February is National Heart Health Month! Every year during the month of February, millions of Americans come together to acknowledge the realities of cardiovascular disease in the United States, raise awareness about the risks, and take action to help protect their families and communities. Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States, and according to CDC statistics from 2017, the rate of heart failure is on the rise. Experts estimate that the current rate of heart failure will jump by 46 percent before 2030. Clearly, now is the time to take action.
You may have already made the standard diet and lifestyle changes that can help protect the health of your heart — like quitting smoking, exercising regularly, choosing heart-healthy unsaturated fats, and limiting your intake of saturated fats and trans fats. This month, you may want to consider adding another heart-healthy change to your list: getting a regular massage. Rigorous scientific research indicates that massage can aid in the prevention and treatment of hypertension, one of the most common cardiovascular conditions. Massage can also provide other benefits for patients with cardiovascular problems. Read on to learn more about why massage is a great way to celebrate National Heart Health Month!
How Deep Tissue Massage Works to Lower Your Blood Pressure
Hypertension — also known as high blood pressure — is a cardiovascular condition that affects as many as 1 in 3 adults in the United States. If you have high blood pressure, it can significantly increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. One way to lower your blood pressure is to get a deep tissue massage.
Studies show that deep tissue massage can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with hypertension or pre-hypertension (elevated blood pressure that is slightly lower than the threshold for hypertension). There are two ways that massage can help you achieve this goal:
- Reducing stress. It might seem simple, but reducing your stress levels is one of the most effective ways to keep your blood pressure under control. Getting a relaxing deep tissue massage can help inhibit the release of both cortisol and adrenaline, the stress hormones that cause your blood pressure to spike. There is also evidence that the pressure from a deep tissue massage can stimulate the nerve endings in the skin in a way that causes them to release endorphins, which gives you that natural, stress-free feeling that you might commonly associated with a good workout.
- Improving circulation. When you get a deep tissue massage, the pressure helps to flush out lactic acid and other toxins from your muscles and joints. It boosts the circulation of lymph fluid, which removes metabolic waste products from your tissues. This makes it easier for blood to circulate to the tissues that need it, which automatically lowers your blood pressure. Plus, improved circulation reduces the force with which your heart has to pump in order to get enough blood to your tissues to ensure that they have all the oxygen and nutrients they need for optimal function. By lowering the burden on your heart, you can lower your risk for adverse events like a heart attack or heart failure.
Coping with Serious Cardiac Conditions and Cardiovascular Surgery
Massage has also been shown to provide physical and mental health benefits for patients with more serious cardiovascular problems. For instance, in a study of 64 patients with congestive heart failure, researchers found that massage not only helped lower diastolic and systolic blood pressure, but also led to a significant reduction in anxiety — a symptom that is commonly experienced by patients with congestive heart failure.
Massage therapy can also support your health if you are preparing for — or recovering from — cardiovascular surgery. As patients prepare for cardiac bypass surgery, it is common to experience pain and muscle spasms — not to mention anxiety about the upcoming procedure. In a pilot study at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, preliminary results indicated that getting a massage could have a positive impact on each of these symptoms.
You might also want to consider getting a massage after a serious cardiovascular operation, like coronary artery bypass surgery. Many patients experience moderate symptoms of anxiety and/or depression in the aftermath of this operation, but a 2012 study showed that getting a massage can significantly improve patients’ moods. Another common problem for patients after coronary artery bypass surgery is poor sleep quality — whether due to pain, stress, anxiety, or symptoms of depression. Again, according to 2010 study by a team of researchers out of Brazil, massage can help. In their study, patients who got regular massages during the postoperative period reported better sleep and lower levels of fatigue, a well as decreased pain in the chest, shoulders, and back.
This February, if you want to take action to protect the health of your heart — or manage an ongoing cardiovascular condition — massage can be a great option. Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness offers deep tissue massage alongside a variety of other massage modalities. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!