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The average heart, on any given day, can beat up to 200,000 times. An amazing organ, yet we are rarely aware of the never-ending work our heart does for us. The heart is so vital to life, we would be wise to do everything possible to enhance and assist its function. As we all know, a functional cardio-vascular system is vital for survival, because without circulation, tissues lack a supply of oxygen and nutrients, and waste substances accumulate. Under such conditions, cells soon begin to undergo irreversible changes that quickly lead to death of the organism.

The heart is basically a hollow organ. It is somewhat cone-shaped and is a muscular pump designed to move blood throughout the body. The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs for oxygenation. The left atrium receives oxygenated blood from the lungs via the four pulmonary veins, two from the right lung, and two from the left lung. Then the left ventricle pumps freshly oxygenated blood to all parts of the body.

We know there are factors that can jeopardize cardiovascular health, such as smoking, a high fat diet, high alcohol consumption, and lack of aerobic exercise. Some nutrients essential for a healthy heart are calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Vitamin E, selenium, and zinc deal with free radicals that might harm arteries. Research shows that herbs such as Hawthorne and Ginkgo Biloba can support healthy blood flow to the heart, brain and extremities.

Let us not forget though, that every heart is anatomically distinctive, and this individuality in structure is accompanied by biochemical and physiological individuality. Hearts may fail for different reasons and there is no "textbook picture" of a heart failure. Certain hearts and blood vessels may have nutritional needs that differ quantitatively from those of other hearts and blood vessels. Nutrition that is adequate for one individual may be inadequate for another.

The most common form of heart failure involves obstruction of the coronary arteries that feed the heart itself. The cause: atherosclerosis. As we age, in some individuals the insides of the blood vessels tend to accumulate deposits that hinder blood flow to every part of the body. This makes it harder for the cells and tissues to get the oxygen and the nutrition that the blood carries. When the coronary arteries become badly clogged with these deposits, the fatal danger of clotting and stoppage becomes acute.

These deposits or plaques are fatty in nature, but as they become more established, they attract other particles from the blood, become hard and calcified, hence the origin of the phrase, "hardening of the arteries." As the arteries become more and more clogged, the pressure needed to force the blood through them becomes greater leading to high blood pressure.

Bypass surgery is often unsuccessful because the original cause of the heart disease is rarely addressed. Dean Ornish, M.D., with his program of low-fat, high fiber and carbohydrate diet, exercise and group therapy for heart disease sufferers, has proved something that heretofore was considered impossible; that heart and cardiovascular disease can not only be arrested, but reversed. When it comes to heart disease, a holistic approach addressing diet/nutrition, lifestyle, stress reduction, exercise, and emotional health is the way to successful treatment.

Since the concept of chakras has become more widely accepted in medical circles, a brief overview from a medical standpoint seems in order. The fourth chakra governs the heart, ciculatory system, breasts, shoulders, ribs, and lungs on the physical level. On the emotional level, it governs happiness, sadness, love and anger. When I ask patients who have had heart attacks what they were doing when they were stricken, I often hear responses like, "I was yelling at my kids," or "I had just finished serving dinner to all my in-laws and wished they would leave." Both of these responses illustrate anger, whether overt or suppressed.

Attitudes and emotions can affect the biochemistry of the body to facilitate rejuvenation and health or degeneration and death.
In Chinese medicine, the heart is considered the "Emperor" of the body. It houses the spirit and is related to joy. Chinese medicine addresses the physical and spiritual aspects of a patient equally, so a person suffering from a broken heart or lack of joy receives an acupuncture treatment for the physical heart. There are some specific acupuncture points like "Heaven's Gate" which are specially instrumented to move "spiritual" energy.

Although we know much about the workings of the heart, it remains complex and mysterious. It may very well be where love abides and from where it flows.

And just imagine what our world would be like if we all opened our hearts to one another and really started loving each other from the heart.

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