By Dr. Sara Hart - ND, MSOM, CO registered Naturopathic Doctor and Licensed Acupuncturist
The cold of winter is an especially high-risk season for heart attacks. Between the cold weather challenge for circulation and the typically intermittent bursts of intense physical exertion (scraping the ice off the windshield, shoveling, weekend warrior adventures) the heart can be demanded to work harder than other times of the year. As we move through the season and the holidays come and go, bring some focused attention to prevent heart disease now!
The heart is more than just a pump that keeps our blood circulating. The heart serves as our emotional regulator, source of joy and according to many traditions, the home of the soul. It is greatly affected by our sense of connectedness to others, experience of gratitude and love.
The Center for Disease Control lists heart disease as the number one cause of death in this country. For over half of these victims, the first symptom is a fatal event. Heart disease has been considered the silent killer for decades as we have observed the rates and incidences increase over the years. Aside from rare genetic malformations of the heart, the majority of the contributing factors to heart disease are completely preventable.
According to Chinese medicine, the heart in the body is like the emperor or empress of the kingdom. This organ serves the most vital role in the body. It regulates and over-sees the needs of the entire body, or kingdom. When a community or the human body is healthy, every role is filled, chores are being done and tasks are accomplished routinely and with ease. In this case, the heart is able to exist peacefully. Like an emperor lavishing in his throne, or the empress existing solely to radiate her beauty with the world the heart knows joy, love and peace.
Former American folk singer Utah Phillips shared a vision of society. His famous movement for the satirical “Do-Nothing” political party share sthe proclamation that, “The best presidents were the do-nothing presidents... if we have a president who does things we are all in serious trouble,” from his album, The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere. A leader who is able to serve its region by peacefully existing in celebration and joy is a sure sign of a healthy place. While we can’t control the dynamics in politics, we can shift our personal dynamics to create a healthier kingdom internally. Perhaps this effect can ripple out to the greater world.
When the heart is at peace, we feel gratitude and joy. We have a leisurely pulse and we adapt well to increased and decreased physical demands. We are caring toward others and feel compassion for ourselves and those in need. Our baseline is relaxed and our muscle tone is supple as our circulation adequately permeates all the cells of the body. This is how most people are as children, with easy and adaptable heart rhythms, full of joy and existing in the wonder of the moment.
Something happens as we take on the responsibilities of the world and grow older. We often compromise our interests and desires, doing things we feel we ought rather than what we want. We become burdened by uncomfortable emotions and adapt ourselves to fit in, often in a way that compromises our total well being. We take up unhealthy habits and when the invincibility of youth wears off, the toll they take grows great. Our muscle tension increases, our blood pressure rises and the heart exists in a state of tension, accumulating inflammatory components from the upset organs that build blockages and instability in the heart.
Maintaining optimal heart function requires a multi-faceted approach to health. Here are the keys I consider most important:
• Know what we need and do it! Develop your intuition or gut-sense of what you should or shouldn’t do and make it an uncompromising rule for yourself. This relates especially to what you eat, when you should sleep, how much you exercise and who you share your time with.
• Cultivate strength of the mind to appropriately moderate stress. Utilize meditation, prayer, breath work, music and other tools to shift the ever-moving train of thoughts out of the minds focus. Instead of worrying, become enamored by the beauty of the present moment.
• Adopt an Anti-Inflammatory lifestyle to reduce the intake of all the components that are working against your heart. Inflammatory foods and drinks, environmental toxins and more.
• Monitor the body for signs of subtle inflammation using diagnostic imaging, blood work and enlisting the support of a comprehensively trained holistic doctor to identify signs early and make appropriate changes.
Restoring the emperor or empress to the throne is a primary notion of five-element Chinese Medicine. When the heart is supported and validated, its inherent gifts are revealed. Educating the body on how to exist in a peaceful state, and inspiring oneself to better listen to the hearts' desires allows the heart to thrive. While we will always have the stressors to contend with and the politics of the era we live in, the degree to which our heart is affected is entirely within our control.
For tools, resources and individualized care for your optimal heart health or for those you love, visit Stillwater Clinic and Apothecary at 418 High Street in Lyons today!