by Kai-Chang Chan
The human heart starts to beat around week six of the gestation period; it beats continually, 24/7, for an entire lifetime. Your heart is not something to take for granted, particularly in the winter months. Winter is the peak season for heart attacks because cold temperatures increase blood pressure and constrict arteries, which can reduce the oxygen supply to the heart.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach to heart health focuses on blood circulation and promoting a healthy lifestyle. TMC believes that heart issues are related to poor diet, binge eating, cold weather, overwork and stress. Acupuncture, for example, is one TMC treatment that can promote blood circulation and boost energy levels.
Patients who suffer from heart problems generally fit into two types. First is the “Excess” type, which is usually associated with high blood pressure, irritability, bitter mouth, fatigue and headache. Chrysanthemum tea with GouJi berry can benefit this type of patient. The second type is called the “Weak” type, which is often combined with low blood pressure, dizziness, palpitation and low digestive function. This type of patient can drink cinnamon, ginger or chai tea to strengthen the heart. Treatment protocols are different for these two types.
Although you cannot change heart disease risk factors such as family history or age, it is never too late to start a “healthy heart” lifestyle to reduce your risks. Here are six hearthealthy tips:
1. Improve Your Nutrition – Your body needs more than empty calories to function properly. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, salmon and whole grains can help protect your heart.
2. De-Stress – Stress, anxiety and insomnia affect heart functions. Stress activates sympathetic nerves and increases blood pressure. Taking a few deep breaths during emotional stress can help you relax. A relaxation technique you can try is to tighten all the muscles in your body for a minute and then slowly relax each part of your body from head to toe.
3. Decrease “Bad” Cholesterol – Bad cholesterol (LDL) deposits in the walls of arteries and forms plaque that blocks the artery. To lower LDL, cut down on saturated fat food source like butter, cream, cheese, bacon and fatty beef. Minimize consumption of deep fried foods like donuts, chicken wings, onion rings and fries.
4. Eat Less Salt – Salt is hidden everywhere, especially in processed foods. Sodium raises blood pressure, which puts an extra burden on your heart. Be aware of sodium hidden in sandwiches and burgers, pizza, salad dressing, ketchup, canned food, soup and cured meats.
5. Be active – Physical activity benefits blood circulation and increases vital energy flow in the body. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise each day is recommended. A regular “workout” isn’t required; stair climbing, a brisk walk and even house work and yard work all work to circulate your blood and increase your energy flow.
6. Stay Warm – Exposure to sudden cold air can result in abrupt vessel constriction and atrial fibrillation. Wear layers of clothing, and be sure to keep your head, hands and feet warm. Allow time for your arteries to respond to the cold temperature, and go slow when getting up on cold winter mornings.
Kai-Chang Chan, L. Ac., M.A.O.M, was born in Taiwan and teaches in the San Antonio classrooms of Texas Health and Science University. He is a practitioner at the Acupuncture Health Clinic, 9240 Guilbeau Rd., 210-901-1234, www.acupuncturehealthsa.com. For more information about THSU classes in San Antonio and Austin, visit www.thsu.edu.