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Fitness

ASANAS-MEANING AND BENEFITS

Two word Asana implies a seat, a posture performed steadily and with ease. It means a posture in which one can remain steady, calm, quiet and comfortable, physically and mentally for a certain time whether seated or otherwise. An Asana represents a position in which one can keep still for a long time without effort. There are lakhs of Asanas given by ancient Indian Rishis. Many people wrongly consider Asanas as gymnastic exercises or body building techniques. If the gymnastic exercise constitute yogasanas then every circus clown and acrobat would call himself a Yoga. The purpose of Yogasana is integrated development of the personality i.e. physical, mental and spiritual, whereas physical exercise or gymnastic exercise have only physical effect on the muscles and bones. Physical exercises are performed quickly and with lot of fast breathing. No doubt, the acrobatic or gymnastic exercises develop large muscles or flexibility, but very large muscles require more nutrition and greater supply of blood which put greater strain on heart and respiratory systems. After doing these exercises, a person may feel very healthy, but as he grows old, the bodily functions slow down and the problems of stiffness and rheumatism occur. The over-developed muscles become flabby. Gymnastic exercises and weight lifting do not provide the relaxation which is necessary after doing physical exercises. Yogasanas are performed very slowly, steadily and comfortably, with ease and deep concentration. Yogasanas are effective and useful for both internal and external system of body. With the help of Yogasanas, the nervous system, endocrinal glands, internal organs as well as the muscles function properly. Asanas have physical and psychosmatic effect. They can be done by all, young and old, men and women. Yogasanas are simple posture which keep the internal and external organs of the body strong and healthy. Since body is the means to duty; wealth,pleasure and salvation, it would always be protected with all one heart by the technique of yoga.

Benefits of Yogasanas 

  1. Regular practice of Asanas is highly beneficial for the purification of veins and nerves, and promotion of sound mind and soul and body. Asanas are of three types. Those which are associated with concentration and meditation, such as Siddasana, Swastikasana, Padamasana, Siddhayoniasana, Sukhasana and baddhayoniasana. The second type of Asanas are meant for the healthy growth of internal and external organs of the body such as Sarvangasana, Bhujangasana, Chakrasana, Shalbhbasana, Shirshasana, Garbhasana, Mayurasana, Paschimotasana, etc. The third type of Asanas are meant for rest and relaxation. Such as Shavasana, Advasana, Jyestikasana, Makarasana, Matsyakridasana. The asanas should be learnt from a Guru or a person who has thorough knowledge of the subject. The proper technique is very essential. The body is a kind of horse to take you to your destination. This horse is to be properly fed, regularly exercised and well looked after. We remember the moral story how the soldier lost the battle; because the horse of the soldier fell, the horse fell because his shoe fell; the shoe fell because the nail of the shoe fell. This is how for want of the care of the smaller part of our body, the whole body can be affected.
  2. Yogasana help in mental, physical and spiritual development. There is no age or sex bar in doing Asanas. The regular practice of Asanas proves the main systems namely, digestive system, circulatory system, nervous system namely, digestive system, circulatory system, nervous system and respiratory system. The endocrine system is also controlled and regulated by Asanas.
  3. Asanas make the body supple and flexible, and are able to adjust themselves to changes of environment. Asanas keep the physical body healthy and free from disease.
  4. The regular practice of Asanas increase the power of concentration, equilibrium and vitality.
  5. The spinal cord is termed as tree of life. The branches and leaves are the remifications of the nervous system which spread to the near and distant parts of the body. The functioning of the nervous system depends upon the spinal cord. With the advancements of age, the vertebrae and joints become stiff or rigid, particularly when no exercise is done. Yogasanas keep the spinal cord supply and flexible.
  6. Asanas help in the awakening of all dormant powers. The bending and stretching of the asanas, the proper functioning of the abdominal muscles, the purification of the blood resulting from the expansion of lungs, toning up of the muscles, flexibility of the spine all give vigour and vitality to the mind and body.
  7. The waste matter accumulated in our  body is eliminated by Yogasanas. As the age of a person increases several organs of the body are weaken or even damaged. The consequent accumulation of chalk-like cholesterol or other impurities in the muscles, the veins and arteries harden and narrow thus making the circulation of blood slow and irregular. Some disease are, therefore, caused by improper elimination of waste matter, such as urine and stool from the body. Yogasanas increase the resistance power of the body and keep it free from disease.
  8. Asanas and Pranayama help in purifying the blood in different blood, vessels. When the body becomes clean and flexible, ability of doing any activity is also increase.
  9. Asanas rejuvenate, tone up the different glands of the body. These healthy glands produce required secretion which help proper growth of the body, making it neither too fat nor too lean.
  10. Physical ailments and disease like arthritis, abdominal disorders, diabetes, respiratory troubles, high blood pressure, migraine can be prevented and cured by Asanas
  11. Asanas in themselves may not give spiritual realization, but they are a ladder of the spiritual path. Asanas help to awaken the psychic faculties. Asanas are considered as forms of meditation and psychic purification.
  12. People doing mental work can increase their thinking power and can have calm and clear mind by doing certain specific Asanas. People doing manual work can relieve their tensions and strains by Asanas, particularly the relaxation postures.
  13. In modern times, people have a number of conveniences at their disposal to give physical comforts and sensual enjoyments. Modern men wants luxurious, unnatural and wrong way of living. He takes sleeping pills and other drugs to get peace and rest. But he gets lot of physical, mental and emotional tension. By doing Asanas modern man will be able to free himself from ailments which appear due to unnatural or wrong way of living. Our young men and women have turned to the use of drugs, LSD, charas, hashish, heroin, and other tranquilisers. Yoga in totality including Asanas, is the only remedy for those people to find new meaning of life.

Asanas and Concentration

In the science of Yoga, concentration occupies very important place. Without sound mental attitudes or concentration, our efforts will prove futile. During each Asana, it is important to know where to concentrate. The mode and centre of concentration varies from Asana to Asanas and from the beginner to the expert. The beginner should concentrate upon the correct technique of an Asana until he is able to practise that Asana with automatic ease. This stage can be covered in a few days or weeks depending upon the technique of the Asana. After the technique comes the actual performance of the Asana. When a practitioner becomes adept in doing certain Asanas, minimum number of muscles is used and least amount of energy and concentration are involved. During this stage, the face, the mouth and the tongue should be relaxed. Once the adept is table to do a certain Asana in a relaxed and automatic ease, then he must concentrate on breathing. Whether he is breathing smoothly and normally without any strain. Normal breathing must continue naturally and rhythmically. If it is stopped, the diaphragm gets blocked and congested. After this stage, the practitioner will not get any jerky or hasty movement and his smooth performance will continue from the beginning. Asanas practised in correct, slow and smooth manner lead automatically to concentration. Since different muscles are involved in different Asanas, the concentration is maintained between the mind and the movements. Finally, the adept should concentrate on the Asanas strategic points ofaction. Each Asana produces assessed effects upon some part of the body. For example, the thyroid region is affected by Sarvangasanas; and the solar plexus by Dhanurasana. This is the point on which the adept will concentrate. The positive effect of an Asana is diluted when there is lack of proper concentration at the proper part of the body. In doing certain Asanas, evil thought and diluted concentration can produce negative effects. In order to get desired effects hom Asanas it is essential to know why, how and where to concentrate. Some people turn to Yogasanas by chance and not by choice. This type of mental attitude cannot help is concentration which is required in every human activity.

Observance of Some Basic Rules

In order to get maximum benefits of Asanas, it is necessary to perform them properly at the proper place and time. Some students and non-students say that they have been doing Asanas regularly but they do not find any radical change in their health. It has been observed that most of the people do not do Asanas regularly and correctly. Sometimes their postures are wrong, sometimes concentration is lacking, sometimes in order to learn new Asanas of advanced group, they give jerks and jolts to their body, and mostly they do not observe the rules. Asanas performed wrong or immediately after meals can do more harm than good to the practitioner. The following rules should be strictly adhered to before performing Asanas :

  1. Use a soft folded carpet or blanket for doing Asanas, Do your Asanas in a well-ventilated, calm, clean and peaceful room. The air in the room should be fresh so that you can freely breathe fresh oxygen. A good smooth lawn or garden or any open surrounding is preferable. Whatever be the space available, the space should be pleasant and airy, free from mosquites, flies, ants, rats, dirty or smoky air and chocked stuff.
  2. Before doing Asanas, the bladder and intestines should be empty. If you have problem of constipation, drink two or three glasses of slightly salted water and then practise Tadasana, Kati Chakrasana, Bhujangasana. These Asanas should relieve your constipation. These Asanas should be followed by Pawanmuktasana. Avoid using laxative drugs
  3. One should not do Asanas until three or four hours have elapsed after food. However the best time is between 4 and 6 A.M, According to Hindu scriptures this period is known as Brahmamuhurta. It is the time most conducive for the higher practices of yoga. The atmosphere is pure, calm and quiet. The stomach and the intestines are in restful state.
  4. Asanas should be done after Pranayama and Shavasana should be done last of all.
  5. Concentration is of utmost importance in Asana. One thing at a time is wise saying. While doing Asanas talking should be avoided. Your attention and concentration should be on your breath and on the particular organ or part of the body which is affected by a particular Asana.
  6. Yogasana is non-violent activity. You should never give strain to your body while doing Asanas. Beginners may find their bones rigid and muscles stiff, but after regular practice the will become supple, and the body will also be flexible.
  7. While doing Asanas, breathing should be done through nostrils keeping the mouth and eyes shut. In Simhasana, the breathing is done by mouth. Movement in Asanas and the respiration should be coordinated. Generally, while doing Asanas, people do not take care of breath control.
  8. Asanas should be done slowly and steadily with full awareness of the body. If you feel pain or strain, anywhere, then immediately stop and relax in Shavasana.
  9. Relaxation during and after Asana session is very essential. Shavasana must be done during and after the session. Relax your body as much as possible.
  10. During Asanas, it is better to wear minimum loose, light and comfortable clothes according to season. Ornaments, wrist watch, necklace, rings,spectacles should be removed before doing Asanas.
  11. A Yoga practitioner should pay proper attention to food which gives energy, vitality and vigour. There are no special dieting rules for doing Asanas. It is better to eat light food easily digestible. Light food keeps the body light and active. One should avoid eating food which cause acidity or gas in the digestive system.
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Fitness

ANXIETY, STRESS, DEPRESSION

A degree of anxiety is normal at some stage in most people lives, but it can develop into an emotional disorder characterized by feeling of fear. Women appear to suffer from anxiety more than men. The sufferer may have panic attacks, with symptoms of increased, heart and breathing rate, a rise in blood pressure and blood sugar level, pallor, sweating, shivering, and dilated pupils. Emotional symptoms include insomnia, nightmares, lack of concentration and frustration. Different coping mechanisms work for different people. When applied to job performance there is an important difference between arousal and anxiety. Arousal is the experience of being in a heightened state of consciousness. You are motivated alert and ready to perform the job. A low level of arousal can actually facilitate your job. But when the level goes too high, it can actually decrease your efficiency and performance. Work place anxiety can have serious consequences. It can cause employees to use prescription drugs, forgo leisure time, suffer physical ailments and affect their overall well being work place anxiety can cause clinical anxiety disorders, generalized anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, panics, and phobias.

Stress is any external or internal influence that has an adverse effect on the functioning of the body. These influences include physical factors such as disease or injury, or mental ones, particularly anxiety. Some degree of stress is necessary to keep people alert. Problems develop when a person can no longer handle the emotional, physical and mental stress encountered in every day life. Symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, indigestion, palpitation, insomnia, anxiety, irritation, headache and chest pain may develop. A stress changes the hormonal balance in the body and lowers the immune system leading to higher risk of infection. Stress incontinence is an involuntary release of urine as a result of some action that increase abdominal pressure on the bladder. It is caused by weakening of the pelvic floor muscle which can occur after childbirth.

Depression is an emotional and mental state of extreme sadness, disappointment and frustration that disturbs normal patters of behaviour. It has a range of severity and is a very common disorder that affects more women that men. Doctors generally distinguish between two types. Reactive depression starts as a natural reaction to a stressful situation or event. Reasons include death of a family member, unemployment, divorce cases, marital conflicts, financial worries, loss of property, broken love affair. Endogenous depression is that depression which has no obvious cause. It can be caused by changing harmone levels or can develop after some sickness such as glandular fever or infections hepatitis. Anyone may feel depressed at some time in life, but depression becomes an illness only when the symptoms are long- lasting or severe enough to interfere with normal functioning over a period of months or years. Symptoms of depression include weepiness, inability to feel pleasure, forgetfulness, low self-esteem, loss of appetite, weight loss or gain, sleep disturbances and insomnia, and headaches, indigestion, restlessness, loss of interest in work, lethargy, feelings of helplessness, anxiety, mood shifts, fatigue, sad facial expression, lack of concentration, and inability to work. Thought of death and suicide can occur in the severely depressed. Many people believe that depression in some women results from unrealistically high expectations of combining a successful career with family life. Married women often have worse mental health and higher rate of depressive illness than single women. Married women often suffer from postnatal depression which is a form of depression that occurs after childbirth. It may be caused by the rapid change in harmone levels that occur after birth or by the birth experience itself, especially if this did not meet an expectations. The main symptoms are irritability, extreme fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, hopelessness, guilt, lack of concentration, panic and obsessional thoughts.

Stress is a term borrowed from physical sciences and means the bodily and mental strain a person is subjected to in the course of this reactions and adaptations to the threats, challenges and pressures of life. Dr. Hans Selye, authority on the subject says, stress is too well known but too little understood In simple words he defined stress as the rate of wear and tear of the body

In yogic terminology mental stress is chitavikshepa. Different forms of chitavikshepa described by a Patanjali are : Vyadhi, Styana,Samshaya, Pramada; Alasya, Avirati, Alabdhabhu mikatva. These create hindrance not only on the path of yoga but also in our daily life. People under stress shows the following physiological reactions

Overall increase in metabolic rate; increased perspiration and decreased skin resistence; decrease in the alpha wave activity of the brain, higher lactate concentration in the blood, increase in blood sugar, change in the acid base balance of the body, increase of base excess, retention of sodium and excretion of potassium deposit of large amount of calcium salts, increase in the activity of neurohormones, especially of the adrenal and pituitary glands and secretion of cholesterol, accelerated heart rate and cardiac output.

Psychologically, the stress covers all forms of response to fear, anxiety, conflict, frustration, arousal and tension. There is an intimate relationship between the mind and body. One affects the other but mind is more powerful than body. It goes without saying that medical science has done an excellent job in either eliminating or decreasing the scourge of many dreadful disease. But despite its great achievements, medical science has not been able to deal with psychosomatic disease. The doctors have nothing but tranquilizers, sedatives, anti depressants and anti-pain  drugs to prevent and cure anxiety, stress and depression. But it has been proved beyond any doubt the pain-killer and drugs prescribed for the cure of psychosomatic disease are not only harmful but also habit-forming. The constant use of these drugs for a long time can cause constipation, impaired memory, sleep disturbances, lack of energy, agitation of the mind, irritability, muscle pain, loss of appetite, nausea and depression. Depression is a serious and painful feeling which can occur to anyone at any stage of lite in mild or severe, fleeting or permanent, acute or chronic degree. Some people experience the feeling of depression worse in the morning and relatively better in the afternoon. While others who have chronic depression have low mood throughout the day. It is described as a block cloud round the head or numb sort of feeling. People who suffer from depressive illness have different thinking about themselves and about others. But giving vent to such expressions, I am a nuisance to my family, Death alone can end my misery. I am undesirable to my husband, My wife is not faithful to me. Many distressing expressions and experiences occur to the person suffering from depressive illness. Moreover, the sufferer may show symptoms of muddled thinking, impaired concentration, sweating, worrying, palpitation, indigestion, dry mouth, diarrhea or constipation, indecision, drowsiness, weight loss, in some cases increased appetite, loss of energy.

Yoga is an integral subjective science whose spiritual, mental and physical import cannot be separated from each other. An important reason for the affliction in our world is that the modern man, due to complexity of existing culture, can neither express nor fulfil his desires in a natural way; nor can be get rid of his ever increasing ambitions. The simple and natural life which has been lost by the human society could not be substituted by the cultural sublimation and eradication of fundamental instincts and passions. A deep void and perplexity full of struggle is the tragic tale of modern man. Today human beings are subject to more intense and frequent stress and strain due to a faster pace of life. The practical acquisition of yoga is the attainment of Chitta free from tension and depression. Yoga techniques beings based on wisdom oriented restraint and contentment uproot the desires and produce calmness in the mind. Yoga, having analyzed human behaviour, searches out the inherent catalystic element that i.e Kama element in it. The Avidya is the inclination of mind to search for the self in the objects other than the self. In yoga, the purgation of protruding emotions can be catharised without suppression. According to Freud libido is the main force at the root of impulses, passions, fatherly or motherly love, devotion of Lord, materialistic fascination,  anger, envy, suspicion, emulation, hunger, passions, thirst,lust etc are all expressions of this power, These passions colour all the activities of the individual in their own colour and through them Kama is expressed as well as ethical ego which does not recognize them, does not allow them to be fully expressed and the struggle of these two elements generates stress and depression. But in yoga this process of catharsis can be implemented in two ways. So long as the suppressed passions are concerned through shavasana the unconscious samaskaras are allowed to protrude frelly. Then they are made known through the powers of the mind which could further be catharsised. The subtle seeds of this process of catharsis are found in Prathahara of Patanjali Yoga. In psychology when protruding emotions are controlled or obstructed by self-imposed ethical powers then the repression takes place wherase in yoga the seer spiritual discriminatory wisdom which transcends even ethical ego precreates restraint and thus the emotions are purgated. In this purgatory process, other parts of yoga may also prove to be important and useful. Since the emotions have both physical and mental dimensions, Pranayama andAsanascsan be helpful for their catharsis. Depression which are from a proven chronic physical ailment can be removed with help of yoga. Various asanas to the state effects according to the state of development of the individual. Pranayama exercises namely Ujjyi pranayama, Kapal Bhati, Sitali Pranayama,Brastrika Pranayama lead to purification of cells, tissues and other parts of the body. Asanas namely Vajarasana, Sarvangasana, Bhujangasansa, and Shavasana are highly beneficial. Brain with billions of nerve cells is the most sensitive and highly complex organ in the body. This organ requires enormous quantity of blood. Most of the nervous disorders are caused by inadequate nourishment of the brain. At the initial stage, the individual feels fatigused, then his memory begins to impair and head and hands start trembling and other senses become dull, This is followed by the disturbances of the sense of balance, melancholy and depression. Shirshasana and Shirshaasna remove mental tension, anxiety and depression. Shirshaasna and Sarvangasana can improve the functioning of the cerebral and endocrine glands.

Yoga is more than mere philosophy or ideology. It includes healthy habits of living, right attitude and all the patterns of behaviour. The role of asanas and pranayama in removing stress and depression have been discussed. Meditation is one of the most important aspect of Patanjali yoga. It is of course difficult to control the mind with Meditation. For Meditation the mind must be calm and we must realize that divinity in some degree is present in every individual. We must also have regular habits of foods, good sleep and good habits. The role of Mantra in Meditation has been discussed in detail in Mantra yoga and hypertension. According to yogic philosophy there are four states of consciousness

a. Walking state

b. Dreaming state

c. Dreamless sleeping state

d. Turiya state or state of super consciouness, in which we attain a silent and pure awareness. According to yoga experts one must learn to know the self by directing one mind to look towards inner self. This can be achieved by the process of Mantra yoga or Meditation. The experience of knowing the self is difficult to attain but it can be achieved by the constant and regular practice of Meditation. The aim of meditation is inner happiness and harmony. One can achieve this aim by adopting any method of Meditation everyday. Thus by regular practice of Asanas, Pranayama and Meditation one can get rid of stress and depression and attain peace and happiness.

Sexual life: Married people must lead a well regulated sexual life. In taking up Yogic Asanas and Pranayamas, a well-regulated sexual life is necessary to derive maximum benefit therefrom. Sexual energy is the greatest power of the body and mind. This is the supreme strength in the human body embodying all power and assuring all forms. Instead of wasting this power, it should be checked and controlled and converted into great mental energy called Ojas shakti. Most of the maladies, disease, miseries and suffering of a being are due to reckless sexual enjoyment. Married people who desire peace, happiness and longevity of life, should therefore lead a well regualted sexual life.

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Fitness

ANGINA TROUBLES

SYMPTOMS

There are no truly characteristic symptoms of angina pectoris. Common symptoms include a deep, viselike pain felt beneath the breastbone and over the heart and stomach, that sometimes radiates into the left shoulder and down the inner side of the left arm. A feeling of constriction or suffocation often accompanies the pain, though there is seldom actual difficulty in breathing. In acute cases, the sufferer becomes pale, the pulse is feeble, and there is the feeling that death is imminent. Anginal pain may be quite mild in some cases, but its peculiar qualities can still induce feelings of anxiety in the sufferer.

While the chest discomfort may be variously described as constricting suffocating, crushing, heavy, or squeezing, there are many patients in whom the quality of the sensation is imprecise. The discomfort is usually, but not always, behind the breastbone, but pain radiating to the throat or jaw or down the inner sides of either arm is common. There may be no physical abnormalities, and an electrocardiogram may be normal or show only transient changes with exercise.

cAUSES AND TRIGGERS

Angina is caused by the inability of diseased coronary arteries to deliver sufficient oxygen-laden blood to the heart muscle. The arteries have been narrowed by atherosclerosis, and when insufficient blood reaches the heart, waste products accumulate in the heart muscle and irritate local nerve endings, causing anginal pain.

Attacks of angina can be precipitated, in a person who has a heart disorder, by walking or more strenuous exertion, by a fit of anger, fear, or some other stressful emotional state, by exercising after a heavy meal, or simple from exposure to cold or wind.

As a person coronary artery disease worsens, attacks of angina are apt to recur following less and less exertion. Angina pectoris is rare in persons under middle age and is much more common in males than in females.

The frequency of attacks can be lessened by the avoidance of emotional stress and by shifting to exercise that is less vigorous.

MEDICATIONS AND TREATMENTS

A person stricken with angina is obliged to stop whatever activity he is engaged in, and rest, and after three or four minutes the pain subsides as quickly as it began.

Any medication you take to treat angina must be prescribed by your physician. After studying your specific conditions he will be the best judge of what medication would be most effective. Always follow medical instructions strictly. Stopping or altering your medication without your doctor knowledge can be dangerous to your health.

An anginal attack can be relieved by rest or by taking nitroglycerin or other drugs that relax the blood vessels and increase blood flow to the coronary arteries.

The most common immediate treatment is nitroglycerin. It is taken sublingually or by chewing the tablet and allowing it to be absorbed via the membranes in your mouth. Nitroglycerin is ineffective if swallowed The dose used is based on the individual case and is generally 0.2 to 0.6 mg which may need to be repeated once or twice at 5 minute intervals. Patients generally learn the best balance between pain relief and unpleasant side effects.

B-blockers and calcium channel blockers are two groups of drugs that are useful in angina pectoris. B-blockers have a definite long-term preventive value by virtue of their cardioprotective effects. The most commonly prescribed B-blocker is atenolol. Among calcium channel blockers the most favoured drugs include nifedipine, diltiazem and amlodipine.

In cases where the narrowing of the coronary arteries appears serious enough to cause a heart attack, surgery must be used to widen the passages within the arteries or replace the arteries with unblocked ones from another portion of the body.

POINTS TO REMEMBER

Angina is a result of definite physical factors. However there is a large psychosomatic component in the overall effects that you encounter. Understanding that angina is not necessarily the end of it all, and being aware that, with some adjustments and care, you can continue to lead a full and satisfying life, can help you tremendously.

Emotional responses will trigger the sympathetic nervous system and increase the oxygen requirement of your heart. Thus angina can literally feed on itself. On the positive side, confidence in your doctor and the medications you take can prevent attacks.

Making changes in your lifestyle can improve the quality of your life as will as your chances of living a much longer life. Smoking is a major risk factor and should be stopped. Smoking causes blood vessels to constrict and thus forces your heart to beat faster and increases your blood pressure.

You can make yourself aware of the general state of your health by monitoring certain parameters and acting accordingly. Besides your diet and exercise routines you can also learn to take your pulse from time to time, so that you can be aware of your heart rate changes as they occur.

more light on angina

As already discussed, Angina describes a squeezing or pressure like pain in the chest caused by an insufficient supply of oxygen to the heart muscle. Since physical exertion and stress cause an increased need for oxygen by the heart, they stress cause an increased need for oxygen by the heart, they are often preceding factors. The pain may radiate to the left shoulder blade, left arm, or jaw. The pain typically lasts for only one to 20 minutes.

Angina is almost always due to atherosclerosis, the buildup of cholesterol containing plaque, which progressively narrows and ultimately blocks the blood vessels supplying the heart the coronary arteries. This blockage results in a decreased blood and oxygen supply to the heart tissue. When the flow of oxygen to the heart muscle is substantially reduced, or when there is an increased need by the heart, it results in angina.

Prinzmetal variant angina, a special type of angina that is not related to a buildup of plaque on the coronary arteries, is caused by spasm of a coronary artery. This form of angina is more apt to occur at rest, may occur at odd times during the day or night, and is more common in women under age 50. It usually responds to magnesium supplementation.

Angina is a serious condition that requires strict medical supervision. In severe cases, as well as in the initial stages in mild to moderate cases, prescription medications may be necessary. Eventually, however, the condition should be able to be controlled with natural measures. If there is significant blockage of the coronary artery, chelation therapy may be appropriate.

THE NATURAL APPROACH TO ANGINA

From a natural perspective, the treatment of angina has two primary therapeutic goals : improving energy metabolism within the heart, and improving the blood supply to the heart. These goals are interrelated : An increased blood flow means improved energy metabolism, and vice versa.

The heart utilizes fats as its major metabolic fuel. It converts free fatty acids to energy much as an automobile utilizes petrol. Defects in the utilization of fats by the heart greatly increases the risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks and angina pains. Specifically, impaired utilization of fatty acids by the heart results in accumulation of high concentrations of fatty acids within the heart muscle. This then makes the heart extremely susceptible to cellular damage, which ultimately leads to a heart attack.

Carnitine, pantethine, and coenzyme Q10 are essential compounds in normal fat and energy metabolism and are of extreme benefit to sufferers of angina. These nutrients prevent the accumulation of fatty acids within the heart muscle by improving the conversion of fatty acids and other compounds into energy. Carnitine is discussed below along with two herbs, hawthorn and khella.

HAWTHORN EXTRACTS IN ANGINA

Hawthorn berry and flowering tops extracts are widely used by physicians in Europe for their cardiovascular activities. Studies have demonstrated hawthorn extracts are effective in reducing angina attacks as well as lowering blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels, and improving heart function in congestive heart failure.

The beneficial effects of hawthorn extracts in the treatment of angina are a result of improvement in the blood and oxygen supply to the heart by dilating the coronary vessels, as well as improvements of the metabolic processes in the heart.

A recent study has shed additional light on how hawthorn extracts enhance heart function. A hawthorn extract standardized for proanthocyanidin content was studied utilizing an experimental model to determine the effects of a substances on heart function during ischemia. Although its effectiveness in this model was less than beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers, two classes of drugs often used in treating angina, there are a couple of distinctions to be made. Foremost, the mechanism by which the drugs work in this model is by improving coronary blood flow and actually reducing the need for oxygen by the heart by reducing its mechanical function. In contrast, hawthorn actually improves the mechanical function of the heart without increasing coronary blood flow.

Evidence that crataegus improves energy metabolism and the utilization of oxygen by the heart was demonstrated by a decrease in accumulated lactic acid. Without oxygen, the heart muscle will shift to the breakdown of sugar for energy, but this can only go so far without oxygen. As a result, pyruvic acid is shunted to lactic acid. Recovery of heart function is inversely related to the level of lactic acid in the heart. The beneficial effects of hawthorn in angina appear to be related more to its ability to improve oxygen utilization, as noted by its ability to reduce heart tissue lactic acid levels, rather than an ability to dilate coronary vessels. In fact, in this most recent study, hawthorn did not improve coronary blood flow.

Evidence that Crataegus improves energy metabolism and the utilization of oxygen by the heart was demonstrated by a decrease in accumulated lactic acid. Without oxygen, the heart muscle will shift to the breakdown of sugar for energy, but this can only go so far without oxygen. As a result, pyruvic acid is shunted to lactic acid. Recovery of heart function is inversely related to the levels of lactic acid in the heart. The beneficial effects of hawthorn in angina appear to be related more to its ability to improve oxygen utilization, as noted by its ability to reduce heart tissue lactic acid levels, rather than an ability to dilate coronary vessels. In fact, in this most recent study, hawthorn did not improve coronary blood flow.

To summarize, hawthorn extracts have exhibited a combination of effects that are of great value to sufferers of angina or other heart problems. The dosage depends on the type of preparation and source material. standardized extracts, similar to those used in Europe are available commercially. These extracts are the preferred form. The dosage for hawthorn extracts standardized to contain 1.8% vitexin-4- rhamnoside or 10% procyanidins is 100 milligrams to 250 milligrams, three times daily.

KHELLA FOR ANGINA

Khella is an ancient medicinal plant native to the Mediterranean region, where it has been used in the treatment of angina and other heart ailments since the time of the pharaohs. Several of its components have demonstrated effects in dilating the coronary arteries. Its mechanism of action appears to be very similar to the calcium-channel blocking drugs.

Since the late 1940s, there have been numerous scientific studies on the clinical effectiveness of khella extracts in the treatment of angina. More specifically, khellin, a derivative of the plant, was shown to be extremely effective in relieving angina symptoms, improving exercise tolerance, and normalizing electrocardiographic  tests. This is evident by the concluding statements in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1951. The high proportion of favorable results, together with the striking degree of improvement frequently observed, has led us to the conclusion that khellin, properly used, is a safe and effective drug for the treatment of angina pectoris.

At higher doses, 120 milligrams to 150 milligrams per day, pure khellin was associated with mild side effects such as anorexia, nausea, and dizziness. Although most clinical studies used high dosages, several studies show that as little as 30 milligrams of khellin per day appears to offer equal results with fewer side effects.

Khella extracts standardized for khellin content are the preferred form. A daily dose of such an extract would be 250 milligrams to 300 milligrams. Khella appears to work very well with hawthorn extracts.

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Fitness

A HEALTHY EATING PLAN

FATS

There are three main categories of fat found in the diet: saturated, mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated. The type of fat depends on the number of free links in the chemical structure: saturated fats have no free links, mono-unsaturated fats have one, and polyunsaturated fats have more than one.

HOW DO THEY AFFECT THE BODY?

Saturated fats tend to encourage the liver to produce cholesterol and make the blood more prone to clot. A little cholesterol is needed in the body but less than a quarter of the requirement comes from our food; the remainder is manufactured by the liver. High levels of saturated fats in the diet step up this process, and the excess is deposited on the artery walls in the form of atheroma. Polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, tend to lower the level of cholesterol in the blood, and they may even reduce the stickiness of the blood platelets. Polyunsaturated fats therefore play a protective role in helping to keep the walls of the arteries clear. Monounsaturated fats do not increase your cholesterol, but they do not reduce it either.

Not only is our consumption of fat very high – and therefore an important contributory factor to obesity – but more than half of all that fat consumed is saturated. Cutting down on fat generally will not only help to combat weight problem but, better still, a low-fat diet can stop and may actually reverse existing atherosclerosis. It is particularly important to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet and to make sure that what fat you do eat is, as far as possible, polyunsaturated.

SUGAR 

Despite widespread knowledge that sugar rots your teeth and contributes to obesity, sugar consumption remains high in the modern world.

Sugar is thought by some researchers to contribute to the risk of coronary heart disease, though no one knows for certain why this should be so, the evidence being partly confounded by the fact that those who consume a lot of sugar also tend to consume a lot of fat, which cause its own problems. Sugar tend to cause an increase in the level of blood triglycerides. There has also been some recent research on the effects of sugar on the rest of the circulation, which suggests that excess sugar is turned, in the liver, into fat – most of which is saturated. The evidence is not, as yet, conclusive.

CUT DOWN ON SUGAR

What is certain is that most of us need to reduce the amount of sugar we eat. This includes not only packet sugar whether white, brown or raw unrefined cane or beet sugar, but also sugar in processed foods, where it may be listed as sugar, sucrose, syrup, dextrose, molasses or caramel. If you must eat sweeteners, use honey or fruit juice concentrates, which contain natural sugar, fructose and glucose, as well as minerals and vitamins.

CUTTING DOWN ON SUGAR 

1)  Drink unsweetened fruit juice, diluted with mineral water if necessary.

2)  Do not eat sweets.

3)  Eat fruit at the end of a meal rather than a sticky pudding and munch a piece of fruit as a snack rather than sweets or         chocolate.

4)  Halve the amount of sugar in recipes.

5)  Read the list of ingredients on processed foods, both sweet and savoury, and do not buy them if they contain sugar

LOSING WEIGHT

One of the benefits of a low-fat, low-sugar, high-fibre way of eating is that you are unlikely to become or stay seriously overweight. Limiting your intake of alcohol and regular exercise will also help to keep your weight down.

If you think you need to lose weight, you should first differentiate between just being a little overweight which is not likely to have much effect on your health or being downright fat which can contribute to heart or circulatory disease. To find out where your weight falls, look at the chart.

Not every one puts on weight as a result of eating a lot. Some people have too slow a metabolism, which tends to run in families; other do not take sufficient exercise. Whatever the reason, if you are overweight, your problem is that you are eating more than you need for your amount of activity.

First of all, drastically reduce your intake of :

1)  Butter, margarine, cooking fats and oils

2) cheese and cream

3) Fatty meat

4) Pastries, biscuits and cakes

5) Crisps and nuts

6) Rich sauces and soups

7) Sugary foods including jam, honey, sweets and chocolate

8) Alcohol

Several small meals are better than one heavy ones, so spread your food throughout the day and do not give in to the templation of cleaning your plate. Do not allow yourself to get very hungry since you will be tempted to snack on readily available foods like biscuits or sweets. You may find it helpful to arm yourself with a slimming books and to count food calorie values, to join a slimming club, or to ask your doctors advice, but do not be conned into taking any so called slimming pills; they do not help in the long run and may actually be harmful to your health.

WHICH FOODS CONTAIN FACTS?

No one food contains only a single type of fat; it is the relative proportion of the different types of fats within a food that make the food healthy  or unhealthy. In general, saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature and come from animal sources, whereas polyunsaturated fats are soft, or in the form of oil, and come from vegetable and fish.

Saturated fats are found in beef, lamb, pork, and poultry and in all processed meat products such as bacon, sausages, frankfurters and meat pies. Mince bought from a butcher usually has a rather high fat content. You can avoid this usually has a rather high fat content. You can avoid this sources of fat by buying lean meat and mincing it yourself.

Poultry, or white meat, contains less fat than red meat, especially when the skin is removed. Game, such as rabbit, venison, pigeon and pheasant is the leanest meat of all and contains much more polyunsaturated fat and less saturated fat than other meats. Duck and goose are fatty meat but the fat is rather less saturated than red meats.

Milk and most diary product, such as butter, cheese particularly hard cheese such as cheddar and cream, are high in saturated fat.

Oils which are low in saturates and high in polyunsaturates include, in descending order of polyunsaturated fat content, safflower, soya been, sunflower, corn, cotton seed and sesame. Olive oil and groundnut oil contain monounsaturated. But beware : just because a food label tells you that a food contains vegetables fat, it does not necessarily mean that it is free from saturated fat; coconut oil, cocoa butter and palm oil (used in commercially prepared biscuits, pie fillings, non-dairy milk and cream substitutes) are all saturated fats. Avoid blended oils because they can be high in saturates.

Even a naturally healthy, polyunsaturated oil can be turned into a harmful, saturated fat if artificially hardened, a process known as hydrogenation. All margarines, for example, contain some hydrogenated fat or they would spill out of the tub, but it is a question of degree; the harder the margarine, the more saturated and the less healthy it is. Margarines  which are labelled high in polyunsaturates must contain at least 40 per cent of their total fat content as polyunsaturates. Always buy cold pressed oils because they are extracted from the fresh, raw seed; the heat treatment used in some forms of processing can convert some of the polyunsaturated fats into saturated ones.

CUTTING DOWN ON FAT

1)  Eat poultry and game in preference to red meat and meat products. Remove the skin from chicken and other poultry.

2) Eat more fish.

3) If you do eat red meat, trim away any fat before cooking.

4) Grill or bake rather than fry. Cook meat on a rack so that the fat can drain.

5) If you do fry, use polyunsaturated oil rather than butter or lard and a non-stick pan so that you use only a very small            amount of oil to prevent it sticking.

6) Bought mince often contains a lot of fat so it is best to buy lean stewing beef, cut off all visible fat and mince it yourself .      fry mince without adding any fat and then drain off all the fat before you add flavourings.

7) Use polyunsaturated margarine instead of butter and spread it sparingly.

8) Avoid hard cheese, such as cheddar and Stilton, and cream cheese, and buy lower-fat cheeses, or, even better,                 cottage or curd cheese as an alternative.

9) Change from full-fat milk to semi skimmed or, best of all, skimmed.

10) Use plain low-fat yogurt instead of cream, mayonnaise or salad cream.

11) Boil or poach eggs rather than scramble or fry with oil or butter.

12) Eat more vegetarian meals or stretch small amounts of meat by mixing them with pulse and vegetables.

13) Eat baked or boiled potatoes in preference to chips.

14) Avoid manufactured foods, such as biscuits, cakes, pastry, sauces and crisps, that are rich in hidden fat, which is               usually saturated. If you must eat cakes, make you own using a healthy, polyunsaturated fat.

THE ADVANTAGES OF FISH

White fish contains hardly any fat at all and is a high protein, low-fat alternative to meat. Fatty fish, such as mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna, salmon and trout, are excellent sources of polyunsaturated oils.

These oils are believed to have a particularly protective effect on the circulation by making the blood platelets less sticky and consequently less liable to clot. Eskimos, who subsist on large quantities of fish, have a low incidence of heart disease; other research has shown that fish oil supplements can even be helpful to angina patients.

It is a good idea, therefore, to eat fish at least two or three times every week, including fatty fish at least once. And if you eat tinned fish, such as sardines or tuna, choose ones in a named, healthy oil, such as soya or olive.

SODIUM AND POTASSIUM

There are two minerals, which must be present in the correct amount for the growth and proper functioning of the body. A delicate balance of sodium and potassium is important if the kidneys are to work properly, so that the body can maintain the correct fluid levels.

SALT CONSUMPTION

An adult needs to eat only 1 gram of salt a day but in many instances we consume far more than is needed. For example, the British eat about 10 gram of salt, or sodium chloride, a day. All fruits, vegetables, milk, meats and cereals contain small amount of sodium. We get enough from these source, and the addition of extra salt is unnecessary.

A high consumption of salt is thought by many doctors to be a risk factor in high blood pressure, which is in turn, a risk factor in coronary heart disease and strokes. Most healthy people can get rid of excess sodium through the kidneys and it does not cause them any harm. However, some people are sensitive to sodium and it is in these people that excessive sodium may cause high blood pressure. If the kidneys fail to eliminate sufficient sodium, or if the heart fails to pump blood efficiently, sodium will accumulate in the body. This excess sodium cause the body to retain water, thus expanding the volume of blood and possibly causing swelling of ankles and other parts of the body.

Cutting down on salt does not guarantee a reduction in risks but it certainly will not do you any harm. And even if you do not yet have high blood pressure, it is still a good idea to limit your salt intake before doctors orders leave you no alternative. The longer you continue to add a lot of salt to your food, the more accustomed you will be to it and the harder it is to cut down.

THE CASE FOR POTASSIUM

While our consumption of sodium has increased in recent years, so our consumption of potassium has tended to decrease, because processing removes much of the naturally occurring potassium. Insufficient potassium exaggerates the impact of sodium on the body, and it may be this imbalance which produces a rise in blood pressure. There is some evidence that potassium can reduce high blood pressure. Thus it is important not only to reduce the amount of sodium you consume, but also to increase your potassium intake.

Most natural foods contain potassium, and a balanced diet including all the essential foods usually provides sufficient potassium for most people.

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