unpacking what it looks like to be connected and then those protective elements with heart disease, so it's really a remarkable study, and now it's called the effect so it's pretty well known.

I love that, that he was looking at the Italian meals and the un-filter sheets and they survived all of those elements, but really surpasses all.

But it really does make you think about when you lost a parent, but it's that immediate effect or if you've attended a funeral, but really checking in on people a few months afterward, if they're still alone, and it's that isolation, or it's that... If there's been an accident or something, but that it makes my heart hurt for them or for people, if you just checking on people and especially just elderly people, but it's not just the elderly, it's anybody that... That can happen too, right? Yeah. So you've really spelled it out. You've really put it in the forefront as just the description of what that looks like, there's so much more that we can talk about, and Heather, so thank you. Don't go. Wait, we'll be right back.

Smart Chicken.

Welcome back to the mother's market podcast. And we wanna remind you that if you missed any portion of today's show, you can find us on iTunes by searching mother's market or download the show from our website, mother's market dot com, click the link for podcast and listen to past shows, plus download our Healthy Recipes and money savings coupons, all available at mother's market dot com. And now back to our interview with Licensed Psychotherapist to Heather shorts, and we're talking about a healthy heart, and really great information, Heather, thank you for really expanding on what a healthy heart looks like, and either wanted to ask you what is the difference between empathy and sympathy a great question. So these words, some people use them synonymously, they're absolutely not synonymous.

So empathy is feeling with people, sympathy is feeling bad for people.

So Brene Brown has done an incredible job outlining vulnerability, empathy and sympathy, and she says, which I love, rarely does an empathic statement start with at least, meaning you're talking to someone and you're attempting to connect with them in a vulnerable place, and you say, You know... I think Sara, my Sara, is getting kicked out of school. And then someone responds and says, Well, at least Brian is an A student... Well, that doesn't help you.

That's not connecting. That's actually de-connecting. And then we do it all the time. Also, those water cooler talks where you're having a conversation with someone and you let them in on something that's painful, my dog got hit by a car... Oh my goodness. An empathic... Or non-empathic statement. response is, What kind of car was it?

Right, that's more of a sympathy or just kind of a crazy statement, but an empathy statement is... I don't even know what to say right now. I'm so sorry, I'm so glad you told me that goes so much further than trying to make it better or trying to put a silver lining around it, but sometimes we're uncomfortable with responding. Well, that's a good point of it. How many times does that happen? And you're left going, What?

I was looking for a little bit of empathy here... Yeah, it makes you not wanna risk that again, it's too... And then you come away even more hurt than you were in the first place, and then there comes the whole trust factor, so... Yeah, yeah.


What role does mindfulness and... Or yoga, play in all of this.

Yeah, it would be a miss to not talk about any practice that engages your para-sympathetic nervous system, so mindfulness is getting a lot of press said elementary schools, high schools, they're now really incorporating mindfulness into their... Any type of educational system, and really it's just focused attention with non-judgmental awareness, so as being present, and we have a real lack of presence in our communities with screens and phones and the looking ahead, so very rarely do we just allow ourselves to become present, which then engages our parasympathetic nervous system, which calms us down, and yoga comes from Sanskrit, meaning the union or to you, you to unify, so it works well when we're talking about connections, that heals, so yoga helps join the body mind in our day-to-day activities altogether, so that they're not separate.

So in essence, you're really kind of walking out your most calm present self, and with that comes the benefits of when life hits you, you're gonna be at a better place to handle that.

Okay, and that's true in our kids now, are raised basically born with a cell phone or a... They don't know when to put it down or when to stop... Yeah, so it is good.

We don't either now, now that we have it and we're always connected. So what is taco sub? And it's cardiomyopathy, I think... Or a broken heart syndrome?

Yes, so when I first started working in cardiology, I came across something really interesting and it's called Taco-SUO cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome, so you've heard possibly someone's spouse passed away and then they passed away a few weeks later, a few months later, oftentimes that can be attributed to callosum cardiomyopathy.

So first of all, it's named after a Japanese octopus trap... Yes, only because when you look at the shape of the trap is it is absolutely very similar to the look of the left ventricle that balloons during this condition. That's the only reason. So if you look it up online, you'll see two images, One of an octopus pot trap and then one of the left ventricle being blood, that's another interesting thing is almost exclusively occurs in women.

Oh, really?

Yes, and they're not exactly sure why, but that's the case.

And then to walk this out, it's actually a weakening of the left ventricle, so the hearts, main pumping chamber, that's usually the result of severe emotional distress, like a set, an illness, loss of a loved one, or a serious accident. Sometimes even a natural disaster.

So when I learned about this, I did quite a bit of research, I was talking to quite a few patients, and they were explaining to me what this looks like in the heart, and when they were... All I could think about, they were talking about the weakening of the artery walls, and what came to mind is when you are discussing the loss of a loved one, or if you've seen what happens to someone when you tell them their child has passed or has been in an accident, their knees buckle, and it's like a weakening, and that's all I could think about when they were walking me through identifying this cardiac event, and it seemed very similar to me, so then I realized, Gosh, this is a cardiac event caused by an emotional stimulus, most of the time.

So when I started talking to patients, I realized... So they would sit with me and I said, Oh, so you've had tacos. What was your event? What was the impetus? And they would say, you know, it wasn't one thing. So then I started seeing more patients that it was more of a commutative effect and that that's actually alarming because that means we're not taking care of ourselves to the degree that this could be causation of a cardiac event, well... So this has very little to do with diet and exercise, this is emotional, this is traumatic, these are events leading up to... Immediately before you told me that it is that it's devastating. But I thought of when you said Women have these more the percentage, but Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher, I think, did they die a day apart... Right. Or as hard or something like that, and then they... In the press that said, she died of a broken heart. That is... And then I start thinking about... There was an older couple that died right next to each other, but it's that weakening a true... Overcome with sadness, and I can't even imagine. I'm a mom of two kids and I just... I could not even imagine. But I do know what you're talking about buckling, just to get that news and it would just be... Absolutely traumatic.

What are for protective agents against heart disease, right again, this is not taking into account the diet and exercise plan, plant-based lifestyle, we are promoting that, however, we're looking here at the emotional pieces, so number one, discover or rediscover your inner sources a peace, enjoy those rituals that create well-being. So if you love your coffee in the morning, but you were like, I just don't have time in it, I don't have time anymore, and I'm busy and where I have a two-hour commute. Get back to those things that you loved, those rituals, that stuff... It seems very small. But those things matter, if you used to sing in a choir, but you gave it up because you're too busy, but that was a time, a season that there was life-giving to you, please go back to Sundin the choir.

It really does matter to your overall wellness, next is learn in practice communication that enhances intimacy with loved ones, and I know this sounds a little DuPuis and bunnies, but this is going back to ice statements and feeling words.

When I run a cardiac group, there's a lot of people that when I ask, How are you feeling? They will go to their thoughts, so when I say, how do you feel about this? They'll say, Well, I think it was really interesting. And we do that all the time. We get a feeling question and we go to our thoughts, but really kind of digging into the feelings list, what really helped for them was a sheet of paper with faces on it in different emotion words, and then they could identify, Oh, actually, I'm feeling guilty today, you know I'm sorrowful today or I'm joyful today. We're not in the rhythm of connecting with each other emotionally with feeling words, because either the bear's been hurt or they've been protecting the feeling, so we just shut it out, but it's just not part of your life. Culturally or in your family system, it didn't happen. That's interesting that you really actually have to draw the faces... I find it again, destour, ally, maybe.

Yeah, the next one is developing more compassion and empathy for yourself and others, and mindfulness and yoga that... That goes a long way in developing that. A lot of people are terribly hard on themselves, their self-talk is super negative, they lack a lot of compassion for themselves, and we know... We know it in wellness circles, we know it in weight loss, that compassion for self really, really matters in your overall wellness, and then lastly, releasing pain, engaging in forgiveness, releasing anger and hurt, those things I like to explain it where... That pit of your stomach. The stuff that lives there, the stuff you don't speak out loud, that stuff needs to get out, if it's just journaling it or getting it out on paper, I have the unique privilege of hearing people one-on-one say things they've never said to anyone, I wanna make sure that other people get that stuff out no matter what mall you they choose, but that stuff needs to be released and...

Wow, so that has... It gotta be life-changing. It's... Yeah, absolutely. And so what kinds of differences do you see with people when they... Whether they write a letter and maybe they don't even send it, but maybe they just get it out, and that letter writing, I will often prescribe that to so many people, and at first they're very apprehensive, but then they come in with just a notebook filled of what needs to come out and they... I ask them how they feel. And often times they'll say, I feel much lighter. I feel much lighter and perhaps they never got a chance to say goodbye to a lemon or... It could be anything, yeah.

And people will say, Well, what's the point in going to therapy if this person has passed 40 years ago, well, there's a major point, we can we create situations and that really kind of engage that healing because they're stuck.

What was one thing I can start doing today as an example, to help move towards a healthy heart... Yeah, all of this is well and good, but unless we can incorporate things very soon, even now... What's the point?

So I have three options one, three to five minutes of mindful breathing, it's easy, it's a no-brainer, breathe in breed out, be conscious of it, you can pull up anything on YouTube and you engage that way.

Number two, call a safe vulnerable friend or loved one and just connect, just allow yourself to be... And then lastly, engage in something called flow, so in our psychology circles, we will ask each other, What is your flow? And this is a situation where you look down, you see the time, and then you look back, you think it's 10 minutes later, and it's been two and a half hours hours... What is that for you? Are you reading? Are you golfing? Are you running... Everybody needs to have something in their life that time dislikes, that's enjoyable, that's pleasurable, that spikes your serotonin and dopamine levels, and as long as it's not maladaptive, go ahead and do it.

Find your flow.

Find your flow and do it so... Oh, that's great, I love it. I think this has been really good for, again, you've really touched on things and just gone that extra mile to let us know that stress is well beyond just a... You really touch beyond and really let us know what it looks like, because it's not just you just to say, Hey, how are you doing, but really go beyond and and talk to people and find out and find out what it looks like. Because again, a lot of people are suffering right now, and then they smile beyond that and you think we all are okay, there's so much hurt there, he... But also, you've also shown us what it looks like too, with physically, but mentally, and I love what you're doing and that you're a counselor, and that you offer these classes with people, but you're doing all of these exercises with the writing and the journaling and breathing, and all of the above. So thank you for your time and thank you for what you're doing.

Absolutely, we really appreciate your time and for more information, what is the website that we go to... Yeah, you can go to St. Jude wellness center dot org. And all of our information is there.

Great, well, we look forward to your next visit. Thank you, Heather. Thank you. The advice and informational content does not necessarily represent the views of mother's market and kitchen, mother's recommends consulting your health professional for your personal medical condition in a EAA,