Article of the Month – Healthy Heart Tips
Article By Tegan Wallis, Holistic Health Practitioner
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Australia. According to the Heart Foundation, CVD kills one Australian every 12 minutes.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to all diseases and conditions involving the heart and blood vessels. The main types of CVD in Australia are coronary heart disease, stroke, heart attack and heart failure.
According to Ayurveda, the heart is one of the three main vital organs. It is the seat of the consciousness and our emotions. It is also home to Ojas (vital fluid), which sustains the life, and keeps the person full of vitality and strength.
Both modern medicine and Ayurveda agree that there are things you can do every day to keep your heart healthy.
Known risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity, low fruit and vegetable intake, alcohol and smoking. Despite knowing these risk factors and an improvement in ways to prevent them over the last few decades, it still remains the biggest killer in Australia today. 9 out of 10 adult Australians have at least one risk factor for CVD, and 1 in 4 have three or more risk factors.
To reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke, it’s important to control your risk factors. The Ayurvedic approach to good heart health is a holistic one and involves looking beyond the symptoms to the root cause of the disorder. Ayurveda believes that all heart conditions have an emotional component such as fear, anxiety, anger or repressed emptions. These emotions coupled with pressures (internal and external), add physiological stress to the body. When a person has trouble letting go of these stressors, these issues become chronic and risk factors can develop. Finding ways to release and pacify these emotions is a constructive way to prevent CVD.
In addition to quitting smoking if you smoke, and eating more fruit and vegetables, Ayurveda offers a few lifestyle and dietary tips to create a happy and healthy heart that is unique to your mind/ body type.
Each Dosha (mind and body type) has a propensity towards a certain type of heart condition. Knowing this helps you find a way to make lifestyle changes that are specific to you.
Emotional tendency: Anxiety
Heart risks: Arrhythmias, palpitations, tachycardia and vascular spasm
Heart health focus: Stress reduction
Anxiety disorders significantly increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease, and raise the odds of suffering a fatal cardiac event.
A study, by Annelieke M. Roest, MSc, of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, combined data from 20 studies on nearly 250,000 people. The average follow-up period was 11 years. The researchers found that anxiety was associated with a 26% increased risk of coronary heart disease and a 48% increased risk of heart-related death over the follow-up period, even after adjusting for other known heart disease risk factors.
Charaka, one of the great ancient sages and physicians who first indoctrinated Ayurveda over 5,000 years ago, explains the importance of stress relief to protect the heart in the following text:
“One who wishes to protect the heart, circulatory system and vital essence should avoid, above all else, those causes leading to mental stress and instability.”
Remedies for Anxiety:
The best thing for Vata types is to implement a stress reducing program.
Meditation is the best relief for, and prevention of anxiety. Numerous scientific studies have found meditation for anxiety to be effective. For example a study conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School taught mindfulness to a group of people with clinical levels of anxiety, and found that 90% experienced significant reductions in anxiety and depression.
Emotional tendency: Anger
Heart risks: Inflammation, high blood pressure and sudden heart attack
Heart health focus: A plant-based, anti-inflammatory diet
‘Hot’ emotions such as anger, frustration and rage all increase blood pressure. These are caused by an excess of Pitta in our system which causes our platelets to become sticky and inflammation to occur.
Remedies for inflammation:
The best way to decrease Pitta is through dietary methods. This means choosing a plant-based diet that includes lots of dark leafy greens, mung beans, fresh herbs like mint and coriander, whole grains such as Basmati rice, quinoa, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Sweet seasonal fruits also help dampen the heat of inflammation. Foods to avoid or greatly limit are processed sugar, alcohol, coffee and red meat.
Ginger and turmeric are also great to add into your diet as they are incredibly potent anti-inflammatory’s. Research is showing they are as effective as NSAID’s (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs), but without the side effects.
Emotional tendency: Depression
Biggest heart risks: Obesity, high cholesterol and congestive heart failure
Heart health focus: Regular exercise
Depression is a significant independent risk factor for heart disease. Depression is also linked with conventional risk factors for heart disease.
Kapha types are prone to accumulation of fat, fluid, triglycerides and cholesterol. This accumulation places great strain, congestion and stagnation on the entire cardiovascular system, causing the heart to work extra hard against all the extra weight.
Remedies for congestion and depression:
Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise is essential to keep the heart strong, circulation pumping, the channels clear and the mood happy.
You don’t have to do a strenuous workout five times a week to have the benefits, regularity is the key. Ayurveda recommends exercising to halve of your capacity, just until your breath begins to deepen and you may break a light sweat. This ensures you don’t strain your muscles and you can exercise every day.
Walking in the morning for 30 minutes is effective for cardiovascular health, but Kapha types have great strength and stamina and can handle more vigorous exercise such as running, kickboxing, Asthanga Yoga, rowing or circuit training.