About Heart disease
Heart disease is common the world over. In the West, coronary heart disease (CHD) predominates, causing 40 percent of all deaths in males of working age.
Too many people think they can wait until old age to worry about heart disease. Another common perception is that heart attacks happen mainly to men. After the age of 60, a woman’s chance of experiencing a heart attack greatly increases and becomes equal to a man’s.
Heart and circulatory disease is the UK’s biggest killer. In 2007, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) caused 34 percent of deaths in the UK, and killed just over 193,000 people.
Coronary heart disease, the main form of CVD, causes over 90,000 deaths a year in the UK: approximately one in five deaths in men and one in six deaths in women.
Heart disease, coronary artery disease, arteriosclerosis and the hardening of the arteries all refer to the same process. Your heart-health depends on an abundant supply of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood. It cannot survive an interruption in this flow of blood. Your coronary arteries supply this blood to the heart, and when the arteries harden and become congested, this places a strain on the heart – possibly leading to heart disease. The heart, starving for blood, begins to die, and things can quickly reach a critical level.
A woman’s production of oestrogen in her childbearing years boosts her HDL. This so-called good cholesterol helps reduce her risk of heart attack. Up to the age of 60, men have a higher rate of heart attack. But after the age of 60, a woman’s chance of experiencing a heart attack increases and becomes equal to a man’s.
The warning signs of Heart Attack are:
- Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the centre of the chest lasting more than a few minutes.
- Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck or arms.
- Chest discomfort with light-headedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath.
- Chest pain, stomach or abdominal pain.
- Nausea or dizziness.
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
- Unexplained anxiety, weakness or fatigue.
- Palpitations, cold sweat or paleness.
Western Medical View
Major irreversible risk factors include age, sex and family history, while hypertension, smoking, high blood fat levels, diet, exercise, stress, and obesity are reversible risk factors.
One risk everyone shares is the ageing process, because the risk of heart attack increases with age.
If you have close family members (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings) who have had heart disease or heart attacks before the age of 65, you may be predisposed to develop harmful build-up in your arteries at a greater rate than someone with no such history. You also may find it harder to keep your cholesterol levels within an acceptable range without medication. You should view a family history of heart disease as a signal to be vigilant about the lifestyle choices that influence heart health and to get a regular heart health check-up.
Cholesterol levels are one of the ways your doctor determines how likely it is that your arteries are clogging up with harmful deposits. High total cholesterol and high LDL (the bad cholesterol) indicate a strong possibility that plaque is present and your arteries are narrowing. A low HDL (the good cholesterol) means your body isn’t able to carry cholesterol deposits away from the artery walls.
People with high blood pressure or diabetes have higher rates of heart disease, and if you add unhealthy cholesterol levels to high blood pressure and/or diabetes, the risks for heart disease increase considerably. However, research also shows that people who follow medical advice to lower blood pressure with diet and/or medication and who take steps to keep their diabetes under control also protect themselves from future heart attacks.
Saturated fat fuels the build-up of deposits in the arteries because it triggers the body to produce more LDL cholesterol. This is the kind of cholesterol that sticks to the walls of your arteries. The more saturated fat you eat, the greater your risk of developing heart disease. We consume saturated fat when we eat animal products, such as meat and dairy products, as well as processed foods made with hydrogenated oils. The average healthy adult should consume no more than 25 grams of saturated fat each day, a nugget about the size of a walnut. People with heart disease should eat much less.
Over-nutrition sets up a vicious cycle that is detrimental to good health. The rate of overweight citizens grows each year and with it, a much higher risk of heart disease. People who are overweight tend to eat foods high in saturated fat, which, in turn, promotes the formation of harmful deposits in the arteries. If you are more than 30 percent over your ideal weight, you must take measures to lose extra pounds.
The dietary concerns of some young women often centre on their weight. As the numbers on the scale or the measuring tape begin to climb, they put an emphasis on reducing calories. But harmful arterial build-up occurs in slender women, too. While controlling weight is important for heart health, any weight loss plan must include low-saturated-fat foods.
Tobacco smoke and saturated fat are two of the most lethal things you can put in your body. It is believed that smoking makes it easier for deposits to attach themselves to the walls of arteries. Smoking carries an added risk of dependency. People rarely smoke only the occasional cigarette; they smoke the pack. We know enough about the addictive properties of nicotine to realise that once people start, many simply cannot give it up without a great struggle. And some people find it impossible to quit. Smoking has become increasingly attractive to young girls and women, yet more money is spent on public campaigns to raise the awareness of breast health than to prevent smoking. While taking birth control pills alone does not increase your risk of heart attack, the combination of smoking and birth control pills causes a woman’s risk of heart attack to soar.
Chinese Medical View
Clinical trials* have reported some therapeutic effects from acupuncture for coronary heart disease (angina pectoris) and chronic pulmonary heart disease, therefore the World Health Organisation recommends acupuncture for these conditions because treatment by conventional and other therapies is difficult.
Patients are advised to see their GPs first in order to clarify the diagnosis. Those who have already been investigated should bring the results of the investigations, such as ECG, X-ray or scan reports to the AcuMedic doctors. Patients are also advised to bring a list of their medication. It is imperative that patients do not stop or reduce their regular medication without consulting their GPs or consultants.
According to Chinese Medicine theory, acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments can be prescribed to be used in conjunction with special teas and herbal drinks as treatment for heart disease. The treatments will aim to alleviate the symptoms of heart disease and reduce the need for Western medication.
The AcuMedic Centre includes special clinics which run programmes for stress relief, for overcoming obesity and quitting smoking. Important products are also available, which include teas/herbal drinks which according to CM theory can reduce blood fat levels and soften the walls of blood vessels. Our Chinese medical doctors will also be able to advise you on diet and lifestyle.
No one can predict with 100 percent accuracy who will have a heart attack, but scientists have developed a list of factors most likely to link people to heart disease. By assessing your family history, general health and lifestyle, you can decide what you can do to prolong the health of your heart. The burden on your heart and arteries increases as the number of risk factors grows, raising the odds for future heart disease and heart attack. But even if you find yourself in a high-risk category, the news is good: you can actually reverse damage to your arteries and clear away arterial deposits by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle. Everyone needs to take the simple steps that will protect them.
Some simple lifestyle changes can help reduce or even completely dissolve harmful cholesterol build-up. We owe it to ourselves to learn early how to make these changes in our lifestyle to cut down our risk of heart disease and to provide a heart-healthy environment for our families.
People who exercise regularly reduce their risk of heart disease by almost 50 percent. The heart depends on a constant supply of blood to feed it the oxygen and nutrients it needs to keep pumping. Exercise not only increases the oxygen in the blood and keeps the blood circulating, but also makes the heart stronger and more efficient. Studies also show that when you exercise, every step you take increases HDL, the good cholesterol. Also, exercise helps you maintain a normal weight, which offsets the deposit-building process.
Periodically, diets come along that promise instant results with high-fat foods or high-protein foods. Avoid them. In the long run, they can raise your risk of heart disease.
For personalised advice on diet and lifestyle, please ask the doctor during your consultation.
Please be reminded that we offer free online health advice.
+ *CLINICAL TRIALS
CORONARY HEART DISEASE
Ballegaard S et al. Acupuncture in severe, stable angina pectoris: a randomized trial. Acta Medica Scandinavica, 1986, 220(4):307-313.
Ballegaard S et al. Effects of acupuncture in moderate, stable angina pectoris: a controlled study. Journal of Internal Medicine, 1990, 227(1):25-30.
Xue SM et al. Effects of acupuncture on the left ventricular diastolic function in patients with coronary heart disease. World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion, 1992, 2(2):10.
Mao XR et al. Effects of acupuncture on angina pectoris, ECG and blood lipids of patients with coronary heart disease. World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion, 1993, 3(4):15-19.
Dai JY et al. [Clinical observation of ear acupuncture at point heart in the treatment of coronary heart disease.] Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1995, 36(11):664-665 [in Chinese].
Cheng BA. [Clinical observation of ear acupressure treatment in 50 cases of angina pectoris.] Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1995, 15(2):74-75 [in Chinese].
Ma RZ et al. Clinical observation and study of mechanisms of acupuncture treatment of coronary heart disease. World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion, 1997, 7(1):3-8.
PULMONARY HEART DISEASE
Zou M et al. [Observation of therapeutic effects of combined treatment of ginger moxibustion and acupoint-injection in 30 cases of chronic pulmonary heart disease.] Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1998, 18(7):389-390 [in Chinese].