Wellness & Prevention

Your Health. Your Hospital

Heart disease remains the number one killer in the US, claiming nearly one million lives each year. We lead a supercharged modern life that is known to damage our hearts and put us in danger of cardiovascular events. In most cases however, optimal heart health can be achieved without a prescription. Reversing and preventing heart disease requires a long-term, sustainable approach.

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For a healthy heart, you need to incorporate each of these steps into your daily routine and create a foundation for wellness that can save your life. Heart-healthy foods must also be part of your life to ensure you maintain your health in today’s stressful and fast-paced world.

In “The Heart Health Bible” and at Marina del Rey Hospital, Dr. John M. Kennedy offers an empowering approach to heart health with ”H-E-A-R-T”, a 5-point plan to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Another technique that will help heal your heart is the BREATHETM technique. Each of the letters in the word BREATHETM has special significance and represents one of the 7 steps that make up the technique.

Whether you practice after waking up or just before climbing into bed, make sure you follow these steps:

  • Wherever or whenever you decide to BREATHETM be sure to practice the same each time.
  • Try to develop a rhythm and routine to your practice.
  • Pick a quiet and cozy place where you will not be interrupted for 15 minutes (it is the amount of time needed to gain mastery and optimize results of the BREATHETM technique).
  • Always begin your BREATHETM exercise with a positive attitude.

Relaxation actually requires concentration and focus. To elicit the relaxation response (opposite of the stress response) it requires focused and conscious breathing.

Conscious breathing can be achieved by following these steps:

  • Try to clear all thoughts when you start and think only of breathing. Concentrate only on your breath.
  • Sit in a comfortable chair with armrests and let the gravity of your body sink right in. Your body should be as relaxed as possible so feel the weight of your arms and legs supported by the chair. Feel your feet comfortably in contact with the ground.
  • Pay attention to your breathing. To help focus on your breathing, place one hand on the part of your chest or abdomen and watch your hand rise and fall with each breath.
  • BREATHETM through your nose if possible. If you are unable to BREATHETM through your nose, breathing in through your mouth will suffice.
  • Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose and feel it into your abdomen. You will see and feel your abdomen rise with each inhalation and your chest should move only slightly.
  • Exhale through your mouth, keeping your mouth, tongue, and jaw relaxed. Extend your exhalation. If you can, extend to a count of 7.
  • Relax and focus on the sound and feeling of long, slow, deep breaths.
  • Listen to the conversation between your heart and brain. As you take a deep breath in, notice your pulse slightly increasing and as you exhale, your heart rate decreasing.
  • Repeat a series of 7 breaths and you will notice feeling deeply relaxed.
  • When you feel all your muscles relax and your entire weight supported by your chair, you will know it is time to go on to the next step in BREATHETM.

Conscious breathing becomes easier the more you practice.

After a few practices, this technique will become routine and you can spend more of your focused energy on the heart-healing guided imagery—the second component of the BREATHETM technique.

Visualizing the end or desired goal is common practice in sports, business, and academics. Studies show that patients with a thorough understanding of their medical condition and who use visualization have better overall health. Special imagery exercises lower your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, reduce cortisol output, and strengthen your immune system.

Follow these steps:

  • Imagine your heart parts as healthy and strong. Visualize your heart and imagine all four parts—the arteries, muscle, valves and electrical system, all working synergistically and efficiently.
  • Envision how all of the healing metaphors in the heart exercises soothe and calm your body and allow your heart to rest and idle.
  • Analyze what they look like and how they work together in unison to provide the constant, unimpeded flow of blood to nourish your entire body.

This step in BREATHETM has two applications:

  • applying the meaning of the metaphors to an efficiently working heart
  • applying the technique in times of heavy stress and using it as an effective coping mechanism

If you practice regularly, each heart-healing metaphor will be filed away in your memory bank, being retrievable, accessible and very helpful in breaking the cycle of stress. However, you may lose focus, which is normal and you will probably feel a little anxious or frustrated. Do not worry because it is easy to get right back on track:

  • Imagine how the heart-healing images and metaphors can be applied and relate to your healthy heart when reading through the guided imagery exercises and observing the accompanying art.
  • Stay focused concentrating on the significance of the images because it is easy to get distracted.
  • Use this as a reminder of the conversation. Apply the principles of this technique and recall that conscious breathing is the way back into the conversation and helps you refocus.

Remember: the bodily feelings that stress creates are reminders of the conversation and an invitation to stop stress in its tracks.

The BREATHETM technique is a pleasurable and therapeutic exercise.
These 15 minutes will make you feel revitalized and energized. You must not think of it as a chore, duty or errand to check off on your “to-do” list, but as an extremely pleasant and comforting experience that you will begin to look forward to. Practicing this technique regularly will foster feelings of elation, happiness, and feelings of bliss.

The BREATHETM technique is healing:

  • by practicing 15 minutes daily you will entrain neural networks that connect your heart and brain
  • you will consistently elicit the relaxation response, which has a number of healing physiologic responses (increased heart rate variability, decreased blood pressure, enhanced immune response, lower pulse rate)

Recalling the healing properties of this pleasurable exercise will help you remain positive and focused.

The BREATHETM exercises emphasize how flow relates to an efficient, healthy and smoothly-running cardiovascular system. This technique helps “unblock” heart parts and promotes flow in the electrical, valvular, muscular and arterial systems, and has also shown to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Simple and cost-effective, this technique has withstood the test of time and modern research shows many positive health benefits of its use.

When you have successfully completed your exercise and carefully and mindfully focused on all of the heart-healing metaphors you will notice feeling deeply relaxed.

You will also:

  • feel energized and revitalized
  • have actively concentrated on the rhythm and rate of your breathing which increases oxygen to your tissues
  • have also concentrated on an improved flow of oxygenated blood to your tissues and an efficiently working healthy heart

Every effective exercise has a formal beginning and ending.

In order to enjoy all of the many health benefits of the BREATHETM technique, you need to stay positive, relaxed, and flow with the technique.

Because the heart is the center of our cardiovascular system, it is vitally important to regularly undergo a few tests to ensure that our heart and the many other tissues that make up our cardiovascular system are in top condition. Our body needs adequate amounts of exercise accompanied by a heart-healthy diet in order to keep our heart healthy.

Several medical conditions and lifestyle choices can put people at a higher risk for heart disease. 9 out of 10 heart disease patients have at least one risk factor:

  • alcohol use
  • cigarette smoking
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • overweight and obesity
  • physical inactivity
  • poor diet

Make sure you regularly monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and your circulation. They can all affect your body's ability to transport blood efficiently throughout your body:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension) means that harder your heart works, the more pressure is placed on the walls of your arteries, which can increase your risk for blood vessel damage.
  • When consumed in high levels, LDL cholesterol can build up in the bloodstream and calcify into hard plaque, making it difficult for blood to circulate through the affected arteries, and increasing your risk for cardiovascular damage.
  • Without proper circulation, tissues begin to die.