Sujal Torgal Patil
Management of lifestyle disorders and the perspective behind it is gradually changing. Till the early eighties, it was grossly believed that heart disease was virtually irreversible. It was believed that in arterial blockage and subsequent IHD, the disease would run a progressive course until the coronary arteries were completely blocked. Recent studies have proven that it is possible to stall the process of artery blockage. The blockage can be reversed without surgery and the blood flow to areas of the heart that receive less than adequate blood supply due to clogging of coronary arteries can be improved.
When an individual acquires a lifestyle disorder they are left with two choices – either to completely restructure their diet and lifestyle or go with the conventional method and take lifelong medication or undergo surgery for it. It is quite disappointing that the highly technological approach of modern medicine literally bypasses the underlying causes of heart disease. Early diet and lifestyle intervention have shown miraculous results in cardiac anomalies especially in younger subjects.
Myocardial infarction is a result of interruption of blood supply to a specific part of the heart. The most common is occlusion in any of the coronary vessels. This may be due to lipid imbalance, atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in the arteries), arteriosclerosis (thickening of arterial walls or calcium deposits on the arterial walls), a blood clot, an air bubble, fatty deposit, or an object which has been carried in the bloodstream and lodged a vessel. A decrease in blood supply to the myocardium causes damages. If the blood supply is not restored or if the condition remains untreated it leads to permanent changes in the myocardium. This is characterised by typically radiating chest pain in the left arm and neck, shortness of breath (signs of vata derangement), vomiting and/or nausea, sweating, palpitations, compression in the chest, etc.
Ayurveda has connected metabolic disorders (including acquired heart disease) to the basic attribute of digestion as discussed in the last part. In a patient suffering from any cardiac disorder, it becomes necessary to understand the root of the disorder which could be poor diet resulting in faulty rasa, rakta and meda dhatu (roughly the blood, plasma and fatty tissue). This is precipitated by the increase in total cholesterol and triglycerides in the patient. Atherosclerosis is even caused by idiopathic inflammations or systemic autoimmune imbalances. In cardiac pathology the bloody tissue becomes thick, viscous, and may or may not clot easily depending on the dominant dosha. The arterial structure could have undergone either an atherosclerotic or arteriosclerotic change that could lead to an increase in blood pressure. This could be an actual increase in the pressure as well as quantity of blood.
Inflammatory disorders, pulmonary oedema, congenital heart diseases, hypertrophies, dilatations, flutters or fibrillation of the chambers and bundle blocks are due to vitiation of kapha dosha, vata dosha and rasa-rakta-meda dhatu which could have taken place congenitally or acquired later.
Changes in biochemical factors, hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia, dyslipidemia, changes in coagulation factors, insulin resistance, increase in levels of homocysteine, etc, are due to rasa-rakta vitiation. After proper management is initiated these parameters fall in the normal range in a short span of time without modern drug intervention.
The management protocol starts with dietary and lifestyle intervention which is based on the state and stage of the disease.
As said earlier cardiac dysfunction doesn’t happen overnight, it results from a sequence of pathological changes for months and years in our circulatory system.
- These pathological changes are driven by faulty dietary practices like excessive use of sour, heavy, cold and fermented food products like curd, idli, vada, dhokla, fried food, bread and bakery products, citrus fruits, fruits smoothies or milkshakes, cheese, paneer, butter, ice creams, cold drinks or beverages, etc. Animal products, especially red meat, are not ideal as they take long to digest, and create a lot of toxins in the stomach during the process of digestion. Homocysteine is considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and is mainly derived from meat. Homocysteine is believed to be responsible for structural damage of the arterial apparatus.
- It is ideal to have lighter, warmer and easily digestible meals. Regular consumption of old red rice, green gram, horse gram, barley, pomegranate, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, ash gourd, ridge gourd, sponge gourd are ideal. Consume only boiled water or medicinal water prescribed by the physician. It is ideal to consume pure cow ghee in prescribed quantities every day after the inflammation subsides. Ghee has the ability to prevent or reverse any fibrotic changes that have occurred in the arterial or neuromuscular cardiac infrastructure.
- A faulty diet and simultaneous lack of exercise or exercising at the wrong time or inappropriate exercise (beyond one’s capacity) can be severely detrimental too. One should exercise according to one’s strength and indication. For instance brisk walking may not be ideal for some who should ideally go on slow paced- long distance walks or swim. Those suffering from a cardiac disorder should not exert themselves much.
- Avoid suppression of natural urges, excessive indulgence in sexual activity, night sleep vigils, day sleeping, etc. Adopt a calm attitude and refrain from verbal or physical aggression or violence at any level.
- Yoga particularly pranayama and meditation help in attaining mental peace and improving the cardiac and circulatory functions of the body.
- Daily abhyanga (massage) or foot massage before sleeping may help one de-stress and induce good sleep.
It is possible to maintain a positive healthy heart throughout one’s life or reverse the diseased heart to a healthier one by following guidelines of science-based evidence-based ayurveda and yoga even in this era. As said earlier it is a choice to be made.
(Writer is CMO at Traya Natural Health Centre and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)