Can Stress and Heartbreak Break Your Heart -- Literally?

New research reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine explores mental risk factors for cardiovascular disease: can relationship difficulties literally break the heart? Researchers find the highest risk associated with an attitude of cynical distrust. Suzanne Vachet of Inward Quest, an Indianapolis non-profit providing personal development and spiritual growth workshops, explains how people can learn to identify, explore, and change inner beliefs such as distrust and cynicism.

Indianapolis, IN, February 01, 2007 --( According to new research reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, cynical distrust, chronic stress and depression may be factors in the development of cardiovascular disease. And Dr. Cara East, medical director of the Clinical Cardiovascular Research Center at Baylor Jack and Jane Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital, was quoted in a recent Dallas Morning News article as saying that stress plays a significant role in many heart attacks, particularly in a syndrome called takotsubo… sometimes known as "broken heart syndrome." If this is true, stress and difficulties in relationships may indeed be able to break the heart -- literally.

When studying the most significant mental factors that increase the risk of heart disease, researchers at the University of Ann Arbor, Michigan, found, "The strongest and most consistent associations were observed for cynical distrust." Chronic stress came in second, while depression was third in its influence on heart health.

"These results suggest to me that while we can moderate our stress levels through exercise, meditation, visualization, and relaxation techniques, the most important way to keep our heart healthy -- metaphorically and physically -- may be to examine the beliefs we hold," explains Suzanne Vachet, director of Inward Quest, an Indianapolis not-for-profit organization that provides workshops and retreats for personal development and spiritual growth. "Cynicism and distrust are each examples of what I would call a 'belief underneath.' We learn these beliefs in childhood, and unless we question them as adults, they become the stories that drive the plots of our lives, whether we realize it or not."

Vachet's organization, Inward Quest, helps people explore these hidden beliefs in their workshops through a technique that they call "learning to ACCEPT yourself." "ACCEPT is an acronym for the six-step model we use to help people identify, explore, and change their beliefs," Vachet explains. "ACCEPT stands for awareness, curiosity, compassion, exploration, practice, and transformation. We need to become aware of our beliefs, be curious about their origins, have compassion for ourselves and those from whom we learned them, explore new beliefs to replace the old, practice acting 'as if' we held new beliefs, and eventually transform ourselves and our ways of thinking."

The Indianapolis non-profit is hosting two free workshops in early February addressing self-acceptance, as well as a day-long retreat in March at the Garden Retreat Bed and Breakfast, New Palestine. Those interested in participating can visit the Inward Quest website,, or call 317-225-5454 for more information.

"With Valentines Day coming up this month, I'm always especially glad to be helping people heal their hearts," Vachet noted. And considering these new research findings, their workshops may help heart health in more ways than one.

Inward Quest, a National Heritage Foundation, is an Indianapolis, Indiana non-profit organization providing personal growth workshops, seminars, and retreats. Their mission statement: "To inspire you to hear your inner wisdom, encourage you to become aware of your conditioning and choices, and empower you to recognize your own value, so that you can experience peace, love, joy, and delight, and contribute to a conscious, cooperative community." They can be reached on the web at or by phone at 317-225-5454.

Inward Quest, a National Heritage Foundation
Suzanne Vachet