Harvard Heart Letter

Smart at Heart bridges the emotional and physical shores of heart health

In the Harvard Heart Letter, we usually break down matters of the heart into parts. Talking about the arteries supplying the heart, the electrical signals that make it pump, or specific therapies that correct problems helps turn complex processes into manageable bites. We also focus on a healthy lifestyle as the key to preventing and treating heart disease.

But it's difficult to tie all this together in an eight-page newsletter. A book from Harvard Health Publications, called Smart at Heart, admirably advocates for a truly holistic approach to heart health. Written by Dr. Malissa J. Wood, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, the book offers readers practical steps to bridge the gaps between their physical and emotional hearts. Dr. Wood is also principal investigator of the ongoing HAPPY Heart trial, which is looking at the effectiveness of holistic interventions to reduce cardiovascular risk among low-income women. The book's subtitle — "a holistic 10-step approach to preventing and healing heart disease for women" — identifies the primary audience, but there's much in this book for men, too.

Dr. Wood devotes separate chapters to each of 10 bridges that connect the physical and emotional aspects of heart health. One way or another, all 10 entail interpersonal relationships. "Having healthy, meaningful relationships is just as important to your health as being at a healthy weight and not smoking," writes Dr. Wood.

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