The following information has been gathered and compiled through personal experience while traveling, teaching T’ai Chi, Qi Gong, Chinese Herbal medicine, martial arts and other health related subjects. The article also contains feedback from students and anecdotal information from readers of my columns. The following are my opinions and deductions from those sources.
Finding information on how the heart works, and what it does, isn’t easy to come by. It’s possible to find volumes on what causes, or at least what is said to cause, all the various types of heart disease. Even more volumes are out there that tell you how to fix it once it’s broken but not a whole lot is available where prevention through knowing is concerned.
Maybe it’s because heart disease is such big business and no one who’s in that line of work wants anyone else to know what makes it go thump in the night, or during the day. Maybe it’s because prevention doesn’t pay much. Maybe, on the other hand, it’s because the heart and its’ problems seem so closely tied to our emotions, feelings and mental attitude that most people don’t want to go there. Not more than a handful of people appear to know much about those kinds of things and even less seem to want to know. Maybe it all boils down to that most people don’t want to look at responsibility where health is concerned. Maybe, the vast majority prefer to seek out healers and fixers rather than finding out how to be enlightened and their own best authority. The last scenario does offer an out: you can never be the one at fault and always have someone else to blame. Everyone has to figure out what’s best for them.
Few of us know that the heart is also a gland. Glands can also be organs but they differ in that they are very specialized and can synthesize and secrete certain fluids either for use in the body or for elimination from the body. Phlegm has this type of quality: it has a function but is meant to be eliminated after it’s performed its’ job. While we’re on glands let’s look at some information not previously covered.
There are two types of glands, exocrine and endocrine. Exocrine glands secrete fluids, or hormones, via a duct and onto an epithelial surface, meaning cellular tissue that covers a surface that lines most cavities such as the intestines. Endocrine glands manufacture one or more hormones and secrete them directly into the bloodstream and not through a duct onto a surface or into a cavity.
Most of the information we hear, atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis, angina pectoris, hypertension and spasms of the coronary arteries, are all problems that can affect the heart, but are problems originating outside the actual heart itself. Atherosclerosis is when fatty deposits, like cholesterol, develop on the inner walls of the arteries and restrict blood flow to the heart muscle. Arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, and blood clots in the blood vessels are the most common cause of blood vessel obstruction, limiting blood flow to the heart, and cause the most heart attacks. Angina pectoris is a pain or heavy pressure in the chest caused by insufficient oxygen to the heart.
Since these are problems that originate outside the heart it seems to make sense to look at outside problems for inside information. Hypothyroidism, under-active thyroid, slows the burning of fats (is the Atkins® diet right for you?) and an accumulation of fat and cholesterol in the arteries increases the risk of heart disease. If the pancreas is compromised, it can affect the heart through lack of insulin availability in the bloodstream. Liver problems can affect the portal vein that delivers returning blood to the heart. Misalignment of the second thoracic vertebrae can affect the heart. Colon problems can increase the amount of improperly digested protein in the bloodstream. Heart palpitations can be brought on by a deficiency of aldosterone, usually caused by adrenal malfunction, vitamin B deficiencies and menopause. Magnesium deficiencies appear to produce heart problems. Low stomach acid, high protein and high fat diets, dairy products, a diet high in refined foods all give rise to magnesium deficiencies. Alcohol, refined sugar, margarine, saturated fats and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils cause red blood cells to clump together (platelet aggravation). This can block or restrict oxygen and nutrient flow to the capillaries and blood vessels, damaging the entire circulatory system. Sugar also contributes to hardening of the arteries.
Every 5 pounds of extra weight beyond the optimum, adds an additional 4 miles of blood vessels that the heart has to pump blood through.