Self-compassion may support a healthy heart

A woman smiles as she holds a cup of coffee in a kitchen.

You’ve heard the advice to “be kind to yourself,” but did you know this type of self-care may benefit your heart? Previous studies have shown that self-compassion overlaps with improved blood-sugar control, stress management, and sleep. Now, a small study with 191 middle-aged women found those who practiced self-compassion were less likely to show signs of preclinical atherosclerosis, a medical term used to describe early indicators of atherosclerotic plaque before it’s recognized through traditional screenings.  
Over time, if undetected or untreated, plaque can rupture or block blood flow in the arteries and increase the risk for a heart attack or stroke. To learn about the role self-compassion may have with cardiovascular disease risks, researchers partnered with study participants to analyze traditional risk factors and 
how kind the women were to themselves 

self-compassion assessment asked women how they typically act toward themselves during difficult times. For exampleDo they have a balanced view of the situation? Do they give themselves the care and tenderness they need to recoverAs part of the medical assessment, researchers used ultrasounds to measure the thickness of the women’s carotid arteries, which are near the neck and help carry blood from the heart to the brain. Women in the study who were more likely to practice self-compassion were less likely to have thicker carotid arteries. The researchers note future studies could explore if improving self-compassion improves cardiovascular health outcomes in women. 

The research published in Health Psychology and was supported by NHLBI, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.