Understanding your Heart and its Diseases

Heart diseases are the world’s largest killers, claiming 17.3 million lives a year. Governments all over the world are leaving no stone unturned in controlling the spread of these diseases. Billions are being spent on research and development of medicines and surgical procedures that can help heart patients. Despite all this, heart disease and its many manifestations continue to attack the global populace with ease. This just proves that there’s something amiss somewhere.

So, where are we going wrong? What can we do to protect ourselves from this growing threat? The answer can be found in Ayurveda – the world’s oldest science of healing.

Heart Disease – Alarming Numbers Everywhere

Heart diseases are the number one cause of death globally: more people die annually from heart diseases than from any other cause.
An estimated 17.3 million people died from heart diseases in 2008, representing 30% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.3 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.2 million were due to stroke.
Low- and middle-income countries are disproportionally affected: over 80% of heart disease deaths take place in low- and middle-income countries and occur almost equally in men and women.
By 2030, almost 23.6 million people will die from heart diseases.
Current projections suggest that by the year 2020 India will have the largest cardiovascular disease burden in the world.
One fifth of the deaths in India are from coronary heart disease. By the year 2020, it will account for one third of all deaths. Sadly, many of these Indians will be dying young as heart disease in India occurs 10 to 15 years earlier than in the west.
There are an estimated 45 million patients of coronary artery disease in India. With millions hooked to roller-coaster lifestyles, the future looks grimmer.
According to Ayurveda, the heart is located in the Heart Chakra (known as the Anahata Chakra). This Chakra is the seat of the Physical Heart, the Mind, Emotions, and the Soul. Like the central girder of a house, the heart holds all these aspects of the body together. So, if any of these elements is out of balance or in an unhealthy state, it affects the other parts, leading to heart disease.

Caring for the Physical Heart ..

The health of the physical heart is most stressed upon when it comes to heart-related diseases. Faulty dietary habits, sedentary lifestyles, continued tobacco usage, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol are some of the well-known risk factors for heart disease.

Following the simple measures given below will help you keep your physical heart healthy:

Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
Eat fresh, home cooked food
Keep away from tobacco
Cut down on body fat; lose weight if you are overweight
Reduce intake of salt
Eat whole grains
Reduce intake of saturated fats
Be physically active; exercise at least 30 minutes daily

Caring for the Mind

In the modern age, it is evident that many heart diseases, even the ones that are physical in nature, have a root in the mind or Manas. In fact, modern clinical studies have proven that mental stress, anxiety and depression also happen to be major risk factors for heart patients.

According to Ayurveda, the mind has three different characteristics, known as the Gunas, namely Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. A mind dominant in Sattva is peaceful, relaxed and strong. In this state, the intelligence is active and one can discriminate between what is good and what is bad. Rajas is responsible for an active mind, but when Sattva is low and Rajas is dominant, the mind is negatively active and will come up with do things that can harm the body. Tamas indicates an inert or dull state of mind and, when dominant, it generates confusion. Modern foods and lifestyles generally enhance Rajas and Tamas, making the mind overly active and confused. As a result, we eat foods and do things that cause imbalance in the normal functioning of our body and mind.

In order to maintain the balance of the mind, we should take steps to enhance Sattva. Fresh, natural, organic, and vegetarian foods increase Sattva, so try to include them in your diet. Canned foods, processed foods, foods containing chemicals/preservatives, deep fried and heavily spiced foods, junk foods, meat, stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, and drugs should also be avoided as they increase Rajas and Tamas. Also, listening to soothing music (classical, spiritual), watching relaxing TV programs (history, culture, humor, etc.) and using soothing aromas are other ways to increase Sattva.

Caring for the Emotions...........

Our emotions play a key role in the health of our heart. Over the recent decades, research has shown that emotions such as anger, lust, hostility, jealousy, fear and greed increase the risk of heart disease by as much as 200 to 300 percent. Therefore, a holistic approach to heart diseases requires that we address the issue of negative emotions and find means of fostering positive emotions. Love, control on anger, inner calm, and feelings of love and compassion are described in Ayurveda as qualities that lessen the risk of heart disease.

The best means of developing positive emotions is practicing deep breathing or Pranayama. "Prana" is breath or vital energy in the body. On a subtle level, it represents the pranic energy responsible for life or life force. This energy has the power to suppress negative emotions and achieve a healthy body and mind.

Caring for the Soul

The soul or ‘consciousness’ (atma) is also a critical aspect of the heart chakra. According to Ayurveda, the soul is pure and cannot be maimed. By being spiritual, you can become aware of ‘self’ and realize that ‘I am Soul’. And once you have this realization, you will pave the way for a healthy and happy heart. Practicing meditation, chanting mantras and praying daily are some of the simplest ways of becoming spiritual and caring for your soul.

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