The heart beats about once a second and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood throughout the network of veins, arteries and capillaries that constantly provide the body with the oxygen and nutrients we need to sustain life. Like the rest of our body, our heart muscle requires a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood to nourish it. When we have a heart attack (a myocardial infarction), the flow of blood into the heart, via the coronary arteries, becomes blocked, inhibiting the flow of blood.
"Coronary Artery Disease" (CAD) is the most common cause of a heart attack. Over the years, a mixture of cholesterol and other substances can build up on the walls of the arteries, narrowing or reducing the space available for blood to flow freely. Called plaque, it is composed of a mixture of fatty materials (including cholesterol), calcium, proteins and inflammatory cells. If the plaque’s hard outer shell cracks or ruptures, a blood clot can form on the surface of the plaque. If, however, the blood clot comes loose, it can move through the artery and block the flow of blood to the part of the heart that is fed by that artery.
Heart attacks are the leading killer of men and women in the United States. If the blood flow to the heart isn’t restored quickly, the heart muscle becomes oxygen-starved and begins to die. Scar tissue then forms in the damaged areas, which subsequently affects the performance of the heart muscle. On the other hand, if the flow of blood to the heart can be restored quickly, damage to the heart can be limited or prevented altogether.
Like a stroke, a heart attack is a medical emergency. One can strike suddenly and occur at any time. The signs and symptoms experienced differ from person to person and can range from mild to severe. For some, having a heart attack IS the first indication of a problem (a silent heart attack). Fortunately, many heart attacks start out slowly, first appearing as mild chest pain. This discomfort usually begins in the center of the chest and may last for a few minutes and then go away, only to come back again. It can feel like pressure, squeezing or a feeling of fullness. Some people describe the sensation of a heart attack as feeling like indigestion or heartburn.
Although chest pain is the most common symptom, many people experience arm pain, primarily in the left arm, or in the upper back pain. Some people also experience a discomfort in the jaw area, or may have headaches, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, sweating, heartburn and/or indigestion.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack can ensure that you can get the help you need in time. There are, thankfully, a number of natural remedies and alternative therapies you can use to help reduce your chance of having a heart attack, as well as support the body in case someone you know is having one.
Recommendations for wellness
If someone you know is having a heart attack, call 911 right away. While you wait for help to arrive, squeeze the end of the pinky on the left hand hard. Keep firm and constant pressure on this point. By doing this, you are activating the acupuncture point of the heart. It is believed by many that this simple step can help save lives.
In an emergency, a few drops of capsicum mixed with a little water can also be placed on or under the tongue. It is thought to help lessen the severity of an attack. If you don’t have any capsicum in your herbal medicine cabinet, look in your refrigerator for Tabasco sauce. Tabasco sauce is made from cayenne pepper (capsicum).
Start an aerobic exercise program. Start simple by just walking, biking or swimming three times a week.
Take steps to reduce your stress levels.
Consume a diet filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This has been known to help reduce cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.
The herb hawthorn berries can be used to help regulate, heal, soothe and repair the heart.
Great for the circulation, ginkgo biloba is known to increase the blood supply to the brain and can help prevent blood platelets from accumulating.
Ginger root, like the kind you can find at the supermarket, has a toning effect on the heart and, at the same time, can help to lower cholesterol and inhibit platelet collection.
Garlic has historically been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and prevent blood clots from developing.
To help regulate the heart’s rhythm, black cohosh, passion flower, skullcap, valerian root or oat straw can be used.
Typically recommended for varicose veins, the herb butcher’s broom can help to dissolve fat in the arteries and strengthen the heart muscle.