Healthy Routes Column: It’s all about heart

by Gladys Kublik

In our Western culture, we see the heart as the engine which drives our being. We tend to look at it’s well-being in a bit of a mechanical way. We want it to be strong to pump the five-and-one-half litres of our blood along the sixty thousands miles of our blood vessels to nourish all of our cells. We monitor our heartbeat and our blood pressure to ensure the heart is working at proper capacity. We test our blood to make sure all the levels of minerals, C-reactive proteins, lipoproteins, triglycerides, cholesterols and fibrinogen are at the proper levels, which indicates that there is nothing amiss which could lead to plaque deposits, hardening of the arteries or heart attack.

Ultrasound technology now allows us actually to see our heart in action and spot blockages in the arteries allowing medical intervention in the form of stent implants or bypass surgery or valve repair. Western medicine regularly performs miracles saving lives from many forms of heart failure, literally fixing the problem, even so far as replacing a defective heart with a healthy one.

In the area of prevention, however, we sometimes feel that the side effects of the pharmaceutical bombardment sometimes is as devastating as the heart disease. Chemicals are needed to counteract the effects of chemicals prescribed to fix a symptom arising from another chemical prescribed to reduce cholesterol or lower blood pressure or prevent clotting. All of which is important at late stages of heart disease.

Perhaps that is the biggest difference between Western medical philosophy and other cultures. Even though the words heartthrob, light-hearted, heartache, broken hearted, heavy heart, young of heart, heart of stone or eat your heart out, are part of our speech, these very real conditions of our heart are never discussed in our medical profession. We have all experienced these conditions of the heart in our lives at one time or another, and they do physically affect the health of our hearts.

Other cultures have developed a more holistic approach to treating heart disease, beginning before there is any symptom of physical problems with the heart or circulatory system.

Ayurveda is a science based on ancient Indian philosophy. Ayurveda promotes healthy living. It is as much concerned with the normal condition as with the abnormal. Being a science of healing, it concentrates on what is required to lead a healthy and happy life. It deals not only with what is to be done when one falls prey to a disease but also with what should be done to maintain one’s health and vigour and prevent any possible ailments. Ayurveda believes that emotions or matters of your heart do matter to the health of your heart. ‘The Heart’ or Hriday is the seat of prana (life energy). The heart is also the seat of ojas, ( the essence of all body tissues) and the substance within us that maintains life and promotes bliss and longevity. Hence, heart is among the three most vital portions of the body.

“As the heart is an organ of emotion, emotional causes of heart disease should always be considered first,” says David Frawley, author of Ayurvedic Healing.

This is not just the stuff of philosophers; scientists and researchers have found direct links between what has typically been considered more esoteric advice and heart disease.

He proposes four paths to maintaining a healthy heart. First he advises us to “Keep Calm and Reduce Stress” because researchers have found that mental stress can reduce blood flow to the heart, but laughter increases it. Second “Establish Emotional Connections with others” because socially isolated people have to two to threefold risk of death from heart disease compared to those more emotionally connected. Third “Learn to Control your Anger”, men especially were found to be three times more likely to develop premature heart disease if they tended to react with anger in stressful situations. And finally, he advises to “Follow your Heart” do things which make you happy.

There is of course much more to Ayurvedic medicine than can be discussed here, but this is good advice to follow before you have heart disease. In the hopes of preventing it do something to make yourself happy and learn to laugh.


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