Coronary heart disease is a disease that causes blockages or narrowing of the coronary arteries, the arteries that supply oxygen and nutrients to the heart. Often this is caused by atherosclerosis which is the build-up of cholesterol, the fat in our blood, on the inside of the walls of the arteries. This build-up is also called plaque and this can restrict the blood flow to the heart.
Without blood supply the heart will become starved of oxygen and the patient can feel a pain in the chest. This pain is called angina. When the blood supply is cut off completely because an artery is clogged the patient will have a heart attack.
Coronary heart disease can also be caused by coronary vasospasm. This is when the blood vessels go into a spasm and constrict and then cause ischemia and necrosis to the heart tissue and in effect cause a heart attack.
Signs and Symptoms:
The main signs and symptoms of CHD are a heart attack and angina. Angina can be caused when blood vessels are partially blocked. In mild cases this might feel a bit like indigestion but in severe cases the patients can feel heaviness and tightness in the chest which may spread to the arms, especially the left arm. Angina can be triggered by stress and usually passes again after about 10 minutes of rest or using medication.
When symptoms of angina do not pass in 10 minutes and become more severe you might be having a heart attack. When a heart attack does not get treated right away it can cause permanent damage to the heart muscle so it is very important to recognise the signs and symptoms. These can be sweating, light headedness, nausea, breathlessness, heaviness in the chest, stomach ache or heart burn, pain radiating down the arm, neck and jaw. Heart attacks can happen at any time, even during rest. So if you or anyone else has these symptoms for more than about 15 minutes it might be the start of a heart attack.
In some cases there won’t be any signs and symptoms at all before the diagnosis.
Unhealthy lifestyles and hereditary reasons are the main things that can cause problems with one’s coronary arteries. Smoking, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, lack of exercise, high consumption of alcohol, stress and hyperlipidaemia (elevated levels of lipids in the blood) are all factors that can make a person susceptible to problems with the heart. In more than 50% of coronary heart disease cases the patient smokes or has a history of smoking.
Although very controversial, there is something called the ‘type A/type B personality theory’. People who are type A are more susceptible to coronary heart disease. Some personality traits are: ambitious, rigidly organised, status conscious, sensitive, truthful, impatient, obsessed with time management, always helping others etc.
Type B people generally live with lower stress levels and are the opposite of type A people. Their personality is more creative and they enjoy exploring, they don’t mind losing, are reflective and have a poor sense of time management.
The main treatment for CHD is life style changes. A plant based diet has been shown to be effective by research, in some cases the disease was brought to a halt and in other cases even reversed. The patients would also be wise to lose weight, stop smoking, avoid eating trans fats, increased aerobic exercise like jogging can lower cholesterol and decrease blood pressure and it is also a good plan to minimise stress.
Besides this the patient can take some medication. Often prescribed is cholesterol lowering medication, aspirin, ACE inhibitors which lower blood pressure, calcium channel blockers (they disrupt the movement of calcium and thus lower blood pressure and can change the heart rate) and beta blockers. Beta cells (β1) are found on the heart’s smooth muscles amongst other places and are part of the sympathetic nervous system and can lead to stress responses when stimulated by adrenaline (epinephrine). Beta blockers interfere with adrenaline and other stress hormones binding to the receptors thus lowering the sympathetic nervous response.
In very serious cases the patient should undergo surgery or even a heart transplant.
Many people believe Reiki is very successful. Although it has not been subjected to rigorous testing many people stated that after receiving Reiki they felt a deep sense of relaxation. Some of the testimonials include reports of being able to reach a state of deep relaxation, getting time to reflect back on their experiences, being able to talk to the practitioners, helped to cope with depression, useful for anxiety, helped to get into a deep sleep at night etc. One man even said that Reiki helped him accept his situation and helped him to cope with his anger and frustration that he had felt after his heart attack.
Other Health Care Professionals:
There are many health care professionals that can help patients. The main people are of course your GP’s and cardiologists but there are many professionals that can help with the life style changes. Personal trainers can help a patient to get fit again, a hypnotherapist could help with quitting smoking, a psychologist could help with any psychological problems that might be an underlying factor to unhealthy lifestyles. A nutritionist can help explain about food, what to look for and what to look out for and avoid. A yoga teacher can help the client with getting fit, flexible and to reduce stress levels. Etc. the list goes on and on. Massage therapists can help too by reducing stress levels but I don’t believe we should be the focus of complementary health modalities due to the extra stress levels a heart can receive from increasing the blood flow. Once a patient is out of the danger zone and believed to be fit, massage can be a great extra with the other healthy ways of living.
Massage therapy can be used to reduce tension and pain and improve blood flow as a treatment for coronary heart disease. Massage therapy also can be used after heart surgery to improve circulation.
Clearance should always be sought from a GP to make sure the systems will not get overloaded and that massage will be safe to receive. Heart failure is an absolute contra indication to massage.
It is also important to consider the length of treatment, massages that last too long will put too much strain on a heart that is already under strain. The focus should always be on providing the client with a relaxing experience rather than an invigorating, deep, strong massage.
The biggest support organisation in WA, and Australia, is the Heart Foundation. They offer information about your heart, warning signs, advice on healthy lifestyles, fundraisers, research and information for professionals.
They also give information on nutrition, what to look out for on food labels in the supermarket and they give products the ‘heart foundation tick’. The heart foundation tick is for shoppers to show them what the healthier options of a specific product range are. Once a product receives the tick it will be tested randomly to make sure they keep living up to their healthy promises. The food with a tick is lower in saturated fat, lower in sodium and kilojoules and contains good levels of fibre, calcium, whole grains and vegetables.
So the conclusion is that we can do a lot ourselves to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by living consciously and healthy.