February is the heart health month, so if you are struggling with any diagnosed heart conditions, have high cholesterol or triglycerides and/or have a family history of heart disease it’s time to make the best choices for your heart health, whether it's your diet, lifestyle or your emotions. 

What I will discuss in this article

  1. The importance of heart health

  2. Types of Heart Disease

  3. Signs and symptoms your heart is not functioning optimally

  4. Risk Factors for Heart Disease

  5. Ayurvedic Perspective of Heart

  6. Managing Heart Disease


The importance of Heart Health:

1. It is crucial for your survival

Your heart functions 24 X 7 pumping your blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to your entire body, so you can live. Its function is a sign that you are alive, for when it stops you cease to exist. 


And yet we often neglect it. The increasing waistlines, the decreasing energy levels seen commonly in today's world shows us that people tend to take better care of their homes and cars than they do of their heart which is a vital organ.


Why is heart important you would ask me? Well it is crucial to keep you alive. 


Think of your body as a computer. Your brain which stores and processes all the data that you receive can be compared to hard drive and the processor. But your heart is the power supply. And without the power supply, your computer will never work, no matter how much storage you have on your heart disk or how fancy your computer is.  Your heart creates electoral pulses that pump blood which then supplies energy energy to each and every cell. As long as you have this power supply your body can function, if that stops all your vital organs cease to function and start to die off. 


2. It is the Number 1 killer in the world.

Heart disease is the cause of 1 in every 4 deaths. The world’s biggest killer is ischaemic heart disease, responsible for 16% of the world’s total deaths. Since 2000, the largest increase in deaths has been for this disease, rising by more than 2 million to 8.9 million deaths in 20191


3. Silent Killer

High blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” because it typically has no symptoms until after it has done significant damage to the heart and arteries.   20 percent of North Americans who have high blood pressure don’t know they have it and, therefore, don’t know that they are at risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease and eye disease.


4. Women's Health & Heart Disease

Heart disease is the no 1 killer when it comes to women. It is responsible for 49% of deaths among all females. It kills an average of 400,000 women each year. While Heart disease causes 1 in every 4 deaths, in women it is 1 in 3  women's deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds. An estimated 44 million women in North America are affected by heart disease.  While 90% of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke, women with diabetes have more than double the risk of heart attack than non- diabetics.


Now the good news is that 80% of cardiovascular and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education. Also women's hearts respond better than men's to healthy lifestyle changes.

Types of Heart Disease

There are various types of heart diseases

1. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) - This is the most common heart disease found, where blockages in the coronary arteries or the blood vessels that supply blood to your heart leads to a decrease in the flow of blood to your heart muscle, stops it from getting the oxygen it needs. The disease begins due to a condition known as atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.


2. Arrhythmia - An abnormal rhythm or an irregular beating pattern is known as cardiac arrhythmia.


3. Heart Failure - Heart failure occurs when your heart cannot pump blood to meet your body's needs. This can be caused by weakness in the heart muscles, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure or other non cardiac conditions like thyroid issues. 


4. Heart Valve Disease - Your heart has four valves to direct blood flow between your heart's four chambers, the lungs, and blood vessels. This can be of different types- stenosis (heart valve doesn't fully open due to stiff or fused valves), insufficiency/leaky valve/ regurgitation- occurs when a valve does not close tightly.


5. Inflammatory conditions- Endocarditis, Pericarditis, Rheumatic Heart Disease are some inflammatory conditions of the heart brought about by infections


6. Cardiomyopathy - is the disease that affects your heart muscle, or myocardium, which could lead to your heart being too weak to pump well.


7. Congenital heart conditions- Certain heart conditions are found since birth due to anomalies in the formation of the heart.



Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease

The signs and symptoms of Heart disease depend on what type of heart disease you have, thus heart conditions will exhibit the below symptoms

  • Chest symptoms- pain, tightness, pressure and discomfort 

  • Shortness of breath

  • Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your arms or legs

  • Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back

  • Palpitations

  • Fluttering in your chest

  • Racing heartbeat (tachycardia)

  • Slow heartbeat (bradycardia)

  • Lightheadedness

  • Dizziness

  • Fainting 

  • Fatigue and weakness.

  • Swelling (edema) in your legs, ankles and feet.

  • Reduced ability to exercise.

  • Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm.

  • Very rapid weight gain from fluid retention

  • Lack of appetite and nausea

  • Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness


Risk Factors for Heart Disease

  • High Blood Pressure - High blood pressure can damage your arteries by making them less elastic, which decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart and leads to heart disease.

  • High Cholesterol - While Cholesterol is implicated in heart disease it is more of a marker of inflammatory state of your body. Check out this article for more information on Cholesterol and Triglycerides.

  • Smoking - Smoking at least doubles your risk of heart disease no matter what your age is. Smoking narrows your arteries, increases inflammation in the arteries, hardens your arteries thereby raising your blood pressure, increases your risk of irregular heartbeat, and increases platelet aggregation making your blood sticky and more likely to clot. In fact, smoking has also been seen to trigger a heart attack even if your arteries are nearly perfect.

  • Diabetes - Diabetes increases the risk of high blood pressure, narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), coronary artery disease as well as stroke.

  • Overweight and obesity - Johns Hopkins Institute researchers have shown that excess weight will increase the rate of you developing heart problems.

  • Poor diet - A poor diet high in sugar and saturated fat is consistently linked to plaques in the arteries that lead to heart attack, stroke, abnormal blood lipids or atherosclerosis

  • Physical inactivity - Physical inactivity is a significant risk factor for heart disease whereas regular physical activity reduces the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease.

  • Excessive alcohol use- Excessive alcohol intake can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure or stroke. Excessive drinking can also contribute to cardiomyopathy, a disorder that affects the heart muscle.


Heart From An Ayurvedic Perspective 


  • Heart also known as Hridaya in Ayurveda is considered as a Marma stana or vital point. According to Acharya Charaka Hridya or your heart is the seat of the 10 principle dhamani (arteries and veins), Prana, Apana, Manas (mind), Buddhi (intellect), Chetana (consciousness) and Mahabhutas (5 elements)


  • The heart is an important site of all three doshas - Vata Pitta and Kapha and is goverened by the following subdoshas- Vyana Vayu, Sadhaka Pitta, and Avalambaka Kapha. Also Ojas or the subtle essence of vitality and immunity resides in your heart and is important for your life and longetivity


  • It also serves as the root of three channels in the body - Mano vaha srotas (the channel of the mind), Prana vaha srotas (the respiratory channel) and Rasa vaha srotas (the channel of the lymph and plasma). It is often observed that conditions related to any of these three channels eg- Depression can often accelerate atheroscleroisis or hardening of arteries, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) can often lead to heart failure, and conditions related to improper digestion of food can create a lot of free radical damage to your heart.

Ayurveda can support your health health by designing  a heart healthy diet that is customized to your health goals as well as your lifestyle, that can support you heal your heart as well as your emotions. Ayurvedic medicine can serve complimentary to any of the modern allopathic medicine or interventions that you are using. 

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