By Life Positive
it’s time to say goodbye to bypass and other invasive heart treatments. The alternative world brings holistic, tried and tested solutions that will heal not just your heart, but all of you. You can lead a normal life irrespective of your heart ailments
- by Megha Bajaj with Chintan Girish Mod
Terror showed its myriad hues on every countenance. As the ambulance rattled its way through the dark, wet roads of Mumbai city, Mala Shah sat crouched in the corner of the van, frantically praying, ‘Lord Krishna no, not my only son!’ Tears filled ten-year-old Dipti’s eyes as she stared intently at her father’s ashen face, a single thought running through her head, ‘You promised you would come for my prize distribution, daddy, you promised.’ And Smita, Rajesh Shah’s wife looked stunned, shocked – unable to speak. It had been an uneventful normal day. Rajesh came late from work, ate his dinner, and was watching the news when a sudden pain gripped his chest, and he began sweating profusely. Yelling his wife’s name, he clutched his chest, and fell on the floor. Everything else was a blur – phone calls, ambulance, hospital, injections. After two hours of agonising wait, the doctor spoke gravely to the family, ‘It was a heart attack. A few minutes late, and he would have been no more. Although he is out of danger, we will have to check the extent of damage this attack did and do a bypass soon.’ Heart attack? Wasn’t that something that happened to a third person? Definitely not to a 35-year-old? The Shah family didn’t know whether to be relieved that the current impediment had passed, or scared of the danger looming ahead. Choosing composure, they stepped into a new phase of life, filled with research and realisations.
In all cultures across the world, the heart is much more than a fist-sized muscle, working efficiently from birth until death, pumping blood continuously – 72 times in a minute, 1,00,000 times in a day, and nearly one million barrels of blood in an average lifetime! The heart holds a deep emotional and spiritual significance for us. We thank people from the bottom of our heart, love and heart are almost synonymous for us, and we even suffer heartbreaking losses. So when this wonderful organ starts giving up, we lose heart. Sadly, we ourselves are the cause of its abuse by appalling lifestyles. Let’s look at the structure of the heart to understand how we damage it.
The heart is a hollow, pear-shaped organ situated in the middle of the chest, tilting slightly to the left. It is made up of four chambers. Arteries which carry blood to the heart get blocked with time and abuse. When the block is partial, nothing may appear wrong when the heart is at rest. But with physical exertion or mental stress, the blood supply to the heart becomes inadequate, and a sense of discomfort and pain is felt. In medical terms this is referred to as angina. A heart attack occurs when a block is total, and the part of the heart which is supplied blood by that artery starts getting destroyed. Every three seconds, one person in India dies of a heart attack. Rajesh looked stunned as he discovered what his heart had just been through – he, like most other heart patients had not even realised his arteries were getting clogged before the attack. How does clogging happen? The answer is:
Smoking and tobacco: The risk of coronary heart disease is directly proportionate to the number of cigarettes smoked daily. Do not think you are immune even if you smoke only four to five cigarettes a day. This increases your risk of a heart attack by over 50 per cent as compared to a non smoker! Tobacco in any form, chewing, inhaling, sniffing, is also a grave heart hazard.
Lack of exercise: A sedentary lifestyle allows the arteries that transfer blood to the heart to get clogged by plaque.
Diabetes: Often caused due to eating a wrong diet for long periods, diabetes predisposes people to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and triglyceride levels which increase the risk of heart disease.
High cholesterol: The consumption of fatty food must be kept in control as the fat in the foods circulates in the blood, and this can settle in the arteries.
Obesity: Weight, if not maintained in proportion to height of the body, increases the work load on the heart, thereby harming it.
Stress: Stress can cause spasm of the arteries, leading to heart disease.
Besides these risks, there are also certain unmodifiable risks:
The natural aging process: With advancing age, the condition of the arteries undergo several changes.
Gender: Men are much more likely to have a heart attack than women. Until menopause, women are protected by the hormone estrogen, but later they too develop high chances of heart ailments.
The genetic factor: If your father and grandfather have had heart problems, it is likely that you will be more prone to it at an earlier age than someone whose family has never shown heart problems.
However, institutes across India suggest that 90 per cent of heart cases coming to them do not fall in this, but the lifestyle category. Rajesh himself nods emphatically as he shares, ‘Almost all the points hold true for me. I worked as a stockbroker, and was always under stress. My eating hours were irregular, and my liking for cheese and sweetmeats ensured that I always fell into the overweight category. I have abused my heart, but now can I do anything to reverse this? I don’t want to go in for invasive surgery – a car whose engine has been opened once will never drive smoothly again – same way I don’t want doctors to open my heart. Can I bypass the bypass?’
Armed with this question the family entered the often uncharted waters of alternative therapies. And they were certainly not disappointed. For they found that not only were alternative solutions cheaper by half or more (depending on the therapy one opted for) than bypass, but they also treated the root cause, thereby healing more holistically. A bypass surgery involves creating a bypass, or alternative way, in the heart when one artery is blocked. To put it simply, if there are two roads to go to your house, and one is blocked, you may take a second road. However, there is no guarantee that in time, this second road too won’t get blocked. And since the surgery requires the heart to be opened, there are many risks involved in the operation itself. Angioplasty is the other invasive option available that uses catheter attached with an inflating angioplasty balloon to open up the blockage. However, even with this, the blockage-creating tendency of our body remains unchanged, and 10 per cent of the patients experience pain and blockages once again within six months of the surgery itself. While a bypass is a must in some serious cases, about 90 per cent of heart problems could be solved through alternatives. Rajesh was happy to discover that since he had got immediate help in the critical period, i.e within one hour of the heart attack, his heart had not been badly damaged and the world of alternatives lay open to him. Here are some options:
Aid from Ayurveda
Dr Pankaj Naram, founder of the Mumbai-based Ayushakti Ayurved Centre, says, ‘When doctors tell patients to go for a bypass surgery, they are giving them a fear motivation. As per Ayurveda, heart problems are essentially vata disorders. We use six instruments to break heart blockages – diet, herbal preparations, home remedies, panchakarma, marma, and lifestyle changes.’
Herbal preparations include herbs like rudshakti, jivan shakti, suhruday
Panchakarma (heart dhara):
Panchakarma is needed to flush out toxins accumulated in the body. The heart dhara treatment improves blood circulation, removes blocks, and strengthens cardiac muscles. A warm liquid containing crushed Ayurvedic herbs, water, and oil is poured into a dough (made of urad dal flour and water) and placed on the heart area for about 20-30 minutes.
Marma chikitsa is a therapy wherein the doctor uses his fingers to stimulate various vital energy points in the body for free flow of energy. This helps to remove heart blocks.
Pushpa Varma, who documents case histories on behalf of Dr Naram, shares the story of a gentleman who had three blockages in his heart, and as a result, was unable to climb the stairs to his sixth floor office. ‘An allopath suggested bypass surgery. But when the patient was taken to the operation theatre, the electric current went off, and he was brought back to his room. He stayed up all night thinking about this strange occurrence, and then felt that it was God’s indication to him to skip the surgery.’ He came to Ayushakti instead, and in only a few months felt both healthier and happier.
Sanjivani Heart Care Centre, Bangalore, is yet another Ayurveda centre that provides a non-invasive solution to detect, and heal, heart ailments. Diagnosis is done through a non invasive system called 3- Dimensional Cardiovascular Cartography (3D-CCG), as opposed to the invasive Angiography. The latter only shows the blockages in the heart, whereas the 3D-CCG produces a complete cardiovascular physiological profile of the patient. And what’s more, it costs only Rs 3,500 as opposed to Rs 15,000 that one spends on angiography.
The treatment consists of medication, (certain drugs developed by Sanjivani associates, not available over the counter), exercise, pranayama and lifestyle advice. The duration of the treatment is four-six months and the total expense is Rs 15,000- Rs 20,000. The centre has had 80 per cent success with the five thousand or more patients that it has treated since 2001.
The Global Heart Foundation, Pune, treats heart patients using Myodrops, a combination of ancient herbal medicines like arjuna sal ghan, vekhand ghan, amba sal ghan, shewaga sal ghan, kadi nimb leaf ghan, pimpli ghan and punarrnawa mool ghan.
According to A V Narayan, founder of the organisation, Myodrops has proved to be the best alternative to angioplasty, bypass surgery, and post bypass problems. ”It works on the central nervous system, corrects the imbalances in the body, helps opening the co-laterals, removes the blockages in the arteries, and increases the myocardial blood flow up to 50 to 60 per cent thus helping heart to function smoothly,’ he said.
Regular consumption of Myodrops for 90 to 120 days varying from patient to patient would nullify the possibility of surgery in 80 per cent of the cases, explains Dr Jayesh Jani, medical advisor of the Foundation. He further adds, the cost would work out approximately to around Rs 25,000 as compared to Rs 1,50,000 required for surgery. (Given below are two reports – before and after Myodrops treatment from The Global Heart Foundation)
After 15 days of Treatment
Solutions through yoga
Hansa Yogendra, Dean of The Yoga Institute, Mumbai, said, “A heart disease is the body’s signal for you to change. Where is the room for attaching strong negative emotions like fear, guilt and regret to it? Listen to the warning, and transform your life. After all, you were not given this beautiful life to suffer endlessly.” The Caring Heart Project was a reiteration of the Institute’s vision to ensure people live a joyous life.
The study consisted of 71 heart patients who were chosen to undergo an intensive yoga course, and lifestyle changes for a year (only urgently required allopathic medicines were allowed). A control group consisted of 42 patients who received allopathic treatment, and no yoga training. Each Sunday, the Caring Heart participants came to The Yoga Institute, and partook of the programme, starting with a satsang with Hansaji and Dr Yogendra. After that, short sessions were held with experts on various different aspects of heart and healing. Dr. Shekhar Ambadekar, a renowned cardiologist, spearheaded the project. Asanas and pranayama were included. Volunteers even went to participants’ homes to ensure all the imparted knowledge was being practiced.
One of the most powerful satsangs given by Hansaji was on relaxation, a stress-free state. She started by saying that one who has total faith in God can sit back and enjoy the whole show, as he knows it’s all God’s creation. Yoga, through contemplation, encourages surrender, “This whole business is your burden, God, I am not going to worry about it. You have created me, You have created these problems, and you jolly well look after them.” Behind the humour exists awareness that 80 per cent of heart patients drive themselves to a diseased state due to stress.
Dr Malay Dave, a psychiatrist, shared the story of the hare and the tortoise. The hare was a typical Type A personality, while the tortoise was actually a non-typical Type A in nature – competitive but not obsessed. When the bell rang to start the race, the hare shot off towards his goal, but went to sleep just a few feet away from the finishing line. The tortoise took in the scenery, whistled, hummed, and sauntered his way to the finishing line, and won the race. The Type A person is always in an undue hurry, utilises his energy very fast, gets tired easily, and is unable to reach his goal. On the other hand, the tortoise participates, plays, and realises the journey is more important that destination. Do you want to live life as the hare or the tortoise?
The dietician, Naaznin Hussein, plays a sizeable role in the programme with her sessions on the right kind of food and with wholesome recipes to help craft a diet plan. She says, quoting a Sanskrit proverb, “As the food, so the mind; as the mind, so the man.” She explains that food can be broadly divided into three categories: sattvic, rajasic and tamasic.
Sattvic food includes milk and milk products (for heart patients buttermilk and skimmed milk only is advised); fruits and dry fruits; seasonal vegetables; cereals like wheat, unpolished rice, millet, jawar, bajra and corn; pulses like moong dal; sprouted cereals and pulses; spices like turmeric powder, jeera, dhania, etc; sweet tasting food like honey, jaggery, misry, and oil like filtered oil, groundnut oil and til oil. When one eats sattvic food, which is natural, and therefore easily digestible, one automatically feels contented, light, energetic, alert and joyous.
Rajasic food includes nonvegetarian food; soya beans and chick peas; pulses like urad dal, chana dal and toovar dal, hot spices, onions, and garlic, excess salt. This type of food is difficult to digest. Though this food may generate energy, it leaves one in a disturbed state of mind – making them aggressive, agitated, and irritated.
Tamasic food includes stale food which has been kept for more than 24 hours; processed food items; tea, coffee, cocoa, liquor, drugs, etc; fine flour (maida), polished rice, white bread, etc. Tamasic food is extremely difficult to digest, and gives no energy. After consuming, it makes a person feel dull, inert, lazy.
If we can make at least 80 per cent of our daily diet sattvic, most heart ailments can be reduced as stress would be taken care of, cholesterol levels would fall, and heart patients would enjoy a joyous state of mind, enabling quick recovery.
The results of this one-year programme has been phenomenal. It was seen that total cholesterol in participants had gone down by 23.3 per cent as compared to a meager 4.4 per cent in the control group; bad cholesterol (LDL) had fallen by 26 per cent in the yoga group as compared to 2.6 per cent in the control group; angiography showed a 70.4 per cent regression of disease in yoga group and only 28 per cent in the control group.
Says Thomas Cardoz, a clearing agent, and one of the jubilant participants in the programme, “Before this project, I practised the art of wrong living – non-vegetarian food, smoking, drinking. I have had two heart attacks. I got greatly inspired by Dr. Ambardekar, who didn’t look discouraged when he saw my reports, and said we could improve things together. With every session in the Institute, I learnt so much – along with non-veg food, I gave up my ‘non-vegetarian attitudes’ like aggression, and being extremely materialistic. A year later, I feel like a better, calmer, and more complete person. What better gift could the Yoga Institute have given me?”
Mr. N Rathi, an elderly businessman, too claimed that his entire life changed downside up through this one-year programme. Brimming with health and joy, he wonders what the doctors, who told him in 2002 that he would not survive more than a few months without bypass, would have to say when they found that not only was he thriving, but has recently begun his own yoga classes in Mira Road, Mumbai.
Kaivalyadhama Yoga Health Centre too has done a lot of research into the heart. Mr Ravi Dixit, Deputy Secretary, says, “Yoga can help tremendously as it slows the heart rate. This means that the heart is functioning just as well, using lesser fuel, and lesser efforts. Also lactic acid is a known culprit for heart ailments. It is produced during over-strenuous exercise, and through the consumption of processed foods, which the liver is often unable to digest. This collects and clogs the arteries. In proper yogic practise, every body part is exercised, without production of lactic acid.”
He recommends a one-hour yoga programme, (see box), which if done four times a week, would take care of much of the problems. Patients who have had a bypass can also do it after a green signal from their yoga teacher and consulting doctor.
Mr Dixit also recommends mitahara, which is the diet suggested by yogic texts. It means limited and controlled diet. One should always eat vegetarian food up to 75 per cent of one’s need, and leave the rest 25 per cent empty. He also offers a few dietary tips that have helped his students tremendously:
Jon Kabat Zinn, PhD, founder of Stress Reduction Clinic, one of the world’s leading organisations for relaxation, is of the view that meditation heals the heart. Meditation is directly related to the experience of being whole, of interconnectedness. From the outside, it may look like you are totally isolated while meditating, but from within, you are the universe, pulsating with life, connected to everyone. He writes, “It’s such a deep state of well-being, of relaxation. It’s such a psychological state of connectedness that it is merciful, it is spontaneously accepting, open, and compassionate.” Therefore, a healthy heart, and also healing for a not-so-healthy heart, comes naturally through meditation.
Vipassana, the ten-day meditation programme, defines health as a perfect state of equilibrium of body and mind, where all the physiological activities take place without disturbance. Disease is a state of discomfort produced due to a loss of balance between body and mind. When participants go through a process of purification of the mind, various somatic or bodily manifestations of disease disappear or are alleviated as a byproduct.
An astounding case study available on the Vipassana website, www.dhamma.org, states the instance of an elderly woman. One night she suddenly experienced severe pain in the chest. The clinical diagnosis was heart attack. The pain was such that she felt that her life was threatened. She decided to take refuge in Vipassana, and started meditating. The doctor thought that she had become unconscious. Suddenly, the room became quiet and peaceful, and all present felt the spiritual charge in atmosphere. After some time, she came ou
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Menu Plan – low cholesterol, low saturated fat, high fiber yogic diet
Early morning: 1 tsp soaked methi seeds with two almonds (soaked)/ two walnuts
Breakfast: Herbal tea-1 big cup (200 ml) Milk -150 ml + water-50 ml, with giger + mint leaves+lemon grass, 1bowl daliya or 1 bowl poha
Mid morning: 1 fruit (100 gms)
Lunch : 1 bowl unpolished rice, 2 medium-sized chapatti (without oil), 1 bowl whole green gram (moong) usal / dal, 1 bowl vegetables with gravy, 1 big bowl salad, ½ cup curd / buttermilk
Snacks: 1 big cup herbal tea, 2 idlis with sambhar, or two small methi theplas
Mid evening: 1 glass buttermilk (100 gms) with 1bowl roasted chana/sprouts
Dinner: 1 bowl unpolished rice, 1 bowl sprouted moong usal/dal, 2 medium-sized chapattis without oil, 1 bowl vegetables, 1 big bowl salad
Bedtime: 1 cup milk (150ml) or herbal tea
Programme given by Madhavi Korti, dietician, affiliated with The Yoga Institute, Mumbai.
Symptoms – Symptoms of Heart Attack
(Doctors suggest that you call the ambulance immediately, and in the interim period give the patient an aspirin as it helps in thinning blood and reducing pain/ blockage temporarily)
Daily Walk – Walking Works
Every alternative therapist recommends a half hour daily walk, on flat ground, for heart patients. Jogging is not advisable. If you experience chest pain or breathlessness while walking, stop, rest, and then begin again at a lower speed. Here are all the benefits one can expect from taking this little effort for the heart:
Try Yoga – The Kaivalyadham Yoga Regimen