Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the world. Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM), just like Western medicine, believes the heart is responsible for the circulation of blood. When the heart is strong, circulation will be sufficient, the body will be well-nourished, and the pulse will reflect that by being full and regular. Both medical systems agree that a weak heart can manifest in palpitations, chest pain, heart disease, or lead to a heart attack. Where the two medical systems differ is this: a TCM practitioner acknowledges and uses many other qualitative diagnostic reasoning tools aside from heart rate and blood pressure right there in the office.
What does this mean? When you go to see a TCM doctor, most often they won’t send you off for more scans or tests, they have all they need by looking to your body for clues. For example they have the ability to read your pulse evaluating for example “quality of expansion” and “duration of cycle”. A pulse reading in TCM as a diagnostic tool takes years of training and practice. This is why it is so important to seek advice from only medically trained professionals, such as myself and my colleagues. Your body is asking to find wellness, it just takes a trained ear to listen.
A TCM Perspective on the Heart:
In TCM, the heart is the “king of all organs”. Other organs will sacrifice all to keep the heart in motion; this involves giving away their energy and nutrient supply (commonly referred to as Qi). The heart governs the ability to think clearly, sleep soundly, and maintain a good memory. Our emotional state is strongly influenced by how healthy or unhealthy our heart may be. A weak and deficient heart may create feelings of anxiety and mania, while also contributing to insomnia, forgetfulness, and lack of concentration.
Heart health can be reflected in the facial complexion. A rosy complexion indicates a strong healthy heart, while a pale or sallow complexion is indicative of a deficient, weak heart. If the heart blood becomes stagnant, the complexion may have a purplish tint.
Acupuncture and TCM have been managing heart health for centuries. Regular acupuncture treatments are very helpful in lowering blood pressure. The needles stimulate the release of opioids, which then decrease the heart’s activity and its need for oxygen. This will help the body lower blood pressure, increase oxygenated blood flow, and regulate the heart’s rhythm.
Stress is another factor that can greatly affect the health of the heart. Unmanaged, chronic stress can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, and even heart attacks. Numerous studies have shown stress can be easily managed through the use of acupuncture. TCM offers more than just acupuncture to treat stress though. Herbal formulas and exercises like tai chi and qi gong are all wonderful tools for managing stress and keeping the heart-healthy.
When the heart is balanced and healthy, it results in an easy transition into sleep. If you have insomnia, the heart is often treated. Difficulty falling asleep, nightmares, and sleep terrors can result when this organ is unhappy. If you are the type of person who lies in bed forever, unable to fall asleep because your mind is racing, acupuncture can help to settle the heart energy and give you a great night’s sleep. Yet again, TCM can help treat a wide array of sleep problems without the harsh side effects of many pharmaceuticals.
When it comes to your heart, what you eat matters. Follow these tips for heart-healthy eating:
EAT LESS SATURATED FATS.
Look for lean meats, like seafood, poultry, lean cuts of pork, and cut back on fatty red meats and high-fat dairy products. Limit foods like pizza, burgers, and creamy sauces or gravy. Look for products with no trans fats and choose foods with unsaturated fats like salmon, nuts, seeds, avocados, and oils.
CUT DOWN ON SODIUM (SALT).
Read the Nutrition Facts label and choose foods that are lower in sodium. Look for the low-sodium or “no salt added” types of canned soups, vegetables, packaged meals, snack foods, and lunch meats.
GET MORE FIBER.
Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to add fiber to your diet. Fiber is a carbohydrate that your body cannot break down, so it passes through the body undigested. Fiber can help prevent heart disease from its ability to lower both blood pressure and cholesterol.
CUT BACK ON SWEETENERS.
Consuming too much added sugar can raise blood pressure and increase chronic inflammation, both of which are pathological pathways to heart disease. When choosing a sweetener, look for natural options like honey, dates, maple syrup, molasses, or agave nectar.
Without a healthy heart, the body cannot function properly and the mind may be clouded and disconnected. Contact me at (218) 724-3400 for a consultation to see how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can assist you with all of your heart health needs.