Sunday, January 16, 2022

Chinese Medicine and Heart Disease



Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America.  Every year, 1.2 million Americans have heart attacks: the primary reasons are inactivity, obesity and high blood pressure. In 2009, heart disease cost the U.S. over $304 billion dollars. 

For thousands of years, the Western world did not understand that the heart circulates blood: it was thought that air circulated in the arteries. Bloodletting was the predominant medical treatment. It was not until 1628 when William Harvey described the circulation of blood propelled by the heart, that the Western world started to understand the true nature of heart disease. Until the mid-1800s, bloodletting was the main form of medical treatment in the West. In Europe throughout the 1800s, doctors put over one hundred leeches on a patient per treatment. Leech therapy is actually very effective, although not because of bloodletting.  Leeches naturally produce an anesthetic so their bite goes unnoticed, along with an anticoagulant to keep sucking blood.  The pain relieving and blood thinning drugs leeches produce are effective  for relieving pain and infections. The bloodletting is a by-product of the treatment.

Much earlier, Chinese medicine understood the heart’s role in blood circulation and has been successful in treating and describing our modern view of heart disease for 5,000 years.  Chinese medicine considers the heart as the ‘Governor’ of blood and vessels.  When heart blood is deficient, there are symptoms such as: pale complexion, palpitation; irregular heartbeats coming slow, rapid or interrupted; cold extremities, dizziness, shortness of breath, heavy perspiration, and chest pain that radiates along the inner left arm. These symptoms are still used as predicting factors to heart disease.

The heart, controlled by the autonomic nervous system, is composed of involuntary muscle. We have no way to control our heartbeat willingly. Our brain controls whether the heart beats quickly or slowly.  The autonomic nervous system has two sides to help us survive: the sympathetic side gives us the fight or flight response so we can escape or defend our lives; the parasympathetic side lets us heal, sleep, and digest food. Chinese medicine describes the autonomic nervous system in terms of yin and yang. 

When our heart beats very quickly, this is because the sympathetic nervous system has told it to do so. In Chinese medicine, this is the yang function of our hearts. When the heart beats evenly and slowly, it is because the parasympathetic nervous system has told it to do so. This is the yin function of our hearts. Within the framework of Chinese medicine, it is important to balance the yin and yang. If someone’s heart is beating too fast, they need more yin. If the heart is beating too slowly, they need more yang.

The main diagnostic procedures in Chinese medicine consist of feeling the arterial pulses at the wrists, observing the tongue, pressing along the acupuncture meridians, asking questions, and looking into the eyes. Using these diagnostic procedures would make it easy to understand if the patient had a heart condition. For example, the pulse would feel irregular, the tongue would be purple and have a red tip, the chest and inner arm acupuncture points would be painful to touch, the patient would describe the feelings of fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain, and the eyes would lack ‘spirit’.

Chinese medicine states that the heart stores the spirit. This refers to the clarity of consciousness and strength of mental faculties. In Western medicine these would be considered functions of the brain.  Chinese medicine, however, credits heart health with making us alert and responsive to the environment. When the heart is not healthy, one can feel uneasy, frightened, unable to sleep, feeble-minded and manic. The eyes are a very good indicator of our spirit. 

The diagnostic techniques used in Traditional Chinese Medicine require the full four-year training to master. Anyone practicing acupuncture without this training may not understand how to diagnose a patient correctly according to traditional standards.

For two years after finishing my Bachelor of Science degree, I worked as an Emergency Medical Technician for professional ambulance companies. Then I worked for five years as a Cardiac Monitor Technician for several hospitals while receiving my Medical degree.  During this time, I was able to witness a great gift to humanity called the Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) protocol. This includes supplying oxygen, life saving medications, defibrillation, and chest compressions to patients suffering from cardiac arrest.  All doctors, nurses and paramedics know the ACLS protocol, which makes them all lifesavers. There is nothing in Chinese medicine that can compare to the achievements of the ACLS protocol, so if you suspect someone is having a heart attack, please call 911.

Chinese medicine, however, can PREVENT the heart attack from ever occurring. By receiving acupuncture, low level laser and magnetic resonance therapy, mesotherapy and prolotherapy injections, herbal and vitamin supplements, along with dietary and exercise guidelines, a person can keep the heart strong and powerful. Chest pain is the main complaint that people usually have before they address heart disease. This is actually a late onset symptom: people should seek help before things get out of hand.

The most important thing for heart health is inflammation. What? Am I crazy for saying that? No, I really mean it. Inflammation is how our body heals itself. The blood vessels are filled with muscle, and the heart is pure muscle. If these muscles do not go through the normal wound healing process, they will break down.

People who choose to use corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications for pain are trading their pain for heart disease. Those medications block the normal inflammatory process, which gives short-term pain relief, but in the long run the pain will be worse. All anti-inflammatory medications cause heart disease because they block the production of hormones called prostaglandins.  Without prostaglandins, wound healing does not occur. Eventually the heart and blood vessels break down leading to heart disease.

If you are suffering from pain and use these medications, please try the different therapies. You may not only get rid of your pain, but also prevent heart disease.

In my experience, high blood pressure and irregular heart rhythm can be treated very successfully with Chinese medicine. You only have one heart, and it never gets a break throughout your life. Please take good care of it.

If you are interested in balancing your mind, body and spirit, along with taking control by healing yourself, then please come see us. Dr. Alfred Cormier, DOM, AP, MTOM. The Cormier Health Center is located at 4760 Tamiami Trail N., #21, in Naples. Call (239) 530-3997.

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