• Tania Cucciniello

The Physiological Effects of Massage Therapy, Diet and Lifestyle on the Cardiovascular System

February is Heart Month! To raise awareness and understanding of heart health, I will be dedicating my posts all month long on topics about the heart, the organ of love.


Anatomical Location of the Heart

The heart is a cone-shaped organ that lies about two-thirds to the left of the body’s midline, in a structure called the mediastinum. The mediastinum is located in between the lungs and includes not only the heart, but the thymus and portions of the esophagus and trachea as well. It houses many pathways from the neck to the abdomen, therefore, it is easy to perceive that this area is susceptible to poor posture, diet, and lifestyle.


On the other hand, since susceptibility means a particular thing is easily influenced, then good habits can also impact the heart and mediastinum in a positive way.


First, directing the attention to bad habits.


What is cardiovascular (CVD) disease?

It is a group of dis-orders of the heart and blood vessels, which range from hypertension to coronary heart disease.


When using the words disease or disorder I often tend to use a hyphen (-) to separate the syllables of the word. Breaking up the word shows the breaking down of a diagnosis, such as a dis-ease or dis-order, meaning something that is no longer at ease or in order. However, this exhibits our capabilities of being able to make a change. Through a wellness routine of exercise and proper nutrition, we can reset the order!


What are the risk factors that lead to CVD?

  • Unhealthy diet

  • Lack of physical activity

  • Tobacco use

  • Harmful use of alcohol

  • Genetics – although we now know that poor genetics don’t have to be inherited, once again by living a healthy lifestyle.

An unhealthy diet plus a sedentary lifestyle leads to raised blood pressure, raised glucose levels in the blood, becoming overweight or even obese. These all indicate an increased risk in developing a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure.


Prevention of CVD includes:

  • A healthy, anti-inflammatory diet: This involves reducing sugar, gluten, and sodium- mainly salt from fast foods, but cooking with salt and controlling the portion is proven to be necessary for the nervous system to function well. An anti-inflammatory diet is also encouraged for heart health because it is rich in vegetables, lean protein like organic chicken and fish, unsaturated fats like olive oil, nuts, and seeds, and high in fiber through foods like beans, lentils, and barley.

  • Regular physical activity: exercising 1 hour per day reduces the risk of heart disease by 50%!

  • Zero tobacco and nicotine use

  • Moderate alcohol intake

  • Decreasing stress and anxiety

  • Having a decompression routine


Decompress with Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy has many healthy benefits on the cardiovascular system. It’s most heard of effect is that massage therapy increases blood circulation. This is true, but just how much can be truly fascinating.


The deep physiological effects massage therapy has on the cardiovascular system include:

  • Increased histaminic reaction, which increases vasodilation of blood vessels.

  • Increased oxygen and nutrient supply to bordering tissues and cells.

  • Enhanced metabolic waste and toxin transition toward the liver, which contributes in blood purification.

  • Helps reduce high blood pressure and cardiac rhythm, especially in those who experience constant stress.

  • Increased venous return, especially when using methods such as Swedish massage, Californian, and Lomi-Lomi, as these techniques use maneuvers that are performed to respect venous return direction, enhancing venous blood return to the heart.

For those with cases of low blood pressure, anemia, and/or myocarditis, preventing dizziness or drops in blood pressure is important. Simply suggest to your client to move their upper and lower limbs after the massage, before sitting up; you may even assist your client to sit up and take a few deep breaths before leaving their side.


In conclusion, massage therapy has a stimulating effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the receiver’s heart rate. Coupled with recommendations of physical activity and proper nutrition, this will further help increase blood circulation and initiate a routine of long-lasting heart health.

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