I was reminded of this last weekend during a few hours of listening to lectures on cardiac health by the Institute for Functional Medicine.
As enlightening as it was to learn about new biomarkers for cardiovascular disease, what struck me deeply were these stats on anger, depression, and heart health:
I could keep listing stats, but what is clear to me is that while we can focus on cholesterol sub-types and blood sugar levels—the things that drive heart disease—the role of emotions in driving real cardiovascular events is real, and not enough people take this seriously.
1. Improve your HRV. HRV, or heart rate variability, is a measure of your heart's resilience and flexibility in response to stress. Low HRV is associated with worse depression, heart disease, and sudden death. To improve your HRV, you can follow a simple breathing exercise that soothes your sympathetic (aka “fight or flight”) nervous system, and stimulates your parasympathetic (aka “rest digest and relax”) nervous system. Just breathe in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 6 for a couple of minutes a day. A longer exhale turns on your parasympathetics and increases HRV.
2. Go to church—or something like church. A study that looked at over 5000 people over 28 years showed that people who attended religious services at least once per week had a 23% overall lower mortality, and a review of 42 studies looking at over 100,000 people showed that “highly religious persons” had a 29% higher chance of survival.
3. Find true happiness. Not the kind of euphoria that you feel after you buy a new car, but a deep sense of fulfillment and purpose in life that means something profound to you. I like Eve Ensler’s TED Talk . Eve founded something called The Vagina Monologues, but her talk is more about figuring out what happiness really is and she gives my favorite definition of happiness ever at the end: "Happiness is giving the world what you want most yourself." Check out the talk to see what I mean.
Dr. Robin Berzin is the Founder and CEO of Parsley Health, America's leading holistic medical practice designed to help women overcome chronic conditions. She founded Parsley to address the rising tide of chronic disease in America through personalized holistic medicine that puts food, lifestyle, and proactive diagnostic testing on the prescription pad next to medications. Since founding Parsley in 2016, Dr. Berzin has seen 80% of patients improve or resolve their chronic conditions within their first year of care, demonstrating the life-changing value of making modern holistic medicine accessible to everyone, anywhere. Parsley is available online nationwide.
Dr. Berzin attended medical school at Columbia University and trained in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Her book, Prescription for Happiness: How to Eat, Move, and Supplement for Peak Mental Health, was published by Simon Element in January 2022.