By: Savannah Russell, L.Ac., Dipl. O.M.
“If Shen is strong, the body is strong; If we lose Shen, the body will perish” – excerpt from the Huang Di Nei Jing
We all know a little something about the heart. It is an oddly shaped organ in our chest that pumps blood and goes lub dub. We need our heart to continue living so we all want to take care of it, but based on statistics, we may need to take a different approach to our heart health. According to the American College of Cardiology, Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) accounts for 800,000 deaths a year in the United States. That is one out of every three deaths! The American Heart Association estimates that an American has an heart attack every 40 seconds. Those are scary statistics, but luckily we can provide a more holistic approach to heart health that will put you in a better place to not become one of those numbers.
In Chinese Medicine, all of the organs have their responsibilities. These responsibilities are not purely physical, they are also spiritual and psychological. The Heart is one of the most important organs because it is considered to be the emperor. The emperor sets the stage for the rest of the body to follow. In the Western world, we would probably consider the brain to be the emperor. So what is it about the Heart that made the Chinese decide it was the leader? The Heart has the very important function of housing the Shen, or “spirit”. Shen is the force that animates your body. It gives you the sparkle of life in your eyes and gives you the ability to make meaningful connections. It is the center of all our mental and physical processes and this is why it is the emperor.
Diet and exercise are very important to keep the heart healthy, but it is equally important to maintain healthy Shen. The Shen is healthy when there is a sense of peace and a purpose. The element that corresponds with the Heart is fire which seems incredibly fitting because when we do something that we are passionate about, something that lights a fire in our soul, our Shen is healthy. Recent western research has shown that there is a correlation between our emotions and heart health. For example, high stress environments will raise the blood pressure. This is why discovering your passion and chasing your dreams is so important! Ideally, we would all be living our dream, but unfortunately that isn’t reality in today’s society. Luckily, there are some solutions to help manage stress and maintain healthy Shen.
The first and maybe most important solution is to reduce stress! There are a plethora of ways to reduce stress from meditation to exercise. Make sure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep and eating a healthy, balanced diet. The color that corresponds with the Heart is red, so red foods are especially beneficial for the Heart! Regular exercise will help keep the Heart strong. This doesn’t mean you need to go on a five mile run every day! Try walking, qi gong, tai chi, yoga, dance, martial arts, or something else that you enjoy doing that keeps you active. And of course acupuncture is a wonderful and effective way to reduce stress and maintain a healthy Heart. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce blood pressure and treat arrhythmia, angina, palpitations, and more!
Acupuncture is always best as a preventative medicine, but if you are currently experiencing any disorders involving your Heart, please schedule a free consult with us to discuss how acupuncture can help you!