Cardiovascular Disease and Heart Harmony
A 28-year study following patients with established cardiovascular disease (including advanced atherosclerosis, angina, myocardial infarction and coronary bypass) has confirmed that the Mediterranean Diet can help prevent premature death. Those who began a Mediterranean diet had a significant reduction in all causes of mortality compared to those with poorer quality diets, proving it is never too late to start eating well!
In Chinese medicine, “the heart not only regulates blood circulation but also controls consciousness, spirit, sleep, memory and houses the mind” according to Paul Pitchford in Healing with Whole Foods. We know and understand that the health of our heart depends not only on physical factors such as good diet, exercise and positive lifestyle choices, but also on our emotional stability.
When we are in conflict, confusion, grief or turmoil, we feel heaviness in the chest area and often pain in our hearts. If this continues indefinitely, it will inevitably lead to physical damage. A healthy heart will likewise lead to mental clarity, the ability to find solutions easily to life’s dilemmas, happiness, joy, gratitude and humility. A calm and focussed mind leads to a healthy heart!
So let’s look at some holistic ways to achieve heart harmony both physically and emotionally:
- The Mediterranean Diet – eat primarily plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Include olive oil over margarine or butter, use herbs and spices to flavour foods, limit red meat, eat fish twice a week and drink red wine in moderation.
- Include whole wheat, brown rice and oats, which contain B Vitamins and other nutrients to help calm the mind.
- Mushrooms, according to Chinese medicine, act as an immune tonic and nurture the heart, spirit and mind.
- Silicon foods, like oat straw tea, barley, cucumber, celery and lettuce improve calcium metabolism and thereby strengthen nerve and heart tissue.
- Fruits like mulberries, apples and lemons, high in anti-oxidants, can also calm the mind according to Chinese medicine.
- Dill and basil can be used in foods and teas for their calming effect on digestion.
- Herbal teas such as Hawthorn, Schisandra, Chamomile, Valerian and Skullcap are helpful for nervousness and insomnia, calming the heart, mind and spirit. Research on Hawthorn Berries show that it is one of the best herbs for all heart and cardiovascular conditions.
- Magnesium is healing for the heart as it tones and relaxes the heart muscle and helps with calcium absorption. Numerous nutritional studies indicate that heart and nervous system problems are related to calcium metabolism. Green foods, especially the dark green salad veggies, are high in magnesium.
- Avoid very spicy or rich foods, refined sugar, excessive alcohol, coffee, late-night eating and large evening meals as well as too many ingredients in the one meal.
- Ginger, garlic and turmeric have shown positive test results in reducing blood pressure and overall cholesterol levels. Include liberal amounts in teas and cooking.
- Supplements such as fish oils, vitamin E, vitamin C, coenzyme Q10, B vitamins and selenium are all showing promising test results in decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and reducing the incidence of recurrent vascular events.
- Include at least 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise four times per week.
- Stop smoking and reduce alcohol intake.
- Reduce stress by including relaxation activities every day, i.e. meditation, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises.
- Practice positive thinking and gratefulness.
- Being mindful of our speech patterns and improving our awareness of our speech, strengthens the heart. Such things as prayer, meditation, devotional singing, mantras, chanting, affirmations and silent contemplation will all help to strengthen and heal our heart.