Men’s health is actually a particularly challenging area of healthcare. Men just don’t tend to present to alternative practitioners. (Or to any other practitioners, for that matter.) But their needs are just as serious and this behavior tends to put their lives and their health in greater jeopardy.
Heart disease is one of the nation’s top killers, and the biggest health threat to men. The American Heart Association says that on average 800,000 Americans will suffer heart attacks this year. The good news is that protective measures can dramatically reduce the threat. While both men and women are susceptible to heart diseases, men are for more likely to develop them, and at younger ages as well.
The heart, of course, is the stuff of verse. But you may not feel so poetic if you have a heart attack. But how about preventing the crisis before it gets to the stage that needs these emergency measures?
Ayurveda shines in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery and other heart diseases, especially a chronic problem that has not yet reached crisis proportions, like that blood pressure that has been slowly rising for a few years.
The heart, from the Ayurvedic perspective, is “the seat of the mind, and the source of life,” as well as the seat of “prana” and “ojas.” The heart is an organ that is primarily governed by pitta dosha, but pathology can extend to all three doshas. As is typical with conditions that manifest with aging, the patient is usually so generally degenerated by the time a heart condition becomes apparent that all three doshas are severely damaged.
Kapha dosha is responsible for maintaining solidity, stability, and lubrication. We can look to problems with kapha dosha when we see unstable tissues, and weakened connective tissue, in whatever form. Wet, goopy, sloppy tissues are caused by excess kapha. The folded, mushy lesions are caused by derangement in kapha dosha. Kapha heart symptoms include a feeling of heaviness, constriction of the chest, and sluggish digestion, as well as anorexia, stiffness with feeling of being overstuffed, and sweet taste in the mouth. Kapha heart disorders are mainly obstructions.
Pitta dosha is responsible for the energy of transformation, cellular metabolism, and the generation of heat in the body. Pitta symptoms relating to the heart include heat and burning sensations with thirst, anywhere in the body, quick fatigue of the heart, sweating, dry mouth, and faintness. In the heart area, we would include a sucking sensation. Aggravated pitta causes narrowing of the channels through inflammation. Sweet taste in diet and medicine is generally good for pitta heart disorders.
Valve disorders (“kapata vikriti”) are specifically related to vata. Vata dosha is responsible for regulating movement in the entire body, and the disordered movement of the heart pump is a classic vata derangement. Vata dosha predominates in ever-greater amounts in the geriatric body. Vata also regulates form and function. A classic indication in Ayurveda that vata dosha is involved is the evidence of dysfunctional or unusual form or shape. The loose, sloppy, “billowy” valve is typical vata etiology.
When vata dosha is deranged, tissues become dry. Though we can’t see the heart directly, we can infer the degree of dryness in the heart tissue from the rest of the body. Dry tissue is treated with moisturizing anti-vata remedies. Many of the symptoms of the aging heart are vata symptoms and point to treatment of vata dosha if they are present. These include anxiety, chest pain, weakness, especially on exertion, palpitations and dyspnea. Vata heart disorders, as a rule, are characterized by stretching, pinching, cracking, and tearing pain in the heart region. Disordered vata promotes spasms in the circulatory system.
Treating heart problems, and potential problems, from an Ayurvedic perspective can add many healthy and productive years to your life. Come in and see us sometime; we promise we won’t tell anyone you were here. You will impress everyone with your new found, and very manly, good health and vitality.