HEART DISEASE A NEW DIRECTION

( By Dr Ramesh Kapadia )

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Non-Physical Causes Of CHD

Isolation

Isolatin is a major cause of coronary heart disease, skin diseases, and even cancer. Isolation is not merely loneliness or solitude. It is a sense of aloofness, unconnectedness, even alienation. It is an emotional condition, an acute feeling that a person is left all alone high and dry in almost all situations that matter to him or have a meaning of his existence. Often retirement leads to this condition. For instance, a retired executive, who has enjoyed power once, feels that now that he is out of office people have ceased to respect him. A young man striving to build his career may have a stern boss or uncooperative and hostile colleagues to deal with; and is compelled to continue in his job suppressing his anger and helplessness. A talented person might feel that his talent is not recognised, he is not appreciated and feels quite bitter. Even domestic discord and tension might make one feel rather isolated in one's home in the midst of near and dear ones. A spouse might feel isolated when one of the couple feels neglected by the other who might be over-occupied and lost in his or her pursuits. A child might feel isolatated when parents are too busy to give due attention and care, particularly if the child has a problem and needs support. Loss of his spouse after a long and happy married life creates a void and is a major risk-factor resulting in heart attack or even cancer during the first year of bereavement. At times a virtuous person laments the lack of virtue all around and might feel isolated. Metaphysical anguish also causes isolation. In short, the causes of isolation are numerous and complex. In the modern world of wholesale competition, stress and isolation creep in from all directions. Isolation is spiritual when a person drifts away from his inner self and pursues job, business and social commitments quite against his conscience. Isolation often breeds hostility, cynicism, selfcentredness, a sense of guilt and gloom which lead to serious illness, particularly coronary heart disease. It has a very adverse effect on the body, specially on the immune system and blood chemistry. The isolated individual may take to alcohol, tobacco-chewing, and smoking which might further aggravate the risk of coronary heart disease. When a person feels that he alone is pitchforked in a particular situation or predicament, he feels isolated like that Hunchback of Notre Dame or one struck with leprosy or leucoderma. When one is irrascible, frustrated, gloomy or over egocentric he is isolated.

How to overcome isolation? The way is to connect. But then how do we connect? We have a very heartening evidence of experience of our universal healing program. Meditation does heal isolation. Our major limitation is that we perceive ourselves limited to space and time. In our non- meditative mood our mind keeps on wandering from the present moment back into the past and forth into the future and thus uprooting us from the present; this isolates us. During meditation one cultivates the habit of staying in the present moment - the eternal NOW. And being one with the breath, which is prana or life-force, is to experience the state of being connected with one's larger self and through that with the whole universe. This ultimately results in peace and calm of mind reflected in the increase in the alpha activity of the brain. In other words, to meditate is to connect; and the moment one gets connected isolation ebbs away.

Along with meditation, group discussion and the sharing of feeling are also effective means of freedom from isolation. After meditation one feels at peace with not only one's own self but also with the world at large. This encourges the individual to share feeling through group discussion. This is also a vital aspect of our healing program. It has a magic effect of relieving isolation. During group discussion, through heart- to-heart exchange of ideas, which might not necessarily solve a problem, the load of the pent up feeling of isolation is taken off and one experiences great relief.

Isolation is painful because it saps the real joy of living. It distances us from the inner sources of joy, peace, and strength. It is a great drain on one's potential as a human being. In the treatment of isolation there is a need to connect with the world within (vertical connection) and the world without (horizontal connection).

Hostility

The dictionary meaning of histility is 'revengeful attitude.' In its larger sense it includes extreme intolerance, aggressive behaviour, unreasonable anger and dislike for an individual. Normally we consider tolerance as a virtue, but in reality if you tolerate halfheartedly with an inner dislike, it is nothing but the suppressed anger, and it has the same deleterious effect as anger has on the heart. Hostility can be due to the lack of parental care during childhood which results in a sense of insecurity and injustice at home or at school from colleagues and teachers. Children who have experienced such injustice during childhood feel very bitter about everything, and develop hostility against the whole world on slightest pretext. Hostility breeds extremely irritable temper and selfcentredness with cynical attitude towards everything. With this temperament one looks at everyone with contempt and feels isolated.


Test Your Hostility Level

To get an impression of how hostile you tend to be, answer the following questions in each of the 3 areas that research has shown to be critical : cynicism, anger, and aggression. Though this questionnaire is not a scientifically validated test; it will give you a sense of how you measure in these 3 aspects of hostility.

Cynicism



  • When in the express lane at the supermarket, do you often count the number of items in the baskets of the people in front of you to make sure that they are not over the limit?


  • When an elevator does not come as quickly as you think it should, do your thoughts focus on the inconsiderate behaviour of the person on another floor who is holding it up?


  • Do you frequently check up on family members or coworkers to make sure that they have not committed a mistake in a certain task?

Anger



  • When you are held up in a slow line of traffic, the bank, or the supermarket, do you feel your heart pounding and your breath quickening?


  • When minor things go wrong, do you feel like lashing out at the world?


  • When someone criticizes you, do you begin to feel annoyed?

Aggression



  • If an elevator stops too long on the floor above you, are you likely to pound on the door?


  • If people mistreat you, do you look for an opportunity to pay them back, just for the principle of the matter?


  • Do you frequently find yourself muttering at the TV during a news broadcast?

If you have answered yes to at least one question in eah section or to four or more questions overall, then your hostility level is probably high.

This questionnaire was taken from page 79 of the book Mind Body Medicine by Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. (c) 1993 Naras Bhat, M.D., Stress Cybernetix.

Selfcentredness

Selfcentredness arises out of a sense of utter insecurity. When an individual feels very insecure. he seeks self-interest without the least concern for others. Even at the prospect of harming others he sticks to self-interest. One becomes so very ego- centric that it tends to narrow not only one's outlook on life but also one's arteries.

Cynicism

When an individual finds fault with everything, good or bad, and has lost all faith in goodness of life, he becomes contemptuously cynical; and this attitude again, according to Dr. Dean Ornish, poisons the heart.

Job Stress

Stress due to the insecurity of job, a sense of injustice, a constant tussle with the boss, non- cooperation of colleagues, ambition to rise above everyone else in a short time, jealously and vicious competition are the apparent causes of heart attack amongst the youth. In business, financial, managerial and labour problems cause great stress.

A 35-year old young employee of the State Bank of India, who had come under the influence of Sri Aurobindo and Mataji was living a contented healthy life. At one of the exams conducted by the Bank for promotion, a colleague with much less competence got the promotion and he was left out. For nearly three years he remained stressed under the sense of severe injustice and felt isolated. He was struck with a coronary episode. After angiography he was even advised bypass surgery. A great sense of dissatisfaction and alienation from the whole world probably resulted in coronary heart disease.

Family Stress

An unexpected financial crisis, a long drawn expensive illness, marital problems, shocking catastrophic family events and conflicts with children are usually the causes of the family stress which may also result in coronary heart disease in the individuals who are prone to it on other scores.

Greed

We live in a socioeconomic set-up where for the whole day one has to work hard at the inhuman speed of physical and intellectual work. Man has come to believe that to move physically and intellectually is to live. The way we move we go on collecting things at material level, knowledge on the intellectual level, and experience on the sensual and physical level. With every experience and achievement, we build up our ego and create an enclosure around us. In that enclosure we feel secure and live secluded and isolated from our real self because of the sense of possession.

Greed is a very common human trait. If something benefits an individual he would naturally like to have more of it. In pursuit of anything whether it is name, fame, money, possessing rare antique articles, books, paintings, and other worldly goods there is a thin line between greed and ambition. Even in good pursuits like spreading humanitarian ideas, such as usefulness of yoga in everyday life, one may overstep.

Money Function Curve

The accompanying money function curve demonstrates how greed for material possessions is self-defeating in the end. The Money Function Curve shows the amount of money spent and the fulfilment that money brings. First, the amount of money spent is for survival. The amount of money spent increases to bring you to a level of comfort. The amount of money spent then brings you to a level of luxury. Once the amount of money spent goes beyond the point of luxury, you begin purchasing your own death in installments. As the function curve shows, the individual begins to experience irritability, death of "feeling brain", insomnia, social and legal problems, and diseases.

"Every affection of the mind that is attended with pain or pleasure, hope or fear, is the cause of an agitation, whose influence extends to the heart." This golden quotation of William Harvey summarises succinctly the effects of emotins on the heart. Coronary arteries are very sensitive to emotions, good or bad. The intensity of emotion results in the narrowing of the coronary artery and increased viscosity of blood. We have seen that psychosocial factors like hostility, selfcentredness, cynicism, isolation along with family and job stress are the major causes of the rising incidence of coronary heart disease. It is obvious that the routine medical management including drugs and surgery is not able to deal with these root causes of the problem. Psychotherapy and psychotropic drugs also help marginally in mitigating the effects of these factors and that too, not without some undesirable side effects. On the other hand the indepth stress management on the lines of the Universal Healing Program has proved its usefulness in a big way.

The man who gets angry at the right things and with right people and in the right way and at the right time and for the right length of time is commended.


- Aristotle
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