7 Mind Over Heart Disease (Part 2)

image: The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

image: The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

Non-Ischaemic Heart Disease

Non-ischaemic heart disease, unlike ischaemic heart disease, actually affects the heart.

This group of symptoms is called

  • cardiomyopathy (literally, "illness of heart muscle"),
  • heart failure (meaning, "failure of the heart to do what it should, or do it very well"), and
  • valve problems/valvular disease (which includes the diagnosis of rheumatic fever)

Cardiomyopathy usually also includes

  • pericarditis or pericardial effusion. These symptoms affect the pericardium, which is actually the protective sac that surrounds the heart, and isn't part of the heart itself.

Prevention of Cardiomyopathy

Both our prevailing understanding of how the heart works and our belief about what causes cardiomyopathy are based on the underlying assumption that the heart is a pump. Its job is to push oxygenated blood around your body at a rate of about 5 litres per minute.

This essentially mechanical device is like an engine, but instead of about 300,000 kilometres in it, the heart's got about 2.7 billion beats in it.

The idea is, to prolong your "engine" life by keeping that engine well "tuned" which you do by getting your heart rate up a few times a week through concentrated aerobic exercise. This will make your resting heart rate slower, which will spread those 2.7 billion beats over a longer period of time!

Unfortunately, this won't help you if you've already got heart disease.

Or if your heart had a defect to start with.

Treatment

Other than hidden defects that "accumulate" over time, the only other conventionally-recognized causes of cardiomyopathy are extreme stress ("broken heart syndrome"), damage due to stimulants or poor nutrition (e.g. severe anemia), and rheumatic fever (a streptococcal infection which is thought to produce sore throat, joint inflammation, and, later, scarring in the heart valves).

The only treatments are medications or pacemakers to control heart rhythm, or surgery to correct tissue malformations.

How the Heart Really Works

The heart isn't actually a pump.

It's more like a grand central station of blood flow. It's an area where blood flow is coordinated, but it's not a forcing mechanism to push the blood throughout the body.

To pump 5L per minute through your 90,000 kilometres of blood vessels, your heart would have to be much bigger than your body! (Just think of how much effort it takes to inflate one of those long skinny balloons you use to make balloon animals. Now multiply that by a few hundred thousand...)

Blood flow is directed by fluid dynamics, just like cloud flow, river flow, the flow of the jet stream, even the flow of glaciers and the flow of the planets around the sun, spiralling through space.

This flow does not have a "pump" somewhere that initiates the flow (let alone initiating it 60-70 times per minute, the typical human heart rate).

So where does this energy come from to propel the blood through the body?

The energy for propulsion of the blood is embodied in the blood itself.

We know this because this pulsing, spiralling movement of the blood begins in embryos well before there is a heart to participate in the process.

So if the heart isn't a pump, and if heart problems aren't a result of mechanical damage or defect in the pump ...then where does non-ischaemic heart disease come from?

It comes from the same place that all symptoms come from: it is a biological response to an acute traumatic stress experience.

In the case of the heart muscle and its protective sac (the pericardium), the symptom is a biological response to a stress of feeling overwhelmed, or that your heart can't take what life has given you.

Listen to Episode 7 of the Mind Over Symptom Podcast, "Mind Over Heart Disease (Part 2)" to find out how and why non-ischaemic heart disease occurs, and what you can do about it.

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