Numerous disorders fall under the broad category of heart and vascular disease. This discussion is restricted to arteriosclerosis, angina, and heart attack.
Arteries transport blood from the heart and deliver it to other parts of the body. Arteriosclerosis occurs when the inside of the artery wall thickens, leaving a narrower passageway for the blood to travel through. This disorder is often called hardening of the arteries. Arteriosclerosis can affect the coronary arteries-the arteries that lead to the heart-and is usually caused by a buildup of fatty deposits within the arterial walls. This buildup is often the result of a poor diet, one that's high in bad fats and low in fiber. Most people who have arteriosclerosis are not aware of it, as it does not trigger symptoms in the body until later in the disease.
Unfortunately, when arteriosclerosis is left untreated, it just gets worse. Without treatment, the arteries will eventually become so constricted that adequate supplies of oxygenated blood can't reach the heart muscle. This oxygen deprivation may result in the chest pain known as angina. Angina is often a precursor to a heart attack. In some ways, people with angina are lucky because their pain usually leads to a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, and they can then take several steps to slow or reverse their condition before it results in a trip to the emergency room or even death. But for many, a heart attack is the first outward sign of trouble; 25 percent of people who suffer heart attacks have never felt any previous symptoms. A heart attack--or myocardial infarction, as it's called by doctors-is brought on when blood flow to a section of the heart muscle is completely cut off, either because a clot has backed up behind a thickened artery, or because the artery itself has become so narrow that no blood at all can pass through. If you ever suspect that you are having a heart attack, you must receive emergency medical care at once. Instead of having someone drive you to a hospital (unless you are really close), call for an ambulance. Life-saving treatment for heart attacks requires special medical techniques and tools, and the sooner professionals arrive with their equipment, the greater your chances of survival.
Heart disease is so prevalent now; most people are surprised to hear that it was actually quite rare until the turn of the twentieth century. Our modern diet and way of life are at the root of most heart problems, and the best way to prevent or reverse heart disease is to change our habits. Since heart disease is caused by a variety of factors, it is best to include several kinds of therapies in your treatment or prevention plan. Eat well, exercise, manage stress, and identify and treat genetic susceptibilities that .are known to bring on cardiovascular disease.
In recent years, researchers have found that chronic inflammation in the blood vessels is a central factor in the development of heart disease. This chronic inflammation leads to arterial wall damage and the resulting plaque formation. Although cholesterol levels have some importance, it appears that this substance is not the "villain" that it was once thought to be. While diet and lifestyle factors are root causes of chronic inflammation, there are also genetic reasons beyond inheriting a disposition to high cholesterol levels. They includes one's levels of homocysteine and lipoprotein(a) and other heredity factors. Fortunately, these genetic susceptibilities can be reduced through natural therapies. Hidden infections in the body are also suspected of increasing the inflammatory response. Therefore, it is imperative you are tested for these newer, more predictive markers of heart disease.
One theory regarding the origins of arteriosclerosis has to do with homocysteine. Homocysteine is a toxic substance and is a by-product of protein metabolism when you ingest foods like meat or dairy products; luckily, most people who eat these foods in moderation are usually able to convert homocysteine into a chemical called methionine, which is harmless. But a significant percentage (approximately 10 to 20 percent) of us are born with genetic flaws that make it impossible for us to neutralize homocysteine in this manner, and this substance stays around, inflaming the blood vessels and contributing to arteriosclerosis. A simple blood test will show if you have an elevated level. B vitamins, such as B12, folic acid, and B6, can bring it down to normal levels.
Finally, the impact of stress and negative emotions cannot be underrated as a cause of heart disease.
SYMPTOMS OF ARTERIOSCLEROSIS: There are usually no overt symptoms until later in the disease. See your doctor if you experience any of the following: Dizziness, fainting and leg pain that starts after walking a short distance and that goes away with rest.
SYMPTOMS OF ANGINA: Mild to severe chest pain. Often, it feels like the heart is being squeezed, tightness in the chest and Pain may feel worse after exercise or a heavy meal and better when resting.
SYMPTOMS OF HEART ATTACK: If you have any of the following symptoms, cal1 9ll immediately. Even if the symptoms pass, you need emergency medical attention. The classical symptoms are crushing or tight pain in the chest, which may extend to the arms, the back, the shoulders, the neck, or the jaw. The pain may be intense and severe, or it could be so mild that you might mistake it for indigestion. Women sometimes have heart attack symptoms that are different from the previous ones. The pain may begin in the stomach or the jaw or with stabbing pains between the breasts. The symptoms in general may be more vague than for men. Other possible symptoms include profuse sweating, a drop in blood pressure, difficulty swallowing, dizziness or faintness, ringing in the ears, or, more rarely, nausea and vomiting.
CAUSES: Poor diet, especially one that's high in saturated fat and low in fiber and antioxidants, genetics, smoking, high blood pressure, stress, depression, anxiety, obesity, inactivity, diabetes, hidden infections and excess of toxic metal.
The following therapies are recommended as ongoing support for your heart. They are not treatments for a heart attack. If you suspect that you're having a heart attack, get emergency medical help immediately.
When most people think of diets to prevent or reverse heart disease, they think of reducing cholesterol and fat. In reality, many other factors must be taken into account, such as an adequate intake of "good" fats, fiber, and antioxidants.
A whole-food, plant-based diet (with the addition of fish) has been shown to sweep away arterial plaque. Your meals should emphasize vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, with soy products, beans, and fish for protein. People who require a higher- protein diet can add more lean poultry to their menu.
Highly reactive molecules known as free radicals are closely linked to heart disease. Foods that contain antioxidants will help prevent damage caused by free radicals, so eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables every day.
Essential fatty acids are "good" fats that actually protect the heart and help the rest of the body function smoothly. Essential fatty acids are found in cold-water fish like halibut, salmon, and mackerel; raw nuts (excluding peanuts); olive oil; and flaxseeds.
Eat lots of fiber. A whole-foods diet will automatically increase your fiber intake, but if you need more, include oat bran or flaxseeds with your meals.
Garlic and onions reduce levels of bad cholesterol and lower the blood pressure. They make excellent additions to low fat meals, like vegetable stir-fries, clear soups and bean dishes.
The skins of red or purple grapes help clear the arteries of plaque. Have a glass of purple grape juice daily.
Potassium or magnesium are heart-protective minerals. Good sources include green vegetables, whole grains, wheat germ, soybeans, garlic, legumes, bok choy, and potatoes. Sea salt, listed previously, is another good choice.
Follow the Mediterranean diet: the consumption of plant foods; olive oil; and low to moderate amounts of fish, poultry, meat, dairy, eggs, and wine. Researchers believe that the consumption offish is one of the keys to this heart-healthy diet, which results in a lower incidence of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Food to Avoid
If you have heart disease, you must eliminate or drastically reduce your consumption of harmful fats (saturated fat, trans-fatty acids, or hydrogenated fats). Common sources of saturated fat or cholesterol include meat, poultry, dairy products, butter, eggs, palm oil, and coconut oil. Don't forget that many foods are made with these ingredients. Sweet baked goods, for instance, are likely to contain eggs and butter, as well as other fats and oils.
Don't make the mistake of substituting margarine or vegetable shortening for butter. These products are made with oils that have been artificially processed under high heat. This processing creates mutated molecules, called trans-fatty acids, which are most likely even worse for your heart and cholesterol levels than saturated fats are. People who cut down on fat sometimes end up gorging themselves on non- and low- fat processed foods, especially packaged cookies and other sweets. Avoid this trap. These foods have little or no nutritional content, and they rely on sugar to make up for the presence of fat. Excess sugar is tied to a number of health problems, and when used as a replacement for starch, it reduces the level of good, heart-protecting cholesterol.
Avoid simple sugars. Simple sugars cause elevated levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, C-reactive protein, insulin, and other markers that contribute to cardiovascular damage.
Radically reduce your consumption of sodium. Packaged and processed foods are by far the highest source of sodium in the Western diet, so stay away from them. A high sodium intake, combined with a low potassium intake, increases your likelihood of having high blood pressure.
SUPER REMEDIES FOR CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH
Antioxidant formula contains a wide spectrum of antioxidants that prevent the oxidative damage of cholesterol. Take as directed on the container.
Ginkgo biloba improves blood flow, has antioxidant benefits, and has blood-thinning properties. Select an extract made with 24 percent ginkgo flavone glycosides and take 80 to 120 mg twice a day.
L-carnitine is a nutrient that lowers triglyceride levels and improves heart contraction. Take 500 to 2,000 mg daily.
Vitamin E has well-researched cardioprotective properties as an antioxidant and a blood thinner. Take 400 to 800 IU of a vitamin E-complex containing tocotrienols and tocopherols. If you are on blood-thinning medication, take E-complex under the guidance of a doctor at a lower dosage.
Vitamin C prevents cholesterol oxidation and mildly lowers blood pressure. Take up to 2000 mg daily.
Massage A full-body massage improves circulation, steadies the body's rhythms, and relieves stress. As such, it is a valuable addition to heart disease treatment. If tension causes pressure in your chest, a neck massage may calm you down and regulate your pulse. You can easily give yourself a simple neck rub by learning a few techniques.
Many oils stimulate relaxation. Try several until you find a few that you like, and then alternate them to preserve their effectiveness. Some good oils to start with are lavender and jasmine. A diffuser that releases scent into a room will allow you to benefit from an oil's relaxing qualities all day long. Add juniper to massage oil. It will encourage the breakdown of fatty deposits and other toxins.
GENERAL STRESS-REDUCTION THERAPIES
Conventional medicine is finally beginning to accept that stress is a primary factor in heart disease. If you have heart disease, you must take several steps to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Remarkable results have been seen in patients on a program of yoga and daily meditation.
BACH FLOWER REMEDIES
Consult the list to find the appropriate flower remedy for your particular kind of stress. Following are a few suggestions. Once you've selected the remedy that meets your needs, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
Sweet Chestnut is helpful for people suffering from great anguish, whether mental or physical, and who feel that hope has run out.
People who use aggression to cover up feelings of insecurity will benefit from Holly. If you work hard and deny yourself pleasures, try Rock Water.
Perfectionists who are rarely satisfied and who tend to blame themselves, even for others' mistakes, should take Pine.
If you are easily irritated and have little patience for others' slowness, Impatiens will help. Aspen is for unexplained sudden fears.
Quit smoking, and eliminate your exposure to secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke is known to weaken artery walls and is one of the leading causes of heart disease.
Exercise is a crucial component of heart fitness, but you don't need to force yourself into a punishing regimen. Just enjoy a brisk thirty-minute walk daily; move quickly enough that you're breathing hard but not so fast that you can't carry on a conversation. If you have heart disease, see a doctor before beginning any exercise program.
If you're a heart-disease patient and have been told to lose weight, the dietary suggestions given here should help you take off the pounds safely. People who are very heavy will find additional suggestions under Obesity.
Women who smoke or who are over thirty-five should not take oral contraceptives or synthetic hormone replacements. This is particularly true if they are over thirty-five and smoke.
If you suffer from depression, you are at a significantly greater risk of developing heart disease.