Heart problems—such as blood pressure, cholesterol, angina pains, blockages, stroke and heart attacks—are leading causes of death. Cardiovascular diseases can be prevented through simple lifestyle changes.

Love and Compassion

Hatred, jealousy, greed, anger, pride, depression and other toxic emotions damage our cardiovascular and immune system. When we forgive, have compassion for others or lower our ego, stress hormones settle down and the body starts healing itself. We should be nonviolent with others and ourselves, even at a subtle mental level. Hurting others or thinking about hurting others emotionally is mental violence. We can change our life by simply changing our heart.

Lungs and Heart

A child’s heart beats faster while breathing in, and slower heart rate variability (HRV) while breathing out. This is also called sinus arrhythmia. With age, HRV decreases in adults. Being happy, like a child, helps improve HRV; a child loves the whole world and has no toxic emotions. The best thing we can do to look after our heart is having a jolly good laugh when we laugh. We can also smile like a child at every small joyful opportunity we find in life. There are specific meditations and breathing exercises that can help improve HRV.

Music and Therapy

Music can improve happiness, peace, health and concentration. Heartbeat, pulse rate, blood pressure and respiration can be affected by music. When the heart rate is increased, immunity is known to decrease. Too much loud aggressive music can increase heart rate, stress and anxiety; it can put arteries at risk and contract the endothelium. Joyful, calming, ambient-type music helps expand the diameter of the endothelium. It is believed that music stimulates the pituitary gland, whose secretions affect the nervous system and the flow of blood. It vibrates the cells of our body to help heal, relax and refresh the body. Listening to light music improves work efficiency, and cures tension, bias and anger. Music therapy helps in improving emotional health, blood pressure, digestion, endurance and productivity as well as restoring the functioning of the liver. Indian classical music ragascan help with heart health, insomnia, schizophrenia and epilepsy. Listening to repetitive chanting sounds, mantras or patterned sounds affect us at the cellular level, removing unhealthy or negative patterns in the body so it can heal. If these sounds can lead to meditation where our mind can be attuned to various rhythms or their subtle vibrations, we can greatly benefit from the healing power of music. Mantras, in particular, go all the way to awaken memory and the deep knowledge encoded in our DNA and cells. They optimize the performance of energy vortexes or chakras to influence our emotional, psychic and spiritual states of consciousness.

Yogasanas and Meditation

Both physical exercises (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama) in yoga help the body and mind to relax. Tendons release opioids every time muscles are stretched. The state of ease and tranquility achieved while doing yoga poses is good for the heart. The following asanas are useful for heart health: hridhay stambhan (heart post), pavana mukta (wind-relieving), bhujang (cobra), nauka (boat) and shavasana (corpse). Sitting with hands in the heart mudra and chanting of “om”, a primordial sound helps bring calm in our inner self.

Patients with a recent surgical procedure should avoid pranayama breathing exercises for 6-12 months depending on the complexity of the surgery. Start any yoga and breathing exercises under expert supervision. Ujjayi pranayama, surya chandra bhastrika pranayama, anulom vilom, bhramari and kapalbhati pranayama breathing exercises help with heart health. Heart patients should avoid any breathing exercises where they have to hold their breath or breathe fast.

Meditation that involves effortless deep breathing and long exhales is good for the heart. During this process, feel the sensation of the breath pattern and listen to the sound of the breath. After some time, the practitioner will be lost in the rhythm and will surrender to the inner rhythm.

Ayurveda and Home Remedies

Regular exercises, good sleep, vegetarian diet, eating in moderation, avoiding fried foods and junk foods, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and meditation are all healthy habits.

Green leafy vegetables, carrots, radish, beets, peanuts and other root-based plants are great for the heart. Wheatgrass juice helps fight both heart problems and cancer. It improves iron content and immunity, purifies the blood, and is good for digestion. Use cow’s ghee instead of cooking oil or butter; it helps improve good cholesterol HDL and reduces bad cholesterol LDL. Do not take more than 2 teaspoons a day.

Drink about 200 ml juice of a vegetable called “Indian Lauki,” or bottle gourd, every day. The bottled juice is available online. Add seven leaves of basil, seven mint leaves and three-five black peppers to it. (Asthma or arthritis patients can add a little dried ginger or warm it a bit). This is a “miracle” remedy for all kinds of heart issues. Adding ajwainseeds powder (carom seeds) will help improve digestion. To make it tasty, natural salt can be added, but do not use processed iodized salt. This juice is also helpful for tachycardia patients. Eat bottle gourd regularly as a salad, or through another recipe you find. Bottle gourd should be available in local Indian grocery stores.

Fenugreek seeds are very helpful for patients with high cholesterol. Take one teaspoon in a cup of warm water and soak it overnight. In the morning, drink the water and eat the seeds. This needs to be done regularly for about 90 days to see its results.

Eat one to three small pieces of garlic in the morning with water as the very first food of the morning. This will help control cholesterol and triglycerides, and clear heart blockages.

Note: These are Ayurveda medicinal options. Don’t try to use all at once. Get expert advice before trying.

Add a half teaspoon of powder made from the bark of an arjun tree (arjuna bark powder/arjun kwath) in one cup of water and one cup of milk. Boil and drink it like tea once a day. It will show amazing health benefits within several months. Ashwagandha powder can be mixed with this to give more strength to the heart. Adding rose petals in it or eating rose jam (gulkand) is also good for the heart.

Chrysanthemum, or guldaudiflower, is good for heart health. Dry the flowers and store them for long-term use. Warm one cup of water and put one to two dried flowers in it and drink it like tea.

For all types of cardiovascular diseases, two hridyamrit tablets in the morning and in the evening can help. Two teaspoons of arjunarishta after dinner can be taken as a heart tonic. It is a syrup beneficial for people with high cholesterol and heart blockage. To increase platelets, two tablets a day of giloy ghanvatican help. Mulktavati, with two tablets taken once a day, is helpful for blood pressure patients.

Aconite 200 is a homeopathic medicine that is very helpful for angina patients. Take it in liquid form only. Put one drop on the tongue when there is a pain. Have a maximum of thre drops every 5-7 minutes; that should be enough to stop the pain.

Himanshu Bharadwaj, a designer by profession, teaches yoga, meditation and holistic cure. He also conducts meditation sessions for stress relief and creativity enhancement. Connect at YourCommunityYoga.com/Himanshu or Meetup.com/Yoga-Meditation-CT.