Heart disease is known as the silent killer because it is very often presents no external symptoms before a heart attack strikes that could be fatal. When symptoms do appear, they can include angina (gripping pain around the heart), difficulty breathing, cold hands and feet (from poor circulation), fatigue, dizziness, inability to think clearly, pain in the legs (due to claudication), palpitations, and heart attack. Another major contributing cause of heart disease is stress, which elevates blood cholesterol levels and promotes production of hormones (cortisol or epinephrine) that, over time, weakens the heart.
Among the signs a doctor looks for to detect heart disease are high blood cholesterol, especially a cholesterol level above 200 mg/dL; high blood pressure; enlarged heart; failure of an electrocardiogram or stress treadmill test.
What is Heart Disease?
From Modern Western Medicine
Coronary heart disease is a condition that arises when the heart is deprived of adequate amounts of blood. The illness is causes by atherosclerosis, or cholesterol plaques that form in the arteries that bring blood to the heart. Atherosclerosis is also caused by eating excessive amounts of fat and cholesterol, both of which raise blood cholesterol and create very volatile boils or plaques, within the arteries. These boil break up and send debris, known as emboli, in the direction of blood flow. One of the emboli can block the flow to the heart muscle, thus depriving it of oxygen and bringing on a heart attack. Several tests are used to determine if a person has coronary heart disease, including a blood-cholesterol-level test and a stress treadmill test that measures strength and rhythm of the heart.
From Traditional Medicine
The underlying cause of most heart disease is atherosclerosis, brought on by high blood cholesterol levels—which are themselves cause by diet high in fat and cholesterol and low in antioxidants—and by a lifestyle that is antagonistic to the person’s spirit. In fact, an unhealthy diet is a symptom of being out of harmony with ones own inner nature. Therefore, the diet is not the underlying cause so much as a response to a basic lack of understanding of who one really is. In Chinese medicine, the heart is considered the Palace of the Shen, or the Home of Spirit. The spirit is the inner being from which comes a person’s consciousness, or their degree of awareness of themselves and their relationship with others, and with the Universe at large. The spirit has both universal and unique characteristics. The degree to which the person is able to understand and experience their universality—that is, their interdependence with others and the world around them—as well as their unique individual character, including their talents and weaknesses, determines their degree of mental and physical health, including the health of their heart. On the other hand, the more the person conducts their life in opposition to their natural spirit, the more their heart suffers. Chronic stress and poor health habits are symptoms of such an inner conflict.
- Reduce blood cholesterol below 150 mg/dL to cause reversal of atherosclerosis and reduce the volatility of the plaque within the arteries.
- Exercise by walking 4 to 6 times per week. See your physician before starting any exercise program, especially if you have already suffered a heart attack.
- Lose weight if you are overweight by following the diet recommended under nutrition (Part III).
- Meditate, pray, or establish some other form of effective stress reduction.
- Do not smoke cigarette, cigars, or pipe.
Foods to Eat
- Whole grains
- Plenty of raw vegetables and leafy greens
- Cold-water fish; salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc.
- Raw honey and bee pollen
- Seeds such as sunflower, flax, pumpkin, and chia
- Wheat germ (improves heart yin)
- Wheat berries (improves heart yin)
- Mung beans (improves heart yin)
Foods to Avoid
- Red meat
- Dairy products
- Dark meat of chicken or turkey (higher in fat)
- Hydrogenated fats
- Fried foods
- Refined grains
Herbs to Treat Heart Disease
- Ginkgo biloba: 40 mg, three times a day of standardized preparation. Benefits usually show in four to six weeks.
- Hawthorne: 100 – 200 mg a day of standardized extract
- Gugulipid: 500 mg of standardize preparation, three times a day. Also available in more concentrated preparation; take 25 mg, three times a day.
- Oat bran: 1/2 to 2 cups dry weight per day
- Psyllium (similar to oat bran): 1 tsp. mixed in 8 oz. of water, three times a day
- Angelica, ginger, and prickly ash: make herb teas to stimulate circulation
- Motherwort: tincture, 30 – 60 drops (1/2 – 1 tsp.), three or four times per day
- Arnica is an immediate remedy for heart attack. Homeopaths believe that many more lives could be saved if medics carried arnica in ambulances.
- Aerobic exercise: do this only under supervision of a doctor, as this must be entered into slowly and carefully
- Alternate hot and cold showers are excellent for stimulating circulation. Do gradually to prevent shock that the heart cannot stand. Take alternate hot then lukewarm showers at first, then alternate between hot/warm every 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly, over the next two to six months increase the differences in water temperature.
- Daily massage
- Hot compress: In acute angina, apply hot, moist compress to chest or mid-back, then massage the muscles deeply along the spine.
- Vitamin B complex
Thiamine: 1.5 mg per day
Riboflavin: 1.8 mg per day
Vitamin B6: 2 – 10 mg per day
Vitamin B12: 2 – 10 mg per day
Niacin: 20 mg per day
- Vitamin C: 100 – 500 mg per day
- Vitamin E: 100 – 400 IU per day
Do not exercise until after you have changed your diet and lowered your cholesterol level. Exercise can be fatal for someone who eats a high-fat diet. Check with your doctor before you begin an exercise program.
- Walk 4 to 6 times per week, for at least 30 minutes per exercise session
- Do stretching exercises or yoga
- Tai chi chuan
- Some form of aerobic exercises such as swimming or jogging
- Diaphragmatic breathing to reduce stress
- Positive imagining