This week I am starting an new series of articles – when I wrote about the liver the response I had was very positive so I have decided to discuss each aspect of our body and how it relates to us as a whole. This week I am discussing the heart as part of the cardiovascular system. We are all aware of the need to have a healthy heart and how obesity, drinking and smoking can affect it. We are also aware of its role as a ‘pump’ to circulate blood around our body. This is quite a mechanised view of the heart and one when you look logically which has its flaws – the heart alone isn’t strong enough to pump blood throughout all of the fine capillaries of the body – yes there are other muscles in place within the cardiovascular system – arteries are lined with thick muscles, veins not so much but their circulation is greatly improved with activity.
The heart is a muscular organ which is roughly 10cm long and the size of your fist. It lies behind the ribs more to the left than central – the tip of the heart can be detected in the 5th intercostal space. There are three layers of tissue which make up the heart., these include the: pericardium, myocardium and endocardium. The pericardium is the outer tissues and can be seen as two sacs enclosing the heart protecting it. the Myocardium (my- meaning muscle) contains the specialised cardiac muscles and the endocardium is the lining of the chambers and valves within the heart. The valves within the heart make the sound of our heart beat as they open and close.
Our heart is divided into four chambers, there are to atriums (left and right), two ventricles (left and right) and two atrioventricular valves (you guessed it…. left and right). Deoxygenated blood (from the rest of the body) enters the right side of the heart to flow to the lungs to become oxygenated again. The oxygenated blood from the lungs passes through the left side of the heart and flows to the body. Every cell in our body requires oxygen in order to work effectively and every cell in our body respires so carbon dioxide is taken from cells to the lungs to be excreted from the body.
The heart has an intrinsic and independent system where the cardiac muscles are automatically stimulated without external stimulation but it can be stimulated or depressed by nerve impulses or by circulating hormones.
On a deeper level our emotions have a huge impact on our heart and blood flow – when we are embarrassed or angry we blush, shock or anxiety can cause us to go pale as blood rushed to the core of our body. A lot of secondary high blood pressure is related to stress and our emotions. Our heart is the heart of our humanity enabling our mind, body and soul to exist as one. Science has explored it when we transplant organs – the body rejects the organs so doctors suppress the immune system (which recognises self) and when the transplants are successful there are numerous cases personality traits and memories of the organ donor emerge in the transplantee.
Our heart is an organ of warmth – of who we are. “I feel”, “I am”, We understand who we are because we feel it in our heart. The heart is the basis of our inner stability. Our skeletal muscles can be moved voluntarily and are striped in appearance, smooth muscle which is involuntarily moved (reflex actions controlled by the Autonomic Nervous System). The heart has unique muscles called cardiac muscles which are striped – an indication that it can be affected by our mind and emotions. There are buddhist monks who can slow and even stop their heart beat and in anxiety the palpitations which can be experienced can be affected by our thoughts improving the situation or making it seem worse.
Factors which can affect our heart rate include our gender, our ANS activity, our age, hormones, activity/exercise, temperature and our emotions (to name the main ones). Our blood pressure is an indicator of how our heart is functioning. The systolic reading is the strength our heart is working and is taken using a sphygmomanometer. When our left ventricle contracts it pushes blood into the aorta (the main artery of the body) – the systolic reading is this pressure. The diastolic reading occurs when the heart is resting following the ejection of blood. The difference between these two readings is seen as the pulse pressure. Blood pressure varies by numerous factors including the time of day, posture, gender, age, emotions, medications etc. The pulse that we feel is a wave of elongation and distention of an artery wall due to the contraction of the heart.
Taking exercise, eating a healthy diet, encouraging children to be heart healthy and being aware of dangers such as smoking, drinking, high blood pressure, and stress are all important for your long term heart health, whether you currently have heart disease or not.
1. Eating healthily
A healthy diet helps to reduce your risk of developing heart disease, or if you’ve already got heart problems it will help to protect your heart.
2. Being active
People of all ages who are physically active are less likely to get cardiovascular disease as those that are inactive.
3. Getting the right support
Having friends and family around you who are supportive of your goals is very important. We are lucky living in the UK to have a choice of health care providers that we want to support our health and wellbeing including the MHS, herbalists (such as myself), homeopaths, chiropodists, aromatherapists, acupuncturists etc.
When I look at supporting someones heart health I spend at least an hour with them to look at all aspects of their life and their health, there are numerous herbs which can have a beneficial effect on the heart, there are herbs to reduce cholesterol levels, reduce stress and even improve circulation. Herbs are just part of my support though as I also give personalised dietary and lifestyle advice which is tailored to the needs of the individual.
If you have any questions about supporting your health please contact me I am happy to help – http://www.herbsforhealthandwellbeing.co.uk/contactus