The heart and its vessels
The heart is a hollow organ composed of four chambers (two ventricles and two atria) whose regular contractions allow oxygenated blood to be pushed into the arteries to supply all the cells of the body.
Therefore, it is an essential organ and is in turn vascularized by two arteries: the coronary arteries because they form a crown around it.
The oxygenated blood leaves the left ventricle and is expelled into the aorta, which is the largest artery in the body.
It then divides into smaller and smaller arteries until it finally reaches the size of the capillaries and thus supplies all the cells in the body with oxygen and nutrients.
The CO2-laden blood is returned through the veins to the vena cava, which ends in the right atrium of the heart before being propelled through the right ventricle to the lungs.
The blood, once charged with oxygen, returns to the heart through the left atrium.
Atherosclerosis: the cause of the heart attack
Myocardial infarction is caused by a blockage in one of the coronary arteries. This “blockage” (or thrombus) is related to the presence of atheroma plaques on the internal walls of the arteries.
These deposits form over the years in the form of plaques and end up either completely blocking the artery, or breaking off and releasing a piece of this plaque in the form of a thrombus that will migrate and completely block an artery such as a coronary artery for example: this is called a heart attack.
These atheromatous plaques or atherosclerosis are essentially composed of lipids that are deposited over the years.
Most of the time they are asymptomatic, but as they grow they can impede blood circulation and cause the appearance of symptoms such as pain, dizziness, shortness of breath with less and less effort, or intermittent claudication, that is, difficulty walking due to insufficient oxygen supply to the muscles.
Atheromatous plaques tend to develop at the bifurcation of the arteries.
It is at these points that eddies are formed due to high blood pressure, as river water does when it meets the pillars of a bridge, for example.
These eddies will slightly damage the wall by raising so-called endothelial cells that are on the surface of the inner wall of the artery.
Obviously, the higher the blood pressure, the more damage the eddies will cause.
The white blood cells and platelets will then intervene to cure the lesion and this is how the atheroma plaque begins. Little by little the lesion increases in volume and the internal wall becomes inflammatory.
Plaque will be composed of many immune cells, including macrophages filled with oxidized LDL cholesterol (the famous “bad cholesterol”).
This oxidation of LDL is linked to the presence of numerous free radicals within the lesion due to inflammation.
When oxidized, LDL is no longer recognized by the proteins responsible for its transformation into HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and therefore remains a prisoner of macrophages, which become larger and larger and are then called foamy cells.
All this inflammatory mass is then covered with a fibrous cover composed of collagen fibers, forming a more or less rigid and more or less stable whole.
When the plaque ruptures, a clot or a thrombus breaks off and blocks the flow of blood in a coronary artery. This is called a myocardial infarction.
Symptoms of myocardial infarction
There are specific symptoms of heart attack that are, in particular, a sharp and persistent chest pain that radiates to the left arm, back and/or jaw.
But other signs are more atypical and yet should remind you of a heart attack, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, shortness of breath or discomfort.
However, some heart attacks are only detected after the fact.
There are genetic risk factors, sex or male age, as it is an age pathology.
Thus, women have four times less risk of having a heart attack than men before menopause, but the risk becomes equivalent afterward. The estrogens that women secrete before menopause have a protective role in the cardiovascular system.
Other risk factors are directly related to our lifestyle, such as..:
Increased LDL cholesterol and decreased HDL cholesterol, although this is questioned by some authors such as Professor Even or Dr. Michel de Lorgeril,
Increase in triglycerides, which should normally be between 1.5 and 2g/L Triglycerides are fats that constitute the main energy reserve of the body; therefore, they are beneficial as long as they do not exceed 2g/L in the blood.
Smoking, as demonstrated in the 2004 Interheart study1 , is the second most important risk factor for myocardial infarction. Moreover, this risk is directly proportional to the number of cigarettes smoked and decreases rapidly (2 to 3 years) after quitting to a rate comparable to that of a non-smoker,
High blood pressure2 is defined as blood pressure greater than 140/90 mm Hg. In France, as in many Western countries, hypertension is a pathology that affects one in three adults and considerably increases the risk of myocardial infarction,
Diabetes, which increases the risk of heart attack at least twice in men and three times in women. On the other hand, diabetes increases post-infarction mortality3,
Obesity is associated with a risk of myocardial infarction, as shown by the Interheart study, and even more so when obesity is severe,
Physical inactivity is also an important risk factor, as demonstrated by numerous epidemiological studies4,
Diet that, when unbalanced, increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension…
Treatment depends on how quickly you can intervene. The faster the intervention, the less serious the sequelae will be.
Angioplasty is the first line treatment and consists of introducing a balloon into the thrombus and dilating the blocked artery by inflating it to restore circulation as quickly as possible and allow the tissues to be irrigated again.
Then, to keep the artery dilated, a small device is placed, a kind of small spring called a stent.
This procedure is very effective but must be performed within 90 minutes after the heart attack.
Beyond these 90 minutes, what is called thrombolysis should be performed, that is, introducing a substance such as an anticoagulant or antiplatelet agent into the thrombus. This dissolves the blood clot that is blocking the coronary artery.
Finally, medications are prescribed to reduce the risk of recurrence and complications such as :
- Beta-blockers to limit blood pressure
- Anticoagulants such as aspirin to limit the formation of new clots
- Cholesterol-lowering statins…
In addition to medication, there are many natural treatments available to reduce the occurrence of a heart attack.
Complications depend mainly on how the heart muscle recovers after a heart attack. These complications can include
- A stroke, which is a thrombus that will block a small artery supplying blood to the brain,
- Chronic heart failure (70% of heart failures are due to the occurrence of a heart attack): too many heart cells have died during the heart attack,
- Obliterating artery disease of the lower limbs, that is, the arteries in the legs that are blocked,
- And of course the occurrence of another heart attack.
Certain natural treatments can limit the occurrence of heart attack-related complications.
The hygiene of life
As we have seen, a healthy lifestyle has a great impact on the occurrence of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, it is essential to prevent myocardial infarction by adopting a lifestyle that limits :
- Overweight and obesity, diabetes
- Excess salt,
- The sedentary lifestyle,
- Micronutrient deficiencies (vitamins, minerals, polyphenols and omega 3).
One of the most effective natural treatments for myocardial infarction is, of course, diet. Numerous studies have been done on the subject.
The Mediterranean diet is undoubtedly the most appropriate if you want to limit the risk of cardiovascular disease and, therefore, the occurrence of heart attacks.
The presence of vitamins, minerals, fiber, polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega 3 and monounsaturated fatty acids such as oleic acid, of which olive oil is particularly rich.
As well as polyphenols such as resveratrol in red wine, they have important positive effects on fasting blood sugar, oxidation and inflammation.
This Mediterranean diet thus helps to normalize blood pressure, lipid profile and body weight.
The ATTICA nutritional observation study, which was conducted over 10 years on 1514 men and 1528 women without cardiovascular disease, showed that 10% more adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of a cardiovascular accident by 15%.5
The PREDIMED (Prevention with Mediterranean Diet) study, conducted in 7447 people aged 55 to 80 years and at high cardiovascular risk but without declared disease, showed that a Mediterranean diet followed for 5 years with olive oil or nut supplements reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as the stability of atheromatous plaques6.
The DASH7 (DietaryApproach to Stop Hypertension) diet, which consists of a high intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, few dairy products, little saturated fat, red meat, very few sweetened beverages, sodium and refined grains, has been shown to work:
- Lowers blood pressure,
- Normalizing body weight ;
- Reduce fasting blood glucose and insulin levels,
- Normalize the lipids in the blood
- Lower cardiovascular risk and mortality.
As we can see, we can talk about a treatment of choice in terms of diet and its preventive role in the development of cardiovascular disease.
The sedentary lifestyle
In this study8 published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Australian researchers were able to demonstrate the link between physical activity and mortality.
The study involved nearly 150,000 Australian men and women over the age of 45, who were followed for an average of nine years.
The researchers noted that the longer people sat, the greater the risk of all-cause mortality.
According to the WHO “sedentarism increases all causes of death, doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity …
Between 60 and 85% of the world’s population, in both developed and developing countries, has a sedentary lifestyle, making it one of the most serious public health problems of our time.
In other words, regular physical activity is, along with diet, one of the preferred natural treatments to combat the onset of myocardial infarction and cardiovascular disease, but also many other pathologies.
Dietary supplements for cardiovascular health
Some dietary supplements, natural treatments, help maintain good cardiovascular health and limit the occurrence of heart attacks.
Magnesium is an essential mineral for our body. It has multiple functions, either as an anti-inflammatory, blood pressure regulator or necessary for energy production (ATP) in the mitochondria.
A meta-analysis based on 8 studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition9 showed that magnesium intake was inversely correlated with the risk of heart attack.
Other studies10 show that circulating levels of magnesium are inversely associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease.
However, the population as a whole does not have an adequate dietary intake of magnesium because it is mainly found in the shells of whole grains, green vegetables, legumes and oil seeds, foods that unfortunately are not part of our current Western diet.
Vitamin D plays a much more important role than is known about calcium binding. This vitamin, closer to a hormone, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
People with low vitamin D levels are more likely to have a heart attack,11 especially the elderly and obese.
The mechanisms of action of vitamin D to reduce the risk of heart attack are not yet understood.
Omega 3’s are, of course, famous for their positive effect on the prevention of cardiovascular disease. This has been demonstrated by research into traditional Inuit food.
It was Hugh Sinclair, an English doctor, who first observed a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease among the Inuit.
In 1956, in an article published in The Lancet, he hypothesized a contrary that omega-3 deficiency is one of the essential factors in the development of inflammatory pathologies and cardiovascular diseases.
In fact, it will then be shown that omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, vasodilators, antiplatelet aggregators and reduce triglycerides.
They are found in particular in fatty fish such as sardines, herring, mackerel or in the form of food supplements.
Coenzyme Q10 or ubiquinol is an antioxidant, essential for our health. It appears to have a positive effect on myocardial infarction mortality.
It also appears to be necessary in anyone taking statins, because the latter, by inhibiting the enzyme HMG-Co-A reductase and thus cholesterol production, also block the endogenous production of coenzyme Q10, which is necessary for energy production in the mitochondria.
Their deficiency explains some of the undesirable effects of statins, such as fatigue and muscle pain.
Many other micronutrients are needed for cardiovascular health, such as B vitamins, antioxidants, and polyphenols like resveratrol and beta-carotene, for example.
Plants of the heart
Foxglove is undoubtedly the most famous plant for its effects on heart function, but its use is made difficult by its toxicity.
Natural herbal treatments are useful in cases of heart problems, increased blood pressure and increased risk of heart attack.
Used for its culinary and medicinal properties, garlic (Allium Sativum) has multiple virtues that fight both high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but some studies also show that garlic has a preventive function in the formation of atheromatous plaques, that it is an antiplatelet agent and that it is also a hypotensive agent13.
It can be used simply fresh and grated and consumed one to two nails per day.
It can also be used as a dye or even as a powder, where a dose of 2 to 4 grams will be necessary. However, it is wise to ask your doctor for advice if you are taking anticoagulants.
Hawthorn (Craetagusmonogyna, C. laevigata, C. oxyacantha) is a bush that can be found almost everywhere.
It is said to be the plant of broken hearts because it calms the sympathetic system and has many interesting properties in cardiovascular diseases: it normalizes the heartbeat, reduces blood pressure, increases the contractility of the heart as well as its conductivity.
In fact, hawthorn14 allows the heart to function better.14 The plant can be taken as an infusion of leaves and flowers, tincture or glycerin maceration of the shoots.
In some people, hawthorn can cause bradycardia, a heart that beats very slowly. In this case, simply lower the dose.
Motherwort (Leonorus Cardiaca) has anti-hypertensive properties and acts on chronic stress. Studies show that these flavonoids can fight oxidative stress in the mitochondria and thus allow better heart function.
It can be used as an infusion of flowering tops, or even as a tincture of flowering tops. One can then take 30 to 60 drops 1 to 4 times a day. However, this plant is contraindicated in case of pregnancy and taking anticoagulants.
Corn (ZeaMays) is a healing agent for the myocardium after a heart attack in the form of a bud extract. It also has anti-inflammatory properties of arterial tissue.
The doses to be taken are 5 to 15 drops a day in the morning, gradually increasing the number of drops.
Dr. Baudoux proposes an essential oil formula that can be applied to the person’s chest while waiting for help. It consists of..:
- 3 ml of Khela essential oil (amnivisnaga) which is antispasmodic, anticoagulant and coronal bronchodilator.
- 2 ml of essential oil of Italian Helicrysumitalicum (helicrysumitalicum) with decongestant properties
- 1 ml of Ylang Ylang essential oil, which is soothing, respiratory and cardiac soothing.
10 to 25 drops of the mixture are applied to the heart area of the skin and this is repeated every ¼ hour while waiting for help.
Myocardial infarction and, more generally, cardiovascular diseases are really linked to our lifestyle and our diet.
In order to fight against myocardial infarction, it is possible to act preventively using natural treatments, adopting a Mediterranean diet and regular physical activity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are natural treatments effective in preventing or treating heart attacks?
Natural treatments can be an interesting alternative to medication.
Indeed, the adoption of an adapted hygiene of life, the respect of a balanced diet, as well as the taking of certain food or plant supplements allows to limit their appearance.
What are the natural treatments to prevent myocardial infarction?
- Dietary Supplements
- Healthy Lifestyle
- Balanced diet
- Essential Oils
Which plants are effective?
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