The sudden death of what would seem a fit and rather young sportsman has sent shockwaves through the sporting world and has made many men especially, have a good think about their heart health. And a good thing too as many people have some rather dangerous ideas about health, fitness and the strength of their most central organ of the body.
It is said the heart is the Monarch as it is central to who we are, when we identify ourselves we can tend to gesture toward our heart, and it is where we feel our most powerful emotions such as love and sadness and shock.
Physically speaking, the heart is a powerful pump that has the power to send blood to each and every cell of your body. It is so powerful that the blood rushes to the very tips of your toes and back again to then be pumped with less force to the lungs for re-oxygenation. You can lie perfectly still and this will flow endlessly. However, when we stand and gravity applies its force, we need to move to send it back smoothly. This is why if we stand for long periods we can end up with varicose veins filled with blue, not adequately oxygenated blood that can lead to a host of problems that I spoke of last month.
Now for all its power, the heart is a delicate organ and although well protected by the Pericardium (the heart protector pocket around the heart), heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia according the Australian Bureau of statistics, yet sadly there is precious little information on the most important ways to look after your heart.
Sadly, the Heart Foundation tick has lost most of its credibility when it gave more ticks to sugary breakfast cereals than whole milk, so I hope this article can help us all to look after our hearts.
Emotions play a massive role in heart health, and as numerous studies have shown, love, community, family and even our pets help both blood pressure and regulate the heart function. Giving and receiving is equally important while loneliness and sorrow depresses heart function, even more than even a bad diet. That said, diet is still very important as is exercise and that leads me to the next factors affecting the heart.
Good fresh healthy whole foods are vital to heart health. Lots of leafy greens, red and purple foods such as summer berries (blueberries, cherries, blackberries, hawthorn berries etc) contain powerful anti-oxidants that repair oxidative damage to heart muscle, also beetroot, plums and tomatoes. Summer is the heart’s season so it’s no co-incidence that these foods abound at this time of year… so enjoy them. Don’t overeat. Too much rich food and overeating in general puts strain on the heart. It is said in TCM to only eat until 80% full.
Shock and overwork are very damaging to heart Qi (essence or function). Sudden changes to our lives can strain the heart, such as a sudden diet or fitness regimes such as the ‘shredding diet’ that Shane Warne was on leading to his fatal heart attack. Suddenly changing your diet to just juices and over-exercising to try and shift weight rapidly is too much for the heart to deal with. Much better to take a slow and steady approach by starting with smaller regular sessions and steadily build your hearts strength. This includes riding up mountains, or running long marathons. It is so much pressure on the heart. Exercise for pleasure and go gently and steadily, and as you get fitter you can go longer. A famous Chinese Doctor once said “too much of anything, even too much exercise can damage the heart. The heart only has so many beats… if you want to live longer, rest more.” Somehow we all need to listen to our own hearts to attain a balance. That applies to work too… overwork is a very common cause of heart disease.
So please, go gently on your hearts. Laughter is the sound of the heart so be and laugh with your friends family and community to live a happy and contented life.
Until next time, Stay well
Dr Angela Palmer
Kinglake Chinese Medicine