The heart is, from an orthodox point of view, a four-chambered muscle that pumps the blood around the system. Despite every author and poet being aware that a broken heart is an inevitability for most of us at some time in our life no credibility is given to the emotional aspects that surround it.

Eastern philosophies describe heart energy as both a distributor and a seat of emotion, particularly of love and understanding. Blood nourishes all parts of the body providing nutrients and oxygen which are the material manifestations of the ‘energy’ that the Eastern philosophies have spoken about for 5,000 years. Once again it is interesting to see how modern science is slowly but surely reaching the same conclusions that have been around for millennia.

Heart attack

A heart attack is the lay-person’s term for a pathological cessation of the normal function. If the heart stops beating, the blood can no longer circulate and death will ensue within 2min due to a deprivation of oxygen to the brain. The heart will stop for only a few reasons.

A fault in the electrical conduction system, the causes of which are emotional shock, electrical shock, certain drugs and diseases. There is little that can be done to prevent the sudden shocks but a close look at drug use and cardiac disease may prevent the situation.

Disease of the heart muscle. This is unusual but can be brought on by an excess of alcohol or by bacterial/viral infections affecting the heart valves in particular but also the muscles. There is an overlap with oxygen deprivation since disease of the blood vessels will limit blood flow. A lack of oxygen to the heart muscle cells. Arterial occlusion can build up over many years or, less commonly, be caused by a clot forming in the coronary vessels. These are the most common causes of heart attacks. Spasm of the coronary arteries may also cause a lack of oxygen to reach the heart muscle and the reasons for this range from shock to toxins. If a coronary artery becomes blocked by a clot, it is known as a coronary thrombosis. If an area of the heart is deprived of oxygen for more than a few seconds, the cells will die off and that area is said to have infarcted. The terms coronary thrombosis and myocardial infarction are often used synonymously with heart attack but may only reflect a couple of the causes.

Rarely are heart attacks symptomless. The stories that we hear of an individual in the prime of life suddenly dropping on the squash court are unusual. A heart attack is usually pre-empted by a severe gripping pain in the chest often radiating to the neck and down the left arm. Discomfort through to the back and down the right arm is less common. Dizziness and nausea are frequent and all of these symptoms are associated with a shortness of breath. Many other reasons for chest and upper abdominal pain may mimic mild heart attacks and an interesting differentiating point is the marked fear that is most frequently mentioned by those who have had heart attacks. The orthodox world offers no explanation but if one assumes that the centre of emotion sits in the heart then perhaps the Eastern philosophies do explain the presence of fear with a heart attack.

Without emergency medical intervention, survival from a major heart attack is unlikely. Minor heart attacks have a better prognosis but are dire warnings for a probably imminent major attack. Seek medical advice immediately.

I think it is imperative that we are all educated in emergency resuscitation and I believe this should be part of all school curricula. Sadly it is not and therefore I hope the description here on emergency resuscitation and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation will be ample in providing a basic description. I would recommend that everyone, especially parents, spend some time on a first-aid course or at the very least practise this technique on a large teddy bear! Do not practise emergency resuscitation on a well person.

Recognizing a cardiac arrest

The individual may collapse suddenly or collapse after initial mild or severe complaints of chest pain, shortness of breath or total inability to breathe or pains into the neck or down the arm.

Resuscitation concerns ABC :

A – Check that there is no visible obstruction in the mouth or the throat.

B – Watch the chest for no more than 10s to see if there is any movement. You may also listen to the mouth and nose for any air passage sounds. C – Place three fingers in the space between the Adam’s apple and the strap muscle of the neck . Move the fingers around a little bit whilst applying moderate, but not strong, pressure to see if you can feel any pulsation in the carotid artery.

Heart failure

There are two functional sides to the heart: the right side collects blood that has been around the body prior to pumping it into the lungs, and the left side receives the oxygenated blood prior to pumping it through the aorta to the rest of the body.

The term ‘heart failure’ means just that. If severe it may be life-threatening but, if mild, symptoms occur depending on which side of the heart is failing. Right-sided failure will lead to a back-up of blood in the venous system, leading to water retention and most commonly oedema in the legs. Left-sided failure will not allow oxygen to reach the part of the body and this, in combination with the lungs not being able to empty, will cause shortness of breath , lethargy and tiredness. Persistent left-sided failure will eventually lead to right-sided congestion and a failing on that side as well.

Heart failure is a consequence of heart muscle disease, heart attacks, infections, pollution, deficiencies and certain drugs. High blood pressure, heart valve disease and congenital defects such as hole-in-the-heart can all cause heart failure.

You may then proceed to the following steps.


Send somebody for medical assistance but do not go yourself if you are alone. Hopefully someone will turn up. The delay you may create by going for help may cost the individual’s life.

Once the patient has been resuscitated you may give Aconite 6, four pills under the tongue, but nothing else.


Symptoms suggestive of heart failure need to be reviewed by a GP and a cardiac specialist.

Treatment for heart failure should be under the care of an experienced complementary medical practitioner.

Undergo blood tests to isolate deficiencies, particularly in iron and its carrier-protein ferritin, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Also check for environmental pollutants through blood and bioresonance techniques.

Discuss with your health carer the use of herbal treatments such as Crataegus, and other herbal mixtures. Homeopathic remedies such as Digitalis, Cactus and Aurum metallicum are amongst those that have a strong cardiac influence. Selection must be accurate to be effective and a homeopath should be consulted.

Avoid straining the heart but ensure that correct exercise programmes are undertaken. Yoga, which pays special attention to the concept of a heart chakra, is essential.

Correct diet must be low salt, low alcohol and include no caffeine.

Spend time with a meditation teacher or religious advisor to establish the underlying causes of emotional blocks. Suppressed emotion and rage are two underlying factors for the heart to fail.

Heart beat – irregular or blocked

Arrhythmia is the medical term for an irregular heart beat. The heart beat is generally not felt but at times of stress, whether physical from exercise or mental from anxiety, the tension in the diaphragm and chest muscles and the increased frequency and strength of the heart itself can lead to the beat becoming noticeable. ‘Irregularity’ can be noted on inspiration when the heart rate slows, and on expiration, when it may speed up. This is a physiological variation and not considered an arrhythmia.

Arrhythmias can take the form of increased beats, decreased rate or missed beats. Please learn how to take a pulse. Place your middle and index finger on your wrist below the creases of the wrist on the side of the thumb. Apply gentle pressure and you will feel the radial pulse. This should be beating at a rate of 60-75 beats per minute although a rate of 50 is acceptable in very fit athletes and up to 85 if anxious or having mildly exercised. Outside this range it should be considered too slow or too fast .

The heart has a comparatively simple electrical system that initiates and controls the beating. A small section of tissue known as the sinoatrial node builds up and releases a charge at around

The electrical conduction system of the heart. impulses per minute. This spreads through electrical conducting tissues known as Purkinje fibres, which travel to the atrioventricular node before distributing to all of the heart muscles. This atrioventricular node also has an intrinsic beat of around 40 impulses per minute and acts as a failsafe should the sinoatrial node fail. The autonomic nervous system sends impulses through the vagus nerve from the brain, controlling the heart rate acccording to our oxygen demand, in other words whether we are at rest or exercising.

Any interference with this electrical system will cause an irregularity in the beat. Anxiety and fear will stimulate a faster rate by blocking the suppressive action of the vagus nerve. Hormones or other chemicals such as drugs can have a direct affect on the sinoatrial node. Trauma such as an electrical shock and disease processes including myocardial infarction can lead to interruption or disturbance of the electrical system.

If overstimulation occurs then palpitations and a fast heart beat can be registered or, alternatively, if the action of the interference is suppressive then a slower beat or a heart block may occur. There are many types of heart block depending on whether the individual is simply missing one beat every five, for example, or depending on which fibres are blocked. One may have right- or left-heart fibre bundle branch block, which are simply medical terms to indicate the area of obstruction.

Symptoms of heart block are varied. Some may not be noticed unless a routine is performed, whereas others are severe enough to cause heart failure or even a heart attack.

Orthodox medical investigation is essential and avoidance of any obvious causes a must.

Complementary treatment must only be initiated by an experienced complementary practitioner because many herbal treatments prescribed in the wrong way may be dangerous.

Diet is important and the restriction of alcohol, caffeine and other neuro-affecting substances are all very important.

Yoga is essential because it works on the heart muscles from an aerobic point of view and also because of its effect on any heart chakra weakness or excess. It is best to have an exercise programme set by a cardiologist if more aggressive exercise is desired.

Any heart problem is frightening. Talk about your fears with your GP.


Tachycardia is excessive beating of the heart at a rate above that expected for the level of activity. Exercise may raise the heart rate to above 200 beats per minute but should lower swiftly. If it does not then a tachycardic state is said to exist .


Palpitations are the experience of feeling the heart beating in the chest. There are a variety of sensations, some of which are physiological and not to be worried about. Heavy exercise can induce a fast heart rate , which is felt because of tension in the diaphragm and chest wall muscles. Palpitations must be considered pathological if the sensation is one of an irregular nature. The heart should beat rhythmically at varying speeds, depending on the level of oxygen requirement but an irregular heart beat is inevitably pathological. This does not mean that it is dangerous because several conditions, such as atrial fibrillation , can create an irregular heart beat that may be recognized as a palpitation without it being life-threatening.

The rate of the heart is controlled by nerve tissues within the heart which are in turn controlled by two nerve centres known as the sinoatrial and the atrioventricular nodes.

Further control is exerted by the autonomic nervous system through the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sinoatrial node sends out impulses that cause the heart muscles to contact at a rate of approximately 70 beats per minute. Should this node fail for any reason, the atrioventricular node will cause the heart to continue to beat but at a slower rate. Any disease or traumatic condition that affects the nodes or conducting system, the central nervous system or the hormones that have an effect on nervous tissue, such as adrenaline and thyroxine, can create an irregular beat. Thyroxine in particular can trigger atrial fibrillation producing an irregular palpitation.

Diseases of the heart muscles, often created by a lack of oxygen following a heart attack or by the build up of atheroma, can cause areas of heart muscle to release their own impulses, triggering contraction of the whole heart.

The autonomic nervous system can be affected by anxiety, phobias and depression, all of which can create a palpitation either by directly interfering with the heart rate or by creating tension within the thorax . The heart and nervous system are sensitive to toxins, and a variety of drugs such as caffeine, nicotine from cigarettes, amphetamines, cocaine and other drugs of abuse may trigger palpitations. Thyroxine replacement and other doctor-prescribed medication may also have an effect. Hypertension may lead to palpitations because of an increased heart muscle size or the need for the heart to beat with more strength to get the blood past obstructive blood vessels.

The actual sensation of a palpitation is created by tension within the chest, therefore any levels of anxiety or nervousness may make an individual aware of the heart beat.

As with any heart problem, according to Eastern philosophies the difficulty is not with the heart itself but with the energy to the heart. Heart energy reflects fear and emotions usually associated with relationships and these aspects must be addressed for any other treatments to be effective and permanent.


Any sensation of an irregular heart beat that is not associated with exercise or a sudden shock, and palpitations that are persistent, must be seen by a GP.

If a palpitation occurs that is irregular in nature or is associated with shortness of breath or chest pain, this must be treated as an emergency. On the way to hospital apply gentle pressure with two fingers just to the side of the Adam’s apple where the pulse in the carotid artery can be felt. There are two nerve centres either side of the Adam’s apple, which, if stimulated, can slow down the heart. This technique should not be employed if the palpitation is noted to be slow.

Aconite 6 should be taken every 5min until medical attention is received.

An ECG will trace the electrical system’s effects on the heart and, occasionally, if the palpations are sporadic throughout the day a Hotter monitor may be employed which measures the electrical system throughout a 24hr period.

Try to isolate any causative factor such as a food, drink or drug that may create palpitations. Food allergy testing may be required.

If no reason for palpations is found, consult a complementary medical practitioner with experience in pulse, tongue or other diagnostic techniques.

Palpitations may be created by conscious or subconscious anxiety and a meditation or relaxation technique would be preferable. Counselling may be required.

For palpitations that are irregular, see Heartbeat – irregular.

The homeopathic remedies Crategus, Digoxin and the snake poisons Naja or Lachesis may be reviewed. Any heart problem should be dealt with by professionals and a homeopathic opinion is best sought.

Self-prescribed herbal treatments are best avoided, but in the hands of an expert herbal treatments may be used with comparative safety.

Chinese or Tibetan herbal medicine may be associated with acupuncture. Masters in the art may actually insert an acupuncture needle that will touch the heart. Be very wary!

Cardiac drugs or other medication, depending upon the cause, are generally effective and potentially life-saving. These should not be ignored or avoided if prescribed.

Rarely, cardioversion using electrical shock may be required or a pacemaker may need to be fitted. The latter is a small electrical device that instructs the heart and nervous system to beat at a set rate. Surgery is infrequently required for palpations.

Heart transplant

This life-saving interventional surgery is one of the major successful advances in modern medicine. There is, obviously, no alternative treatment but see Atheroma and Cholesterol to avoid congesting the new heart’s blood vessels. There are causes other than coronary thrombosis that lead to the requirement of a heart transplant and again prevention is the best cure.


See Atheroma and Cholesterol. See Operations and surgery. breathing. The symptoms are breathlessness and a cough, which initially may be dry and will produce a frothy pink sputum. Valvular disease and heart attacks are the most common causes.