Be Heart Healthy

Words: Dr Ryan N HARRISON

The term, ‘heart disease,’ is a catch-all of sorts. In general, it refers to any disorder of the heart. Under the broad umbrella are several more-specific ailments, such as coronary heart disease, congenital heart disease, pulmonary heart disease, hypertension [high blood pressure], arrhythmias, etc. According to the American Heart Association [AHA], every 33 seconds one person, in America, dies from some sort of heart disease. This calculates to about 42 per cent of all mortalities on an annual basis — just in the US alone.

Heart disease, with all its many tendrils, is certainly a huge problem.

Why

Typically, cholesterol gets the blame for causing heart disease. People have been told for years that too much cholesterol in the blood ends up with a narrowing, or hardening, of the blood vessels. Make no mistake — this certainly happens. But, not all cholesterol is bad. In fact, your body actually makes some cholesterol because it needs it to repair cells, manufacture key male and female sex hormones, and keep the immune system running smoothly.

You may have heard of ‘good’ cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol. These are common terms for high-density lipoproteins [HDLs] and low-density lipoproteins [LDLs], respectively. Physicians determine cholesterol levels in the blood by measuring your ratio of HDLs to LDLs. Testing for cholesterol levels allows them to determine how effectively your body is metabolising cholesterol and how much is left in the blood stream.

Here’s the scoop on HDL and LDL cholesterol. LDLs are often labelled ‘bad’ cholesterol, because they appear to leave fat deposits on the walls of your arteries, causing damage to them. The deposits may narrow the arteries to the point where blood has a hard time flowing, or may even break off and flow into the heart, or other parts of the body, causing heart attacks and strokes. On the other hand, HDLs are often called ‘good,’ because high levels are associated with lowered risk of heart disease. Evidence also suggests that they actually help remove LDLs from the body.

What’s more, according to cardiologist Dr W Lee Cowden, MD, LDL cholesterol only becomes harmful when it is oxidised [the result of oxygen combining with a substance].  This happens when it is exposed to free-radical substances, such as homocysteine [a hormone released during stress], chlorine from unfiltered tap water, etc. What this means is that many of us are oxidising the LDL cholesterol in our blood on a daily basis.

Conventional [allopathic] medicine as usual doesn’t even consider oxidised verses non-oxidised LDL. Rather, conventional prescription medications for lowering cholesterol levels are written and filled. Indeed, with the rising incidence of high cholesterol and heart disease, cholesterol-lowering drugs [statins] have become the money-makers for pharmaceutical companies. Unfortunately, such medications have their own set of nasty side-effects, and while they may lower blood pressure, or cholesterol levels, they may also contribute to a decline in health in several ways.

How 

One of the startling things about heart disease is, that, despite the fact that it’s one of the world’s leading killers, it’s also the most preventable. What this means is that if you’re healthy today, you don’t have to suffer from heart disease tomorrow. And, if you’re currently struggling with heart disease, there are steps you can take to start healing.

Not everyone is aware of the natural alternatives to prescription medications. Yet, holistic medical and health professionals — from Ayurveda and homeopathic physicians, reflexologists to craniosacral therapists — will invariably have a litany of ways that can help keep heart disease at bay. Here are a handful of approaches to heart health that you can implement and depend upon, right away:

  • Vitamin C. As little as 1gm [1,000mg] of vitamin C a day can significantly lower blood pressure. This ‘celebrity’ among vitamins helps keep artery walls intact and also encourages HDL cholesterol to carry LDL cholesterol out of the bloodstream
  • Vitamin E. Studies have shown that as little as 100IU of this vitamin can reduce the risk of heart attack, especially when given before the problem develops
  • Exercise. A little goes a long way. Walking briskly for 30-35 minutes daily can lower your risk of heart disease by encouraging weight loss, reducing blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, and boosting HDL levels
  • Relaxation. Stress and heart disease go hand-in-hand. Research shows that people who get irritated, or angry, easily and frequently have nearly twice the risk of developing heart disease as compared to people who are more easy going and only get angry for a good reason [such as being treated unfairly, or unduly criticised]. Find a stress reduction therapist, or take up meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises as a way to calm and centre yourself when you feel your stress is going dangerously out of control
  • Herbal Remedies. Herbs are nature’s medicine chest. A host of herbs can be used successfully to help prevent and treat heart disease. Hawthorn berry, or Crataegus oxycantha, for example, is also used in homeopathy. It is a time-tested remedy for heart conditions. It improves the circulation of blood, dilates blood vessels, and relieves spasms of the arterial walls. Consult a qualified professional to discuss the option.

Obviously, the healthier a lifestyle you live, the better you will be at preventing heart disease. For further information on what kinds of alternative, or complementary, treatments are available to help you prevent and recover from heart disease, speak to a qualified professional. Or, find one who will work with your conventional physician in determining what alternative treatments are right for you.

Hawthorn: Good For Your Heart

The primary activity of hawthorn berry, as S K Verma et al, highlight in a paper published in The Journal of Herbal Medicine and Toxicology, is to increase blood flow to the heart. This may be due to relaxation of arteries in the heart, which directly increases blood flow, or through an increase in contraction and relaxation velocities, including the diastolic interval and, thus, allows more time for blood passage through the arteries. Hawthorn’s positive action may also be due to the inhibition of myocardial ‘enzymes,’ which is integral to maintain cardiac resting potential. It also decreases blood pressure. This results in an increase in exercise tolerance during the early stage of congestive heart failure [CHF]. Surprisingly, hawthorn has the dual ability to regulate both low and high blood pressure.

Hawthorn is currently being used extensively by physicians in Europe in its standardised form for early stage of heart failure [cardiac insufficiency] as classified by New York Heart Association [NYHA] and various other cardiovascular and peripheral circulatory conditions, including angina [chest pain] and cardiac incompetence.

Dr RYAN HARRISON, PsyD, MA, BCIH, EFT-ADV, HHP, NC, MH, QTP, LWM, HSM, is a holistic health educator and consultant in private practice. He also holds a post-graduate degree in transpersonal psychology and certifications as a nutritional consultant, holistic health practitioner, spiritual counsellor, and quantum-touch. Aside from being an advanced practitioner of EFT [Emotional Freedom Techniques], Harrison teaches and lectures in conventional and online forums. He lives in California, US. 

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