By- Kathleen Morris
February is Heart Health Month. One preventative measure for heart health that is often overlooked is massage therapy. Many studies have been performed regarding the effect of massage therapy on the cardiovascular system. What has been found is that the cardiovascular system greatly responds to massage therapy, leading to a decrease in heart rate, improved vascular circulation, as well as a decrease in ischemia (reduction of blood flow to the tissues).
Cardiovascular disease is a group of diseases involving the blood or heart. This can include angina, hypertension, and heart attack. While each disease comes with its’ own risk factors and symptoms, they are all serious and need to be treated accordingly. For most people, this means major changes in diet and exercise, with regular check-ups with your doctor. Many people use this opportunity to find ways to reduce stress and anxiety.
The sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight or flight response, will release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline when stimulated. Massage reduces the levels of these hormones, and increases endorphin levels (feel good hormones), which in turn slows down respiratory and heart rates.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) can be greatly reduced with massage. The long, slow strokes used during massage relax the blood vessels, slowing down the rate at which blood flows through your body. Hypertension has been associated with a higher risk of heart failure.
According to a study performed in the Mayo Clinic, massage therapy was performed on patient’s recovering from heart attacks and other cardiovascular procedures. The results were so great that the Mayo Clinic has now hired massage therapists to work with the cardiovascular team!
Some other ways to help cope with stress and anxiety are meditation, yoga, and practicing deep breathing. There are many resources to try these methods, either online or by reaching out to a local yoga instructor.
So take care of that ticker- it’s the only one you’ve got!
Kathleen Morris, RMT 305 Baldwin Ave., Suite 5, Cornwall, On K6H 4J6 Email: [email protected] (613) 662-5549