Coronary health care
The Widow Maker
At noon, the headmaster of the school in which I worked, came to my room. He looked gaunt and serious.
“I have bad news. Your dad died this morning.”
“Do you have a time of death?” I asked.
“It was about 7.15 UK time, therefore 8.15 our time in Germany.”
Dad had had a heart attack, totally out of the blue. Mother in one last heart beat had become a widow.
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I was in my 20s; I was working a six-year placement in Germany. Life was good.
One morning, preparing for work, it was 8.15, I felt a real shock in my body, as if someone had thumped me on the back. In the recent days I had not been thinking of my family back home in Scotland, life was busy, but in that moment of shock I “knew” my dad had died. Nonetheless, I put it down to psychic superstition and got on with my day.
Heart disease ... a family matter
Years later, in my 60s, I suddenly, within days, was finding it difficult to climb stairs without becoming breathless; I could hardly walk round the beautiful lake in front of my home. Treadmill tests at the local hospital indicated I had heart problems. I was rushed to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary – ended up with a stent - a small expandable tube that was now treating narrowed arteries in my heart area. Usually made of metal mesh, they’re put into arteries in a procedure called a percutaneous coronary intervention or, its more common name, angioplasty In people with coronary heart condition, the disease is caused by the build-up of plaque in arteries.
Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood rich in oxygen throughout your body. They go to your brain as well as to the tips of your toes. Healthy arteries have smooth inner walls and blood flows through them easily. Some people, however, develop clogged arteries. Clogged arteries result from a build-up of a substance called plaque on the inner walls of the arteries. Arterial plaque can reduce blood flow or, in some instances, block it altogether.
Plaque is made of substances such as cholesterol, calcium and fat which combine with smooth muscle cells and deposits on the inner smooth walls of the arteries. As Plaque deposits grow in size they lead to narrowing and hardening of arteries. This condition is called Atherosclerosis. It results in clogged arteries and obstructs the blood flow to cardiac tissue causing heart attack and to brain causing brain stroke. Both of which is an emergency situation and can result in death.
At no time, in Germany or in the UK, did any doctor teach me about heart heath, about stress and its effects, nor did they explore my lifestyle. All they did was deal with the mechanical parts of my body that were not functioning. It was 2015, when I was 66, before any doctor mentioned atherosclerosis; by now it was too late, or so I have been told.
Read about atherosclerosis here
Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of death worldwide. The ultimate manifestations of it are in the form of cardiovascular diseases affecting the heart or stroke affecting the brain. It is a lifestyle related disease caused due to unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise. Now for most of my life I had eaten wisely and had been very active and mobile, walking lots, swimming much, playing badminton.
The problem with atherosclerosis is that the symptoms are not seen (asymptomatic) in the majority of the patients. It is a silent killer. While in some cases, the presentation is chest pain, dizziness, sweating, shortness of breath and heart palpitations.
A variety of genetic and environmental factors play key roles in the development of atherosclerosis, but the understanding of this complex process is still evolving though my local consultants tell me nothing can be done!
There’s no question, however, about a number of all-too-common risk factors. These include: obesity, inactivity, diabetes, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high lipid levels, low HDL, elevated C-reactive protein, smoking, and a family history of heart disease. So check there to see if there are health changes you need to make.
Conventional, mainstream medicine is just beginning to recognise atherosclerosis-associated chronic inflammation, perpetuated by oxidative stress and detectable by biochemical markers that indicate ongoing inflammation and oxidative damage. None of this has my NHS ever made me aware of. Nothing can be done.
Age alone is a major risk factor for atherosclerosis.
This should come as no surprise, since aging is associated with increasing inflammation, and inflammation is associated with atherosclerosis development. But by ageing is not meant being old and decrepit; young people also have these ills.
Efforts to treat inflammatory and oxidative processes have been shown to reverse some of the early damage that sets the stage for atherosclerosis. Life Extension advocates a comprehensive approach to averting cardiovascular disease that includes addressing the many implicated triggers of endothelial dysfunction and atherosclerosis, such as high homocysteine, low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and elevated fibrinogen levels.
Current mainstream medical treatments for atherosclerosis generally focus on controlling only a few of the multiple identified causes of atherosclerosis. Life Extension advocates that members aggressively monitor and treat ALL the known causes of endothelial dysfunction and atherosclerosis as part of a comprehensive strategy to minimize the risk of developing our nation’s number one killer, cardiovascular disease
As I write this page, I am now the age, 69, when my father died. A heart condition is often inherited through the genes. Until recently, it was believed you were stuck with the genes you were born with. But now it’s known that your genes get turned on and off and are expressed to greater or lesser degrees depending on lifestyle factors - what and how you eat, movement, exercise, and adopting a healthy physical, mental, emotional and spiritual lifestyle. This is the field of epigenetics.
Metaphysics - where we go beyond just the physical, in other words, heart disease is not just about the physical heart.
Personality traits of someone with a cardiovascular condition
People with heart conditions are likely to be the kind who take everything to heart but will not wear their heart on their sleeve; they are likely to have a low self-worth and will tend to deny their own needs and focus more on others’ needs. This was so true of my father – he would do anything for his family and would be easily hurt if we at all wounded him in any way. Back then, in the 1960s, we never spoke of self-worth or self-esteem. The self-help movement in Scotland was light years away.
Those with heart disease may be perceived to be heartless, or at the other end of the spectrum, selfless which was the case with my father who would do anything for anyone, not just his family. He was adored by the community, his work, as evidenced by some 800 people who attended his funeral.
The metaphysical meaning of heart disease is emotional exhaustion and fear of being unloved. Father worked all hours, hard physical labour, and he hated the thought of any of his family not loving him. He was stoic and, until his final years, kept his emotions to himself and taught me to do likewise (probably why I rebelled and can be too revealing of my feelings) - big boys must never cry was a common mantra in my youth.
More generally, the person with a heart condition may in their inner plane find it difficult to love and be loved, to feel secure; it may be they are less inner guided and more outer guided, by material things and so squeeze out all the joy and goodness of their outer, physical life in favour of money, a good job, status, position etc. Their inner belief, albeit subconsciously, in working hard, in stress and strain, that this is how life just has to be, so bare it bravely, puts an extraordinary demand on the physical /mental / emotional body system. They may find it difficult to show they care, to reveal their emotions easily and so may live with unresolved longstanding emotional problems – feeling let down, rejected, abandoned, disappointed, and so, life having been joyless, in an authentic way, one’s heart becomes hardened, there is an inflexibility, a rigidity.
Consider too those who go around repeating, “S/he’s breaking my heart” – on the one hand they may always be playing the guilt card, or the victim / martyr ace. But neither is conducive to good health.
Everything stops me from getting what I want
Others must come first
Family loyalty is key
I am no use, I am worthless, I am not perfect enough
I have to be perfect to be loved
I have to be perfect to be noticed
I will be punished for other’ mistakes
I am burdened by …
I find it difficult to love and be loved
I am hurt – but no one must know
I can’t let go of
I can’t trust people
I have a broken heart
I have to hide my pain
I was abandoned by …
What you can do
Read the personality profile and if anything resonates and is working against you, make changes bit by bit
Read the beliefs – if any there resonate, or there are some you can add in of your own, change your belief set
Do what makes your heart sing
Lead the best life possible – avoid smoking, alcohol to excess, burning the candle at both ends
Learn to love yourself so that you may truly love others
Be willing to put yourself first, get your own needs met
Let go of things, events, and relationships that bring you down or inhibit good health
Eat wisely – fresh foods, freshly cooked, no processed foods – consider a Low Carb High Fat or Ketogenic approach
Get plenty of movement, avoid being sedentary, go with the flow – let love flow
Research what should be your ideal weight and attempt to reach and maintain it
Relax – find ways to chill out, take time for you
Love and let love in – release all judgements
Put your heart and soul into all that matters
Consider taking a Superoxide Dismutase Supplement - superoxide dismutase (SOD) is the body’s most powerful antioxidant. It plays a vital role in reducing the oxidative stress that leads to many diseases, and of course aging
If being treated by statins, research and question whether they are right for you
The NHS - Atherosclerosis NB in particular section on lifestyle and treatments