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How a Happy Nervous System Aids a Healthy Heart

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Written by Stephen Motze, DC

When we typically think of what it means to have a healthy heart, we tend not to hear too much about its association with the central nervous system (CNS). A balanced and healthy diet, a low resting heart rate, ability to perform moderate-intensity exercise without shortness of breath, adequate blood pressure, and high energy levels are usually the main themes when discussing heart health. However, the central nervous system cannot be overlooked as it plays a role in nearly every aspect of our health and well-being.

The central nervous system guides everyday activities such as waking up; automatic activities such as breathing; and complex processes such as thinking, reading, remembering, and feeling emotions. The CNS is comprised of the brain and spinal cord, which includes 31 spinal nerves and is the most protected system of our body as it is surrounded by our spine and skull. The part of the central nervous system that controls involuntary functions such as breathing and heart rate is called the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS can be broken down into sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions for proper regulation of body systems. Our sympathetic system, also known as “fight or flight”, is activated during strenuous physical activity while the parasympathetic system prepares the body for “rest and digest”. These systems use various hormones and signals throughout the central nervous system to ensure proper balance and regulation.

More emphasis needs to be placed on the communication between the CNS and the heart, in particular the importance of overall blood flow. The CNS achieves adequate oxygenation of body organs and systems by regulating arterial pressure and cardiac output from the heart. It can direct blood flow based on demand to certain areas of the body such as the gastrointestinal tract after a meal or to the musculoskeletal system during exercise. Without proper communication of a “happy” central nervous system with the heart, balance cannot be achieved and systems will be altered throughout the body.

A “happy” central nervous system is essentially when the brain can use the spinal cord to communicate with the rest of the body without interference in order to achieve homeostasis. Interferences such as subluxations when the spine is poorly aligned need to be removed. This is where a chiropractic spinal manipulation / adjustment comes into play. By directing the spine into its’ proper alignment, tension is relieved off of the nerves and sensors known as mechanoreceptors are activated. These mechanoreceptors send signals to and from the brain and without proper feedback, the body becomes altered and pain will eventually arise. By applying a chiropractic adjustment to a subluxated vertebrae in the spine for proper alignment, we can stimulate these mechanoreceptors so the brain can reformat processes to heal, relieve pain, improve range of motion, and increase strength.

Putting this all together without getting into too much detail about the scientific terms involved can be tricky. The main goal here I want you to understand is that a “happy” central nervous system is one without interference so the body’s systems can communicate properly and function optimally. This includes the cardiovascular system which, when functioning adequately, leads to a much healthier heart and body.

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