What is the difference between a “heart attack” and a “massive heart attack”? As the name implies, a massive heart attack is a much bigger deal. One usually recovers from a mild or minor heart attack, and it may not even immediately be noticed. A massive heart attack however, generally is associated with extensive blockage to the major arteries, and involves major damage to the heart muscle. The left anterior descending artery to the heart (LAD) feeds the bulk of your heart muscle, and when a blockage occurs in this artery, it is often called a widow maker as it commonly results in death. According to leading cardiologist Dr. Chauncey Crandall, heart disease is often a silent killer, with 25% of heart attacks happening without clear symptoms, or when symptoms do occur, they are often vague and may be attributed to indigestion, flu, fatigue, or ordinary muscle pain. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Americans and is responsible for nearly 1/3 of all deaths. Half of all people who die from heart attacks have cholesterol readings in the normal range. The typical American diet is unfortunately loaded with two main root causes of heart disease, which are sugar and fat, further aggravated by chemicals and preservatives which cause inflammation. Dr. Crandall explains that 800,000 Americans have a first heart attack every year with another half million having a second or third heart attack.
If you do survive a massive heart attack, what then? Many may undergo treatments such as open heart bypass surgery, angioplasty, or stents to help restore blood flow to the heart. However, in some cases, these types of options may be very limited or simply not possible due to the extent of blockage and damage to the heart. For individuals over 65, cardiogenic shock is more of a risk when a heart attack occurs, meaning the heart muscle may be too damaged to pump an adequate amount of blood to the organs and tissues. These in turn will begin to suffer and multi-organ failure may occur. Major life support measures are generally needed with sedation to give the organs a rest, and a delicate balance maintained to try and wean the patient off of these if the organs are able to recover, generally a long and tedious process.
However, even if you or a loved one find yourself in this situation, confined to a hospital bed, there are still things you can do to help facilitate your recovery. One of the most difficult things to overcome is the fatigue and weakness when physical therapy comes to try and help you get up and moving again. All of the drugs, tubes, and necessary procedures on top of the shock to the system and damage to the heart will add to the difficult adjustment your body is going through, and when confined to bed, muscle tone is quickly lost. Any little bit of moving around, sitting up, or taking a few steps all help to regain your strength. There are also some muscle tone exercises you can do while lying in bed that will help, even just tightening and relaxing your muscles. When lying on your back, you can stretch and point your toes downward as far as you can, try to hold to a count of 10. Then bring your feet back straight, toes pointing toward ceiling and you will feel the muscles tightening on the back of your legs. Again try to hold to a count of 10, and do these whenever you can. It will help circulation and the muscle tone in your ankles and lower legs. Also, practice deep breathing whenever you can. Try to hold your mouth closed and breath in slowly and deeply through your nose, using your diaphragm to really fill your lungs, then exhale slowly through your mouth. This will really help as most people tend to develop a habit of shallow breathing. The deep breathing will deliver much more oxygen through your system, clear your mind and help you to feel better. Rubbing a little essential oil on your hands such as Lavender and/or Peppermint can provide a refreshing and uplifting fragrance that may help with the breathing exercises, or you may even be able to bring a diffuser into the hospital room. Ask your nurse or doctor if you can use essential oils. Dr. Woodson Merrell, Chairman of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan discusses the use of Young Living Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils at Beth Israel Hospital, and in fact, more than 50 hospitals regularly use Young Living oils for their soothing therapeutic benefits to assist in a variety of recovery settings.
Following a heart attack, it is important to understand something called your Ejection Fraction number. The heart contracts during each heartbeat, pushing blood out of the filled right and left ventricles, and then they relax and refill with blood. Dr. Carolyn Dean stresses the importance of Magnesium in keeping this in balance. The Ejection Fraction is usually measured in the left ventricle, which is the main pumping chamber of the heart and refers to the percentage of blood that is pumped out of the filled ventricle, and this is generally done with an echocardiogram which uses sound waves to produce and image of your heart. A normal Ejection Fraction number will be between 50 – 75. Following a heart attack this number may be low, even 30 or less. However, this does not necessarily mean you are more likely to die, and your doctor will work with you on a realistic plan of medications, diet, and exercise to help improve this number. New studies indicate excercise may stimulate new stem cells to grow and repair the heart. Even if you can’t do much, just walking for as little as 30 minutes a day could be beneficial, and this is still true even if it has to be broken up into shorter segments. Your doctor will work with you to help establish a plan of short term reachable goals that will best fit your personal situation and recovery needs.
Several essential oils may be comforting and soothing during this time. Frankincense – either Boswellia carteri or Boswellia sacra can be beneficial as a tonic to help refresh and soothe the system. Other oils which may be comforting for diffusing or massage include Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), Elemi (Canarium luzonicum) which, like Frankincense are all high in monoterpenes, and Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) and Sandalwood (Santalulm album)which are high in sesquiterpines. Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is especially relaxing and calming for massage.
It is important to pay special attention and work with your doctor to follow the best plan for diet, exercise, medications, supplements, and any other measures you can take to help your heart heal as excessive scarring can cause the heart to become electrically unstable. Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) has a delightful fragrnace that also is soothing and calming. Ylang ylang may also help support a healthy cardiovascular sytem and Helichryssum (Helichrysum italicum) may help support healthy circulation and has a subtle pleasing fragrance that is subconsciously uplifting.
Its also important to discuss with your doctor and nutritionist what foods and supplements may impact any medications you may be taking. For example, The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center Drug-Nutrient Interaction Task Force offers guidance on the commonly prescribed blood-thinner Coumadin, and dietary Vitamin K. Vitamin K or K1 found in leafy green vegetables is necessary for clotting, and Coumadin works against this, so it is important to keep intake of Vitamin K foods consistent to achieve the proper balance. Vitamin K or K1 is not to be confused with Vitamin K2 Menaquinones which are derived from fermented foods, such as cheese, curds, and natto (fermented soybeans), or synthesized from healthy bacteria in the large intestine. However, balance of Vitamin K2 along with Vitamin D is necessary for heart health, as these work together to ensure that calcium is properly directed in your body to build strong bones and teeth instead of forming kidney stones, plaque in the arteries, deposits in your joints or even salivary gland stones.
Aroma Life, a special essential oil blend formulated by Young Living contains Cypress, Marjoram, Ylang Ylang, and Helichryssum, and is a blend useful for helping to support the Lympthatic, Cardiovascular, and Circulatory systems. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is also very valuable as it is wonderfully soothing, calming, and balancing, helping to generate a positive mood. Ensuring that you only use pure, therapeutic grade essential oils which have been extensively tested for the highest quality standards is paramount.
For more information on the leading essential oil companies, their history, testing, and quality standards, check out the 45 page Young Living/DoTerra report
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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and this information is for educational purposes only and not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.