Friday , 14 December 2018

Being hale and hearty

Sujal Torgal Patil

Heart disease and stroke, which come under lifestyle disorders of the modern era, kill 17.1 million people every year – that’s higher than victims of cancer, HIV, AIDS and malaria put together. In order to raise awareness about this silent killer and show some love towards our hearts, September 29 is observed as World Heart Day by the World Heart Federation. The basic objective behind this drive is to establish the fact that heart diseases can be majorly prevented and casualties reduced. The modern management of cardiac disorders largely comprises of oral medications, surgeries and cardiac rehabilitation. Most of it is about repair and controlling the disease.

We all know that the heart is one of the most vital organs in the body. The blood vessels carry blood to and from the heart. It is the pump that circulates blood to the entire body. Heart attacks and strokes are usually acute events and are mainly caused by a blockage that prevents blood from flowing to the heart or brain. The most common reason for this is a build-up of fatty deposits, calcium, and macrophages on the inner walls of the blood vessels that supply the heart or brain. Strokes can also be caused by bleeding from a blood vessel in the brain or from blood clots. Survivors of a heart attack or stroke are at high risk of recurrences and at high risk of dying from them.

This article is not about heart disease alone but the ways to promote heart-health. Prevention and cure are the two objectives of ayurveda. According to ayurveda, hridaya or the heart is not just an organ but a vital point (marma) and it is interesting to note that any kind of physical, physiological or emotional damage can lead to a deranged heart.

Hridaya is the chetana-sthana (site of life). All types of vayu, pitta and kapha are related to hridaya in terms of nutrition. Hridaya forms a specific site of prana vayu, sadhaka pitta and avalambaka kapha and ojas (the subtle essence of vitality and immunity). The imbalance in these leads to structural and functional failure of the heart. The heart is also deeply integrated with the subtle body which permeates and informs the physical body, and extends beyond the physical form as ayurveda says it is also the seat of mana(the mind) and is more energetic in nature. The heart is an important junction of the various channels through the subtle body (nadis), and therefore it is intimately connected to the heart chakra (anahata chakra).

The modern medicine attributes risk factors like overeating, improper dietary practices, lack of physical activity, various addictions, stressors, uncontrolled metabolic disorders like hypertension or diabetes and a family history to predispose cardiac disorders.

Ayurveda also emphasises on these risk factors along with other important precursors that are mentioned below.

Excessive or frequent consumption of hot food (hot in terms of temperature as well as potency), heavy food, sour, astringent or bitter foods, over eating, frequent eating (even before the previously taken food has been digested)

 Excessive physical exertion, laborious work

 Injuries (physical or mental trauma)

 Excessive thinking, stress, over-anxiety

 Excessive indulgence in sex (activity as well as thoughts)

 Forcibly withholding the natural urges (impending body reflexes) like urination, sneeze, yawn, etc.

 Excessive physical exercise: Excessive workouts, running, walking, etc, without considering the threshold

 Administration of strong purgatives, excessive administration of purgation therapy, strong enemas, frequent and excessive vomiting, improperly done panchakarma treatments or other detoxes

 Excessive ‘ama’ or toxins in the body (ama is the immature essence of digestion in circulation)

 Excessive emaciation due to various reasons

The above dietary, somatic and psychological factors individually or collectively vitiate the doshas and derange the rasa dhatu (nutritional fluid which circulates throughout the body after the process of digestion). When rasa dhatu enters the heart it leads to further derangement –  anatomically and functionally – and gives rise to various kinds of cardiac disorders. The presentation of various heart disorders will vary according to the dominant dosha. For example: If vataja hrid-roga is present there will be excessive pain. Pitta pain will be accompanied by burning sensation and in kaphaja hrid-roga it will be associated with heaviness, stiffness and rigidity (in the body, heart and chest).

This is difficult to understand as the concepts of ayurvedic physiology are different from that of modern medicine.

One of the causative factors explained above – ‘ama’ – is the leading cause of such disorders. Ama is the product of improper digestion due to inefficient digestive capacity. The atherosclerotic plaque which clogs the blood vessels can be understood as a form of ama.

It is important for patients, even those who have undergone cardiac surgeries like bypass or  angioplasty, to eat right.

To be continued…

(Writer is chief medical officer at Traya Natural Health Centre and can be contacted at


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