Friday, 17 August 2012

Heart Health #1

A man who wears tight collars - Russia's Dmitry Medvedev  


he heart – and all acupoints related to that organ – are major targets in martial arts.

Advanced practitioners have an intimate knowledge of where to hit, how to hit, at what angle to hit and when to hit. Many advanced martial artists also rely on the same knowledge to heal the heart. They also know how to prevent heart problems.

I plan to post a lot about cardiovascular issues and how traditional martial artists approach both the prevention of those issues as well as the healing aspects.

Today, I’d like to begin the series with some preventive strategies, basic ideas on limiting the possibilities of the onset of a stroke or a heart attack.

Of course the primary strategy always remains the same – regular and thorough checkups by a physician. My suggestions cannot replace a doctor’s advice. They’re more in the realm of lifestyle strategies, precauti0onary measures that can go a long way in helping ease the strain on perhaps an already overburdened heart.

Shovelling snow forces the chest down against the abdomen



1.  Ease up on the tight collars and neckties.  You don’t need any restrictions on the blood flowing into your head.  Also, watch for tight shoes, especially around the ankles.  Tight watch bands might place extra pressure on the inside of your wrist. Clothing that’s too tight around the waist creates and inward pressure on the abdomen.  With nowhere else to go, the abdomen presses upward against the region of the heart.

2.  Cold weather forces the heart to pump harder in order to bring heat to the surface of the body. Breathing frigid air slows down oxygen transfer in the lungs which means the heart has to push harder, especially if you’re shoveling snow.
3.   Heavy meals.  The heart has to send extra blood into the digestive system to manage big meals, especially food that takes a long time to digest. A stomach full to bursting creates an upward pressure into the region of the heart and solar plexus. That’s dangerous.

Massage helps open up the cardiovascular system



More danger.  Leaning forward and down, forces the chest against the abdomen.  Add the strain of pushing and lifting snow (plus your age, weight, level of fitness and high blood pressure) and you have a potentially lethal mix.


Working in extreme cold or heat can be dangerous for the heart.  Dehydration from working in hot conditions can lead to heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.


Stress, worry, nervousness, anxiety, panic, anger, muscle tension, fatigue, injury, illness, blood pooling, overeating, muscular imbalance, poor posture...can force the body inward causing extra pressure on the heart.


Open up...straighten your back; let the chest out rather than sink inward; open the arms out relaxing the muscles; stretch and relax the hips to improve blood flow to the legs; learn to relax your jaw, mouth, eyes and temples; stretch and relax your throat and neck to help blood flow into the head.

Working with rather than against the heart is a matter of attitude, practise and lifestyle! One year after a heart attack, 80% of first time heart attack victims have returned to the poor lifestyle habits that contributed to their cardiac events.  Why?


1.  Gently massage the chest in big, sweeping circles from the heart out to the arms and sides of ribs.

2.  Now massage the shoulders and underarms.

3.  Return to massaging the chest outward.

4.  Work down the inside of the arm. Gently massage the underarms, the inside of the elbow, the inside of the wrists and the palms of the hands, especially along the little finger side.

5.  Massage the abdomen sideways and downward, not upwards.

Extremes in temperature can be dangerous for the heart


6.  Massage the hips, legs and especially the feet.

7.  Stretch the arms and legs, particularly the hips and inner thigh muscles.

8.  Stretch the shoulders.  Gently tilt the head sideways toward the shoulder.

9.  Massage the sides of the back of the neck, breathing slowly and deeply.

10. Finally massage from the chest all along the inside of the arms and legs in one go gently as though you’re washing yourself.  Close your eyes.  Breathe slowly and deeply.

Massage can help decrease pressure on the heart by relaxing the muscles allowing for easier blood flow. Gentle massage of the chest area also “opens up” the region of the heart, reducing pressure. Massage - whether you do it yourself or someone does it for you - is also a great stress reliever.

I’m dedicated to sharing as much information as possible on this topic. Please watch for similar posts in the future!

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