The modern world runs on a clock that never stops. This has turned fast food, sugared-up coffee, and quick eats into the average diet. On top of that, we’re living sedentary lives that involve little to no exercise. And whenever we suffer from a pain or problem, we’re popping prescriptions that never get to the root cause of our troubles.

Our health has never been a lower priority. This is why each and every year, heart disease is responsible for 200,000 preventable deaths. Our modern approach to life and healthcare obviously needs some tweaking.

Ironically, all our advancements have left us lacking the know-how and success of our ancestors. The more tools and procedures we create, the more we can see where we fall short. There’s certainly a time and a place for the medical treatment of the modern world, but it seems it’s time that natural and ancient techniques made their way back into heart health. Let’s explore the stats on modern practices compared to ancient practices, and you can decide for yourself.

Modern prescription drugs versus ancient medicinal herbals

Today, when a patient is diagnosed with heart disease, the first step is generally to fill them up with prescriptions. A patient may be ordered to take anticoagulants, antiplatelets, vasodilators, beta blockers, cholesterol-lowering medications, or another class of drugs. The goal in assigning these prescriptions is to reduce blood pressure and drop the heart’s heavy workload by thinning the blood and opening up constricted blood vessels. However, accomplishing this goal via drugs means that patients may suffer side-effects like back and leg pain, hair growth, issues with body temperature, blackened toes, and fingers from circulation issues, and on, and on. This, plus the modern American’s yo-yo dieting causes more problems that desperately need to be resolved.   

Back in ancient times, the approach was a little different. In Ayurveda, the five thousand-year-old medicinal practice of India, patients would have been evaluated from the perspective of prana. As the vital life force of energy movement and breath, prana was a crucial component of any treatment. Prana is well-known to be associated with the breath, which is certainly vital to health as breathing has a direct impact on circulation which has a direct influence on overall health.

However, Ayurveda practitioners have identified five different forms of prana which go beyond breath. These pranas are responsible for the energy flow through the head and mind, the heart and emotions, the belly and digestion, the limbs and circulation, and the lower body and elimination. Diet, exercise, and breathing exercises would have all had a role in improving heart health. The health of thoughts and emotions would also be addressed because Ayurveda recognized that mental well-being played a powerful role in physical well-being. 

Medical procedures versus health-enhancing therapies

When a person arrives at a hospital with severe coronary heart disease, they’ll be wheeled off to surgery for surgical heart procedures. These procedures may include grafting veins from another part of the body onto the heart, the repair or replacement of heart valves, removing and substituting parts of the heart, replacing the heart, or operating on a beatless heart. The procedures are able to help people with heart disease by enhancing blood flow, removing or replacing damaged organs and tissues, and/or removing plaque from arteries. However, these surgical procedures come with risks like severe blood loss, infection, organ failure, blood clots, stroke, and heart failure. Oh, there’s also death.

Among Native American Nations, “treatment” would have been determined by the use of their medicine wheel. The wheel has four directions which are also associated with the elements, seasons, phases of life, non-physical aspects, human qualities, and so on. Each of these directions offered insights that encouraged people to explore their issues from a deeply spiritual view and to understand the psychological aspects of their habits and behaviors. In treating heart problems, they would turn to the healing energies and properties of nutritive plants.

Some of the many Native American herbal medicines could have involved spearmint and cayenne to improve blood circulation, buckwheat to improve blood pressure, and alfalfa to help blood clotting. Ceremonies, prayer, sweat lodges, and indigenous therapies would have also been used so as to promote health in the body as well as the mind and spirit.

The “convenient” lifestyle versus a life-supportive way of life

Living in the modern world is a risk factor for health all in itself. The average adult splits their time between work at a desk, or sitting on their sofa binge-watching TV. With all the sitting we do, it’s become clear that the modern sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of disease, chronic pain, cancer, and even death. As if this isn’t enough of a health challenge, we live in a society that values quick and cheap eats over quality home-cooked meals. The quicker the better and the cheaper, the worthier. And if it can be super-sized, fried in some crazy oil, and have extra mayo subbed for vegetables, then we’ll go ahead and double our order. American are in such poor health, less than 1% of children have ideal heart health. Not even the “young and healthy” have their health.

For the last two thousand years, the traditional practitioners of Chinese Medicine have been treating heart issues from the perspective of energy and a sort of cause-and-effect stance. Patients were evaluated based on pulse, heart palpitations, tongue appearance, skin appearance, energy levels, sweating, and breathing patterns. Based on this assessment, ancient practitioners would have used an array of fascinating and specialized herbs. Diet changes would have also been prescribed such as drinking warm liver-cleansing lemon water to enhance the vital qi (“chi”) functions of the liver.  Patients may have also been ordered to perform tai chi, or given acupuncture or acupressure treatments for the purpose of stimulating the energy meridians of the body to remove blockages inhibiting the flow of qi (chi), and to encourage balance in the yin and yang energies which govern the body.

To conclude, there’s much that has changed over the last few hundred years. With the science of the modern age, many of us would laugh at the “primitive ideas” of ancient medicinal practices. Yet, ironically, we are experiencing a health crisis of unprecedented proportion.

More and more scientists are bringing ancient medicinal practices into the lab to study their effects. And more and more scientists are discovering that the plants and practices of our ancestors actually have incredible effects on the body. Can you imagine what would happen to us if we took the best of the modern world and combined it with the best of the ancient world?

Sources for this article include:

Ash Stevens

Ash Stevens is a writer who doubles as a pretend philosopher and a wannabe shaman. When she isn’t writing her soul out on her blog, she’s listening to the great minds (or great comedians) on YouTube, soaking up sunshine, or having yet another fascinating conversation with herself (she gives excellent advice, you know). Find her on Twitter or Facebook and make a new friend!

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