Meditation Lessons

Meditation

Just saying this word to new cardiac rehabilitation patients would put them into a stress response. Meditate! Who has time for that? Yeah right some old hippy remedy, or what monks do.  I can’t do that. Most people don’t understand the purpose or how to meditate. Quieting the brain is the key to successful mediation. Many think they are relaxing when reading, watching television, or playing on the computer. These activities engage the brain they don’t quiet the brain. There are many benefits one can receive from meditation benefits:

1- It lowers oxygen consumption.
2- It decreases respiratory rate.
3- It increases blood flow and slows the heart rate.
4- Increases exercise tolerance.
5- Leads to a  deeper level of physical relaxation.
6- Good for people with high blood pressure.
7- Reduces anxiety attacks by lowering the levels of blood lactate.
8- Decreases muscle tension
9- Helps in chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis etc.
10- Helps in post-operative healing.
11- Enhances the immune system.
12- Reduces emotional distress
13- Enhances energy, strength and vigor.
14- Helps with weight loss
15- Reduction of free radicals, less tissue damage
16- Drop in cholesterol levels, lowers risk of cardiovascular disease.
17- Improved flow of air to the lungs resulting in easier breathing.
18- Prevented, slowed or controlled pain of chronic diseases
19- Relaxes our nervous system

20- Increases serotonin level, influences mood and behavior.

21- Resolve phobias & fears
22- Helps control own thoughts
23- Helps with focus & concentration
24- Improved learning ability and memory.
25- Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation.
26-Helps let go of the little things
27- Increased ability to solve complex problems

28- Helps keep things in perspective

29- Provides peace of mind, happiness
30- Helps you discover your purpose
31- Brings body, mind, spirit in harmony
32- Increased acceptance of oneself
33- Helps learn forgiveness
34- Changes attitude toward life
35- Helps living in the present moment

Meditation takes practice

I often talk about having a tool kit, and understanding how the tools work through knowledge and practice.  It may seem hard initially but with practice becomes easy. Then the next challenge is to remember to use your stress management, meditation and relaxation skill when you need them the most.  When stress occurs we rarely think “Oh lets mediate.” No we are busy responding to stress. With heart disease consider using when dealing with the emotional component of accepting the chronic health condition that heart disease can bring. Accepting it, forgiving yourself, letting go of the old you, accepting the new you, changing your lifestyle, the stress of relationships. Use it when anticipating or receiving medical care, waiting during fearful times.

You Can Meditate. Here are some tips for meditation that might make a daily meditation practice feel a little more manageable.

Practice

  • Find or create a quiet, relaxing environment.
  • Sit with good posture.
  • Relax the whole body, muscles, skin, tongue, ears, neck,…everything.
  • Let your attention focus on only the flow of your breath.
  • Silence your mind

“Rest” in the rare silence that meditation offers

  • You should be comfortable enough to concentrate, but not so comfortable that you feel the urge to sleep.
  • The benefits of meditation can be experienced long before the practitioner has been successful in maintaining focus or clearing the mind, simply as a result of the practice.
  • Make time to meditate. Start with 5-1o minutes.If you find it difficult to meditate for the length of time you have chosen, try a shorter time for a while. Almost anyone can meditate for a minute or two without experiencing intrusive thoughts. Then, as the mind calms, you gradually lengthen your meditation session until you have achieved the desired length of time.
  • It is easy to lose track of time while meditating. Being concerned about time can be distracting to meditation. Some people find it helpful to set a timer and let it be concerned about how long you have to meditate.
  • With good posture,you breathe easier as your lungs will have more space. In fact, you may notice how most of the muscles in your torso work to help you breathe, from the muscles in the base of your pelvis to the ones in your neck, centered on the main breathing muscle, the diaphragm. They work just a little, assisting the diaphragm. If you notice this, it’s a good sign you have established a good posture. The right posture is easy and comfortable.
  • Don’t worry about whether or not you are doing it right. Do what works best for you. What works for some people might have other techniques that might not work for you.
  • Trust the process.

 

Being in the present - If you are reflecting on past events – take a time out and be in the present. What around you is positive, is it the sunshine, the breeze, family, friends, a flower, a pet, a companion, a song…take the time to be in the present. Sure the past comes back, but if it is too much to bear and you can tell it is effecting your health, teach yourself through meditation to  be in the present.
Breathe - Sounds like a cliché right? Well it isn’t. When we experience a major stress we often breathe short and shallow only filling the top most portion of our lungs. Take a few deep cleansing breathes. Make your belly extend out when you breath in.  This is a great one to practice and use when you experience a health stress. If you are lying in the ER freaking out about what is happening and feeling powerless, use the breath. Meditate or focus on nothing more than taking a breath in through your nose, feel the air as it travels down into your chest. Try and make it feel like you are bringing the breath right down to your pelvis.Then slowly exhale out through your mouth. Listen to the sound, feel the cool air go in, and the warm air come out.
                                                                               
Imaging  - This one is my favorite for when those stressors haunt me at night and I can’t sleep. Put your focus to where you are feeling peaceful. For me it’s at the beach. What do you see? What do you feel – warm, cold, a breeze, the warm sand, the cool sand below? What do you smell? What do you hear – the waves lapping the shore, the birds, children laughing.  Sure at first you hear the clock ticking and the voices in your head pulling you away from your peaceful place, but the more you practice this the better you are at tuning them out. Initially just stop and acknowledge the things breaking you away, but then go back to your peaceful spot. This is a great one to practice during medical procedures, it helps to keep your heart rate, blood pressure and respiration rate lower, and gives you a sense of control.

Getting through the hard days

What do you do when you are having a hard day? Do you find yourself more emotional, snapping at everyone, crying frequently, using more tobacco or alcohol, eating more comfort foods? The ups and downs are a normal part of living with a chronic health condition. The challenge is to not allow the bad days to promote behaviors that can worsen your health or your relationships. Some days symptoms are more prevalent than others, those are the days to listen to your body and take it easy. Not every day is a record-setting day.

On the bad days consider:

  • What good things are happening in my life?
  • Is the situation really as bad as I perceive it?
  • What can I try to make things better?
  • Who can I talk to who will understand?
  • What is most important for me right now?

Bad days cause us to re-evaluate what is important on this day. What can I do without having symptoms? Can I limit what I had planned to do. Accept the limitations, and don’t ruminate on what you can’t get done. Listen to your bodies needs. Does it need a healthy meal, a rest, a light walk, meditation, a listening ear? Who is your support person? A spouse, a clergy, another person who lives with chronic illness, a support group, social media sites? Admitting limitations to family and asking for help are difficult for many but unless you verbalize your needs no one knows or is likely to give you the support you need. It is ok to cry to grieve, let it out then let it go. Move on from the frustrations and emotional grief. It will come back, and when it does acknowledge it and move on again.

  • Listen to music
  • Write a letter
  • Take a light walk
  • Do something that makes you feel good
  • Focus on what truly matters
  • Envision a better tomorrow
  • Do deep breathing, relaxation or meditation exercises
  • Start over
  • Call a friend

 

 

 

Grief and heart health

There is a link between grieving and heart problems. It wasn’t uncommon when interviewing a new  cardiac rehabilitation client to find many were grieving the loss of a loved one. In cardiac rehabilitation we would make sure to document it in their notes. Grief can be considered a risk factors for coronary artery disease. Often grieving is not addressed well enough from the medical community. Yes we label it on a chart, but what do we offer to help a person who is grieving?  Some suggestions include counseling, support groups, a listening ear, an opportunity to  reflect. It is especially important around holidays or anniversaries as many have increased heart symptoms which most likely are related to the grieving process.                                                                                           Tears of grief

Emotional distress is a common trigger of angina.

With loss many experience increased heart symptoms of chest pressure, chest discomfort, pain, heaviness, fatigue and energy loss.

 “Heartache the emotional pain recognition site in the brain is located near the region that senses and interprets sensations. When we suffer emotionally, the brain responds by releasing neurochemicals we experience in our body as an intense aching in our upper abdomen and lower chest. Grief-related stress can increase blood pressure and heart rate, raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol, constrict blood vessels, and disrupt cholesterol-filled plaques that line arteries. Any one of these changes raises the risk of heart attack.

Grief also makes blood “stickier” and therefore more likely to clot. Acute stress tends to increase levels of the hormones known as catecholamines which causes platelets to stick together. If a plaque bursts, the resulting clot is more likely to cut off blood to the heart.

American Heart Association’s Circulation reports scientists have found evidence that grief might actually break your heart. Studies show that people grieving the death of a close loved one could have a heart attack risk that is higher than normal.

The calculated the risk of a heart attack as 21 times higher in the first day after the loss of a loved one.  Risk declines steadily with each day after a loved one’s passing, but it remains eight times higher one week after the death and four times higher one month afterward, according to the American Heart Association journal Circulation

The link between grief and bereavement was strongest among people who had preexisting risk factors for heart disease and heart attacks, such as high blood pressure or unhealthy cholesterol levels. People mourning the loss of a loved one might further increase their heart-attack risk by sleeping poorly, eating less,  and skipping their medications. Other factors may include binge eating of comfort foods, increased alcohol or tobacco in an effort to comfort oneself from the intense loss.

.Grief

Broken Heart Syndrome; 

Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy is a type of heart failure caused by grief or stress where the left ventricle balloons out taking on an unusual shape like a Japanese fishing pot. The symptoms are the same as a heart attack but an electrocardiogram does not always show the problem. You experience chest pain, shortness of breath, arm pain, and sweating as in a classic heart attack but its different. Postmenopausal women who are grieving are the main patients who experience this type of heart failure. It is caused when experiencing grief, stress, emotional trauma, or physical stress. The best test to confirm this heart problem is a contrast echocardiogram or an angiograph which takes pictures of your heart. The recovery for this type of heart failure usually takes less time than a classic heart attack.

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Depression: Depression is part of the grief process. This grief causes a dark sadness, insomnia, lack of appetite, and weight loss. It is considered part of the normal process of healing. After months if the person does not heal, it can become permanent and steps need to be taken by a professional level.  Meaning it is time to discuss it with the healthcare practitioner, consider counseling and  consider medications. Some people even lose their will to live. To heal, grief must be addressed. It is not an expectation that it will end but it should decrease to where it isn’t always overwhelming and effecting quality of life or daily activity. At what point does grief turn into permanent depression that is life threatening? There is no simple answer to this question. It is generally advised, if the person has not begun to come out of their grief by a year, they probably need to seek professional help. The elderly have more challenges with grief and depression as there may be problems adjusting to life.  After spending 30 to 50 years with a spouse, they simply don’t know how to live without them. They often don’t eat healthy, skip medications, become isolated, consume more alcohol or tobacco which undermines health.

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Heart Patients must Prepare for Emergencies

Researchers have noticed that number of heart attacks increases during earthquakes and other natural disasters.

One reason may be that during a stressful episode, your heart’s need for oxygen increases but the body is unable to increase the blood flow through the diseased heart (ischemia). Stress hormones also make arteries narrow, which may cause a break in the fatty material built up in the blood vessel.

Do you have enough Heart Medications  in the event of an emergency?

Do you have accessibility to all your medications? What medications are critical to not run out of? Having a supply of prescription medications on hand in the event of a disaster or weather emergency could mean the difference between survival or being another number added to the death toll. Most prescriptions are dispensed as 30-day units through retail pharmacies with refills available after 75% of use, leaving a monthly medication reserve of 7 days. For patients to acquire 14- to 30-day disaster medication reserves, health professionals understand there are many barriers including restrictive insurance benefits, patients’ resistance to mail order, and higher co payments. Physicians, pharmacists, and insurers also vary widely in their preparedness planning. It can be difficult to get a physician or a pharmacist in the event of disasters.

Getting more than a 30 day supply, in the U.S., can be difficult if not impossible.Even if you have a sympathetic doctor that you can talk into writing an extended prescription, getting around the insurance company’s “three month limit” policy can be an insurmountable roadblock. So how do you stock up on prescription medical supplies? How do you get enough on hand to see you through an extended emergency, one that could last for days or weeks?

Be prepared to pay for the extra medications entirely out of your own pocket. This could get expensive rather quickly, so consider what medications you absolutely cannot be without such as pressure medications, diuretics, insulin, blood thinners. You can ask your physician for samples to prepare for emergencies.

Diabetes Medications Emergency Preparedness

Everyone needs to be prepared for emergencies–but a person with diabetes has additional issues to consider. When establishing your disaster preparation kit, include a seven-day supply of some diabetic foods and a seven-day supply of medications and testing equipment. Blood sugar levels should be carefully monitored during an emergency because the added stress may cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate more than normal.

People with diabetes should tell rescue workers and/or shelter staff that they have diabetes. They should also drink plenty of clean water, watch what they eat, and stick with the regular testing and medication schedule.

For more information, visit http://www.ready.gov/seniors

Living with an LVAD emergency preparedness 

Battery life becomes an issue without electricity. Does your local EMS know that you have a LVAD and will need electricity to stay alive? If you do not have a generator to keep your batteries charged in the event of a power outage, call your local Emergency Medicine Station and let them know you may be in need of help.

You can safely plug your battery charger into a generator to charge batteries, and you can safely plug in your power base unit to maintain the internal battery to a generator. DO NOT hook up to the power base unit that is being powered by a generator. Generators experience power surges, and you cannot be hooked up to the pbu. STAY ON BATTERY POWER throughout the power outage. If you do not have a means to charge batteries, contact your local EMS, explain your medical need for power, and take your battery charger to the EMS to charge batteries. If you cannot drive, ask them to send transportation for you or to supply you with a generator. If you have any questions or problems, please call your LVAD Coordinator on call at your hospital center.

  Another thing to do in the event of power outage…If you cannot keep your power base unit plugged into a generator, please remove the battery from the bottom of the PBU. There are instructions for doing this in your HeartMate II manual. If you do not remove the internal battery, the low battery alarm will continue to squeal at you! Also, this may damage the battery. Again, if you have questions, call your LVAD Coordinator on call.

Nutrition in emergencies

If you are sensitive to sodium and have to cope with no electricity do you have access to foods that won’t put you in congestive heart failure. Many pre packaged ready to eat meals are very high in sodium. This can add additional stress to your cardiovascular system, which may be already stressed due to the emergency. Will others know if you have special nutritional needs?

Hydration:     Liquids are important to your health do you have access to clean water?

The power of breath

░ Pause For A Few Seconds: Breathe ░

Turn off everything else, just for a couple of minutes if you can. An ideal time is after exercise, spend those few moments  to center your self. It takes practice and isn’t all that easy. Your mind quickly is thinking through the next task or issue.

Don’t listen to the brain, listen to the breath.

Yoga for Heart Patients

Yoga is a form of exercise that allows you to build strength, flexibility and develop specific breathing patterns that are beneficial with activity. For heart patients it is essential that you start lightbreath easy and only take the pose to where you are comfortable. Avoid straining the muscles. If you had open heart surgery with a standard sternal incision you will want to wait 10-12 weeks until you sternum is well knit together. Avoid any postures that cause a click or shift in the sternum. 

 

Yoga poses for heart health

There are several poses that you can use in order to increase the health of your heart, and these poses are designed to help your blood to circulate properly and strengthen the heart muscle. The warrior pose and the triangle pose are designed to promote cardiovascular exercise, and prompt you to breathe strategically and adequately. This helps you to increase your stamina, which gives you more energy to complete your daily activities and allow your heart to pump blood through the body quicker. This will help the body to replenish itself quicker, and can even help you to sleep better. The tree pose, the mountain pose, and the lotus pose not only work to strengthen the heart, but can be used to increase flexibility, which can prevent muscle cramping in the future. 

In addition to poses like the mountain pose and the tree pose to help manage and prevent heart disease, doctors have also recommended a healthy diet. Yoga can relieve stress and promote flexibility. The actual improvement of the heart has been proven by many doctors, like Satish Sivasankaran. They have done a study of the benefits of yoga on the heart, and have found that many individuals who practice yoga on a regular basis have had regulated heart beat and circulation. Individuals who may have suffered heart attacks and strokes were able to recover faster by participating in yoga.

 
 

 

 

How Does Yoga Help In Combating This Disease?

A study, published in Journal of The Association of Physicians of India (JAPI), establishes the reversibility of heart disease through yoga. Study was on angiographic ally proven CAD patients, of whom 71 formed the study group and 42 the control group. And the results proved that the serum total cholesterol levels had reduced by 23.3%, disease had regressed in 43.7% and progression was arrested in another 46.5% of the patients. Some marked improvements were noticed in anxiety levels of patients. Controlled yoga combining calming and stimulating measures resulted in reduced serum cholesterol, LDL and triglyceride levels.