The term coronary heart disease
covers a group of clinical
syndromes arising particularly from
failure of the coronary arteries to supply sufficient blood to the heart. They include angina
peactoris, coronary thrombosis or heart attack and sudden death without infarction.
There has been a marked increase in the incidence
of heart disease
in recent years. Heart
attacks have become the number one killer in Western countries. They rank third in India, after
and infections. The disease affects people of all ages and both sexes, although it is
more common in men than in women, especially among those aged 40-60 years.
The heart, the most vital organ in the body, is a muscle about the size of a clenched fist. It starts
working even before birth inside the womb. Weighing less than 350 grms, it pumps about 4,300
gallons of blood per day through the body and supplies oxygen and nourishment to all the
organs. It beats 1,00,000 times a day, continuously pumping the blood through more than
60,000 miles of tiny blood vessels. The heart, in turn, needs blood for its nourishment which is
supplied by coronary arteries Coronary arteries are so called because they are arranged rather
like a crown or carona. In case of strain, etc., the heart needs more blood and the arteries, under
normal conditions, adjust themselves to the increased flow.
In the event of narrowing or hardening of the arteries on account of their getting plugged with
fatty substances, the flow of blood is restricted. The heart then does not get sufficient oxygen.
This condition is known as ischaemia of the heart or angina pectoris. In this condition , exercise
or excitement provokes severe chest pain and so it limits the patient's physical activity. It serves
as a warning to slow down and prompt preventive measures will prevent a heart attack.
If the narrowed arteries get blocked due to a clot or thrombus inside them, causing death of that
portion of the heart which depends upon the choked arteries, it is called a heart attack or
coronary thrombosis. It may lead to death or heal, leaving a scar. Patients with healed lesions
may be severely disabled or may be able to resume normal life with restrictions in their physical
A common symptom of heart disease
is shortness of breath which is caused by the blood being
deprived of the proper amount of oxygen. Another common symptom is chest pain or pain down
. Other symptoms
are palpitation, fainting, emotional instability, cold hands and feet,
frequent perspiration and fatigue
. All these symptoms
may be caused by many other disorders.
Appropriate tests and studies are, therefore, essential to establish the true nature of these
The basic causes of heart diseases are wrong dietary habits, faulty style of living and various
stresses. The famous Framingham Heart Study of the National Heart and Lung Institute
identified seven major risk factors in coronary heart disease
. These are : (i) elevated blood levels
of cholesterol, triglycerides and other fatty substances ( ii) elevated blood pressure (iii) elevated
blood uric acid levels (mainly caused by high protein diet), (iv
) certain metabolic disorders,
, (v) obesity
, (vi) smoking, and (vii) lack of physical exercise. Each or a
combination of these risk factors can contribute to heart disease
. Most of them are of dietary
origin. These risk factors can be controlled by changing one's life style and readjusting the diet.
Constant worry and tension stimulates the adrenal glands to produce more adrenaline and
cartisons. This also contributes to constricted arteries, high blood pressure
and increased work
for the heart.
The fundamental conditioning factor in all heart diseases is the diet. A corrective diet designed to
alter body chemistry and improve the quality of general nutritional intake can, in many cases,
reverse the degenerative changes which have occurred in the heart and blood vessels.
The diet should be lacto-vegetarian, low in sodium and calories. It should consist of high quality,
natural organic foods, with emphasis on whole grains, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables. Foods
which should be eliminated are all white flour products, sweets, chocolates, canned foods in
syrup, soft drinks, squashes, all hard fats of animal origin such as butter, cream and fatty meats.
Salt and sugar should be reduced substantially. The patient should also avoid tea, coffee,
The essential fatty acids which reduce serum
cholesterol levels and minimise the risk of
can be obtained from sunflower seed oil, corn oil or safflower oil. Several studies
have indicated that garlic can reduce the cholesterol level in persons whose body normally
cannot regulate the cholesterol fractions. Other important cholesterol lowering foods are alfalfa
and yogurt. Lecithin helps prevent fatty deposits in arteries. Best food sources are unrefined,
raw, crude vegetable oils, seeds and grains.
Fruits and vegetables in general are highly beneficial in the treatment of heart disease
fruits are quite effective heart tonics. Apples especially contain heart stimulating properties and
the patients suffering from the weakness of heart should make liberal use of apples and apple
jams. Fresh grapes, pineapples, oranges,custard apples, pomegranaes and coconut water also
tone up the heart. Grapes are effective in heart pain and palpitation of the heart and the disease
can be rapidly controlled if the patient adopts an exclusive grapes diet for few days. Grape juice,
especially will be valuable when one is actually suffering from a heart attack.
Indian gooseberry or amla is considered an effective home remedy for heart disease
. It tones up
the functions of all the organs of the body and builds up health by destroying the heterogeneous
elements and renewing lost energy.
Another excellent home remedy for heart disease
is onions. They are useful in normalising the
percentage of blood cholesterol by oxidising excess cholesterol. One teaspoon of raw onion
juice first thing in the morning will be highly beneficial in such cases.
Honey has marvellous properties to prevent all sorts of heart disease
. It tones up the heart and
improves the circulation. It is also effective in cardiac pain and palpitation of the heart. One
tablespoonful daily after food is sufficient to prevent all sorts of heart troubles.
Patients with heart disease
should increase their intake of foods rich in vitamin E, as this vitamin
promotes the functioning of the heart by improving oxygeneration of the cells. It also improves
the circulation and muscle strength. Many whole meal products and green vegetables,
particularly outer leaves of cabbage are good sources of vitamin E. The vitamin B group is
important for heart and circulatory disorders. The best sources of vitamin B are whole grains.
Vitamin C is also essential as it protects against spontaneous breaches in capillary walls which
can lead to heart attacks. It also guards against high blood cholesterol
. The stress
of anger, fear,
disappointment and similar emotions can raise blood fat and cholesterol levels immediately but
this reaction to stress
can do little harm if the diet is adequate in vitamin C and pantothenic acid.
The richest sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits.
The following is the suggested diet for persons suffering from hypertension or some disorder of
the heart :
On rising :
Warm water with lemon juice and honey or fresh fruit juice of apple,grapes, orange,
Fresh fruit such as apples, grapes, pears, peaches, pineapple, orange, melons, one
or two slices whole meal toast, yogurt, skimmed milk or soya milk.
Fresh fruitjuice or coconut water.
Combination salad of vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, endive, carrots, cucumber,
beetroot, tomato, onion and garlic. One or two slices of whole meal bread or chappatis, curd,
fresh grapes and other fruits in season.
One or two wholemeal biscuits and fruit juice.
Fresh fruit or vegetable juice or soup, two lightly cooked vegetables, one or two whole
The patient should also pay attention to other laws of nature for health building such as taking
moderate exercise, getting proper rest and sleep, adopting the right mental attitude and getting
fresh air and drinking pure water.
The use of an ice bag on the spinal area between the second and tenth thoracic vertebrae for 30
minutes three times a week, a hot compress applied to the left side of the neck for 30 minutes
every alternate day and massage of the abdomen and upper back muscles are water treatments
which are beneficial in cases of heart disease
Hot foot and hand baths are excellent for relieving the pain of angina pectoris. To this may be
added hot packs on the chest over the heart for one minute and a cold pack applied alternately
for five minutes.
Asanas such as shavasana, vajrasana, and gomukhasna, yogic kriyas like jalneti and
pranayamas such as shitali, sitkari and bhramari are also helpful in providing relief to heart