Anxiety affects many of us and has recently been linked to increasing chances of a heart attack. One study found that anxiety was associated with a 26% increased risk of coronary heart disease and a 48% increased risk of heart-related death over the follow-up period, even after adjusting for known heart disease risk factors like smoking and exercise. Another study in Stockholm, Sweden, found that anxiety disorders are predictive of future heart disease even after controlling for other risk factors such as blood pressure and smoking. Anxiety more than doubled the subsequent risk of developing coronary blockages or having a heart attack. They examined data on 50,000 young Swedish men evaluated for military service between ages 18 and 20, with a follow-up of about 37 years.
Treating anxiety with natural herbs, supplements and other alternatives to pharmaceutical medicine can benefit the heart, which is the controlling organ when it comes to anxiety. According to TCM, emotions and physical symptoms go hand and hand and are treated together, not separately, like in conventional medicine. TCM says the heart governs our blood and is intrinsically connected to the emotions of anxiety and happiness. Anxiety causes the heart to become weak, overusing it’s blood to nourish the brain’s worries and the body’s pressure to perform under anxiety provoking situations. Not all hearts are created equal and not everyone treats their hearts equally. While there is a congenital component to heart disease, there is also a nutritional component, as well as a mental and spiritual one.
The heart requires vitamins and minerals that can be hard to find in food. With our food sources being depleted of nutrients, it’s no wonder heart disease is the number one killer in the world. Basically, our hearts (along with the rest of our organs) may have malnutrition from foods grown in depleted soil. The Organic Consumers Association cites: a Kushi Institute analysis of nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 finding that average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27 percent; iron levels 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent, and vitamin C levels 30 percent. A similar study of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980, published in the British Food Journal, found that in 20 vegetables the average calcium content had declined 19 percent; iron 22 percent; and potassium 14 percent. Yet another study concluded that one would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from one.
The heart also needs downtime, like mediation, yoga or acupuncture to lower blood pressure and help a less stress lifestyle. At menopause, a woman’s heart disease risk starts to increase significantly, while men’s chances increase at the age of 45. It’s never too late to adjust our lifestyle to include these ancient practices.
Increasingly, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications are being prescribed to young children and adolescents. While these drugs may hide negative thoughts and feelings, for many these blocked emotions begin to erupt from under the skin and can lead someone to thoughts of suicide or depression. (Chris Cornell is the latest celebrity victim) So in some cases the very symptoms these antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds are intended to treat can exacerbate even worse symptoms. These medicines do not help us work out our problems; they simply alter our response to them. They can also make us feel numb, not allowing us to enjoy happy emotions.
So what can we do to help treat anxiety and prevent heart disease? According to TCM, we need to nourish our hearts and balance our internal ecosystem. Here are my 5 top tips to acclimate to today’s depleted soil, anxiety provoking social environments, and frightening statistics on heart disease.
- Supplement! – Supplement your diet with fermented food based vitamins. I like movita vitamins.
- Adaptogenic herbs – These herbs not only have high antioxidants, they help the body deal with stress. Examples are milk thistle, ginseng, and astragalus root. Talk to your TCM practitioner on which adaptogens are best for your body.
- Heart healing herbs – I like using schizandra berry and fleecflower vine. Talk to your TCM practitioner on what herbs you should use for anxiety.
- Eat red foods – According to TCM, red foods nourish the blood, the heart blood included. Recent studies on beets have shown promising signs that they can help prevent heart disease.
- Mediate on happiness. According to a study done in Canada, the people who were happier were 22% less likely to have heart disease and people with most negative emotions had the highest risk for heart disease. I teach my cancer patients to put their hands on their heart and give their hearts pure love. In my class, most of my students showed a decrease in blood pressure after 30 minutes of meditation class. ( http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20100217/study-happiness-good-heart#1
Also, live life with passion, not fear. After a burn accident, I was living my life in fear; fear that my pain would never end, fear that people wouldn’t accept my new scared body, fear that my boyfriend would leave me, and my accident being right before 9/11, fear of another terrorist attack. All those fears and my full time focus on school and work did my body a disservice. When I finally hit rock bottom, I began seeing everything as a gift and living life passionately again. I was grateful to be alive, grateful for my wound battles, and excited what the day would present with. I also found a passion for acupuncture, herbal remedies, food therapy and meditation. These passions, along with a passion to love my family and friends, helped save my life.
I share this in the hopes that it may shed light for someone that experiences anxiety and feels hopeless or someone that has had a heart attack and is afraid that it will happen again. Take your health into your own hands and nourish your heart and mind and find the happiness that you deserve.
#anxiety #acupuncture #herbsheal