By Brigitte Mars
Our hearts beat about a hundred thousand times daily, pumping out close to 2,000 gallons of blood through 60,00 miles of blood vessels. Every minute, the heart pumps more than thirty times its weight. Antibodies, hormones nutrients, oxygen, warmth and waste are also transported through the cardiovascular system.
The heart is divided into a left and right pump (ventricles), separated by a wall of tissue called the septum. These two pumps work simultaneously pumping blood into two networks of circulation. The pumps are each fed by its own reservoir, the atrium. The left side pumps oxygen enriched blood into the body providing systemic circulation. Vessels that carry blood from the heart are arteries. Blood travels through large arteries, which become smaller arterioles, which then branch into capillaries, which are tiny blood vessels where blood distributes nutrients and other necessary substances and picks up waste material, including carbon dioxide. On the return trip to the heart, the blood travels from the capillaries into venules, which turn into veins, delivering carbon dioxide darkened blood back to the heart. The largest blood vessel is called the aorta. It acts as the main supply pipe, leading directly out of the heart. All of this happens in less than a minute!
In Oriental Medicine, the heart corresponds to the element of Fire, consciousness, memory, sleep and houses the mind and spirit.
Many heart problems are related to problems with other organ imbalances. For example, when the kidneys and liver are overburdened, they have a hard time cleansing the blood, which can cause systems backup and high blood pressure. People with heart diseases are more apt to be shallow breathers. When we build an emotional wall around ourselves, keeping ourselves isolated, protecting rather than sharing feelings we impair our physical and emotional hearts. Being overweight contributes to high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. Sleeping on the back gives the heart the most room to function. Heart disease is almost twice as likely to develop in someone sedentary than one with an active lifestyle. Exercises that are heart strengthening include aerobic sorts like bicycling, brisk walking, jogging and swimming.
Heart disease is rare in nations where fatty rich foods are eaten minimally and fiber intake is high. Foods that have a negative impact upon the cardiovascular system include red meats, high fat dairy products, margarine, butter and fried foods. Avoid anything that lists hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated on its label. These fats are often hidden in crackers, breads, pastries and chips. Fats heated to over 300 degrees oxidize rapidly and become dangerous transfats. Transfats interfere with the body’s ability to turn good fats into essential hormones and lubricants.
The bitter flavor, which includes broccoli, celery, dandelion greens, spinach, kale, chard, watercress, and burdock root, is especially cleansing for the circulatory system, help to cool and calm the heart. Beneficial fruits for the heart include blueberries, cherries, grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, peaches and plums. Bananas are high in potassium and benefit hypertension.
Seaweeds in general are cooling, softening, moistening and draining and excellent for reducing cholesterol levels and arteriosclerosis. In moderation, red colored foods can help strengthen a deficient heart. Foods of the red ray include radish, red apples and tomatoes. Pungent foods such as garlic, horseradish, leeks, onions, and nasturtium leaves and watercress help keep the blood platelets from clumping together and promote heart health.
If you do eat meat, fish is a heart healthier choice, as fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that can help prevent blood clots that can lead to stroke and heart attacks. Especially beneficial are blue fish, butterfish, cod, halibut, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout and tuna. Fish oils taken in supplement form can lower serum triglycerides. Vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids include beans, seaweed, whole grains, flax seed and the wild herb purslane. Extra virgin olive oil is an unsaturated fat that can lower LDL (low density lipo-proteins) and it is also rich in antioxidant polyphenols.
Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. However, scientists have hypothesized that the flavonoids in red wine may be why French, despite a rich diet have lower incidences of cardiovascular disease. It is the grape skins, a rich source of proanthocyanidins in particular that inhibit blood clot formation and also work as free radical scavengers. Moderate wine drinking has been found to increase the HDL (high density lipo-proteins), the good cholesterol that helps keep arteries clear. Eating grapes has this same property. Drinking green tea works as an antioxidant that has blood thinning, stroke preventing and cholesterol lowering properties. Add lemon and/or lime to room temperature water to help fluidify the blood.
There are many herbs which have served humanity in helping nourish and strengthen the heart. These herbs are available at natural food stores and can be used in capsules, tinctures, and some even can be included in teas or food preparation.
Cayenne pepper is an antioxidant that can help lower cholesterol, improve circulation, normalize blood pressure, reduce the risk of blood clotting, improve cardiac output, strengthen capillaries and peripheral vasculature.
Garlic clove inhibits LDL production yet raises HDLs. It can reduce coronary blockage and normalize blood pressure.
Ginger root can prevent dangerous clots from forming. It improves circulation to the extremities, lowers cholesterol, and dilates blood vessels,
Hawthorn leaves, berries, flowers dilates peripheral blood and coronary vessels. Rich in flavonoids, hawthorn improves oxygen and blood supply to heart. It is a traditional remedy in Europe and North America to treat angina, arrhythmia, arteriosclerosis, and blood clots and to normalize blood pressure.
Motherwort herb is an antispasmodic for myocardial spasms, angina, and palpitations. Motherwort improves blood flow, reduces hypertension, and helps calm heart problems associated with anxiety or neurosis
People with cardio-vascular health concerns should consult with a compentent health practitioner that supports health with diet, herbs, supplements and medication if necessary. Be open hearted.