Heart is most vital muscular organ of the body. It is of the size of a fist of a person and measures about 5” in length 3.5” in breadth and 2.5” in thickness. It weights between 250-350 gms. Its function in the body is to pump and supply oxygen, nutrients, enzymes and hormones through blood to whole of the body and take out carbondioxide, and other waste products from body through concerned organs. It keeps on beating i.e. contracting and relaxing right from birth to last breath of life, day and night and never takes rest. We may sleep but it keeps on working.
In a minute it beats around 60 -80 times (average 72/ minute). In a day it beats around 3 lacs times and around 3 billion beats in a life time. It pumps around 7570litres of blood daily through 96,600 kilometers of blood vessels. It circulates blood to all body cells, tissues, organs and system of the body. Heart supplies blood to body through channels known as ARTERIES and from body, the channels through which blood comes back to heart are called VEINS.
Pumping action or beating of heart to supply blood to all body organs through arteries creates a pressure on walls of the arteries called BLOOD PRESSURE. For a good health of a person blood pressure should remain within normal limits. But because of various factors like sedentary living, lack of physical activities, over eating, high consumption of dairy products, fats, oils, sugar, salt, mental stress, smoking, heredity etc. blood pressure increases. This increase in blood pressure is technically because of narrowing of lumen of the arteries hardening of their walls and losing elasticity because of above factors. It is similar to the increase in pressure of the water passing through a garden pipe of narrow lumen as compared to that of broader lumen.
This increased blood pressure adversely affects the heart chambers which pumps our blood from heart to body. In case blood pressure remains high for years together heart chamber (ventricle) gets enlarged, and later walls of the enlarged chamber becomes thin and lose their capacity to contract and pump out blood from it to body. As a result our body’s supply of blood which is carrier of oxygen to every cell, tissues and organs of the body is hampered. This condition in medical terminology is called cyanosis i.e. bluish tinge appearing in body parts like lips, tongue, fingers and nose tips. Enlargement of the chambers (ventricle) of heart which supply blood to body if is too severe it is called heart failure, a serious heart disease. Interestingly heart which supplies blood and oxygen to body is made up of strong muscular walls and also needs blood supply, which is made through three main arteries called coronary arteries. For good health and functioning of the heart muscles coronary arteries through which blood is supplied to heart muscle should always remain healthy. But unfortunately because of various factors walls of these arteries become thick because of fat deposits in them, their lumen becomes narrow and their walls become hard and lose elasticity. Medically this condition is called Atherosclerosis where “athero” means pasty or glue like and “sclerosis” means hardening. With passage of time calcium starts depositing on fats in these arteries and it is called plaque and these plaques sometimes gets detached resulting into bleeding from the walls of arteries. This bleeding may form a clot which may block the narrow lumen of coronary artery. This blockage stops blood supply to the walls of heart muscle. It is a very serious condition termed as heart attack. If blockage of arteries of the heart and stoppage of supply of blood to heart muscle is of less than 5 minutes, this condition is called ANGINA and in case it is of a longer duration it is called major “Heart Attack or MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION”.
Symptom of Angina is pain in the center of chest behind sternum (central chest bone). Nature of the pain is dull, constricting, crushing, burning, aching, stabbing pricking or knife like. It may radiate to neck, jaw or fore arm, patient feels discomfort. Blood tests at the time of pain, E.C.G., Echo cardiography and angiography are very useful for final diagnosis of the disease. In case major Heart Attack has not taken place then Angiography test is very useful to know the exact picture and extent of blockage of the coronary arteries which may be blocked even upto 95%. One, two or all the three coronary arteries may be found blocked upto different extents. Depending upon the number of arteries involved and degree of blockage further treatment is decided by the cardiologist which may consist of medicinal management or putting a stent in the blocked artery/arteries or going for a bye pas surgery (open heart surgery). This can avoid major heart attack or myocardial infarction.
In spite of great advancement in treatment for putting stent in the blocked artery or performing open heart surgery this disease is a serious problem in the society and world’s number one killer disease. If we take care of eating habits and life style right from our early year of life this disease is preventable. Unhealthy eating habits like consuming lot of dairy products, full fats milk, cheese, butter, desi ghee, saturated fats, red meat, sugar, gur (Jaggery), excess carbohydrates, fast foods, fried food, alcohol, smoking, over busy and stressful life style, working for hours together or broadly, hurry, worry and curry are mainly responsible for unhealthy heart. How To Prevent It?
For a healthy heart our food should be as natural as possible around half of the quantity of total food intake should be raw vegetables (salads) and fruits. These not only provide antioxidants to neutralize atherosclerosis (thickening of walls of arteries) causing free radicals but also provide enough fibers to absorb excess of fats consumed with foods. Fresh fruits and raw vegetables also provide elasticity to blood vessels and prevent depositing of fats and plaque in the coronary arteries and other arteries. A good balance between carbohydrates, proteins and fats should be maintained.
Fats and oils which are good for heart are olive oil, mustard oil, canola oil, sesame oil, almond oil, and small amount of rice bran oil, soya oil. Desi ghee and butter are not good fats for heart. And one should always remember that source of Desi ghee and butter is full fat milk. In case our milk contains 7% fats then one kilogram of milk will contain 70 gm of fats. If we consume half kilogram of such milk daily then we consume one kilo and fifty gram of fats in a month from milk only, whereas our monthly requirement of total fats is around 500 gm per month. Any amount more than this increases cholesterol levels, produce obesity which may result into diabetes, high blood pressure clogged arteries of the heart i.e. heart attacks. So let us be sensible enough to eat right food.
We can learn good eating habits from birds and animals living in the lap of Mother Nature. Have we ever seen these creatures drinking milk throughout their life or consuming curd, cheese, salt, ghee, oils, sugar, fried food, alcohol or smoking tobacco? Have you ever seen super speciality hospitals for these creatures? Along with sensible eating habits we should adopt healthy life style also. Getting up in the morning, performing day to day activities, going to bed at right time and living wisely according to various seasons makes our life style and it is responsible for not only healthy disease free heart but total body. For a healthy heart one must get up at around 5 a.m., should meditate for 45 minutes, walk swiftly for another forty five minutes or perform yogasnas if for any reason swift walking is not possible. Walking as well as performing Yogasnas daily is the best combination for strong and healthy heart. It keeps the coronary arteries free from clogging and deposition of fats in them. Running for around 15 minutes and raising your heart beat about hundred beats per minute or above strengthens the heart.
While on job which could be personal business or working as an employee one should always be sincere and cheerful honest, it will keep our mind which controls the heart free from stress. Working continuously for eight hours is not good for health. After around two hours one should relax for 10 minutes. Performing relaxing yoga exercises or deep breathing are quite useful. Among the condiments flavouring agents, spices which are used in cooking have great health benefits for our health. Garlic should be taken to keep our cholesterol under control, it keeps the walls of arteries elastic, prevents fat deposits in them, but it should not be fried in oil or ghee during cooking rather 3 gms. Paste of raw garlic can be added to cooked food or swallowed as such with water. Turmeric powder 3-6 gms, black piper 1 gm. Piper longum 1-3 gms., ginger powder 1-3 gms., cumin seeds 1-5 gms., asafetida ¼ gm, fenugreek seeds seeds up to 5 gms., cinnamon 1-2 gms., are good for health of the heart.
Ayurvedic herbs recommended for improving contraction force of heart chambers and preventing narrowing of coronary artery in Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) barks, Triphala powder taken 3 gms. twice a day with water also clears and prevents narrowing of coronary arteries because of its detoxification properties. Extract of Guggulu 500 mg. three times a day is also useful for improving cholesterol levels and prevention of narrowing of arteries. Western herbs lily of valley, Motherwort, rosemary, Lime flower, are also recommended under the supervision of a qualified practicenor to reduce cholesterol and opening of coronary arteries. Infusion of any of the herbs like horsetail, ladys mentle, meadow sweet, howthorn, are also useful for arteriosclerosis which causes angina. Blue berry, apple, onion, garlic, seaweeds, cabbage, carrot, watercress, avacado, sunflower seeds, soyabeans, walnut should be regularly used in day to day diets. Consultation of cardiologists should be regularly taken and their advises and recent advanced developments and research of medical sciences should also be taken. Rather a consultation of modern medical care and ayurvedic herbal medicine is the best and holistic approach to take care of health of the heart.
Dayanand Ayurvedic College, Jalandhar.