The fight against the UK’s biggest killer …

healthyheartSomeone dies in the UK of a heart attack every 7 minutes. That’s a sobering thought.

Risk factors for Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, lack of physical activity and poor eating and drinking habits. Stress may also be a contributory factor.

Various research highlights the effect of various Complementary Therapies on the heart and on risk factors that can contribute to heart disease …

Reflexology

A three-year study by University researchers found that reflexology to the heart reflex point had an effect on the hearts of healthy volunteers.  The study found that in healthy volunteers, reflexology to the heart reflex point had an effect on heart function. Importantly no heart function change was detected when ‘non-heart’ or unrelated areas of the feet had reflexology. In addition, there was no change noted in the hearts of cardiology patients

A pilot randomized control trial looked at the effects of a 10 minute foot massage (up to 3 sessions a week for 4 weeks) on long-term care facility staff (who can suffer increased levels of stress and burnout).  There were significant differences between the group receiving treatment and no treatment (‘control’ group) in both diastolic blood pressure and anxiety, with the foot massage group experiencing the greatest decrease immediately after the treatment.  There were also trends indicating an improvement in mood in both groups

Aromatherapy

Researchers recognizing that aromatherapy is beneficial to mental relaxation undertook a study to investigate the effects of lavender essential oil on the coronary circulation (the blood circulation to the heart itself).  Serum cortisol was also measured as a marker of stress hormones.  Inhalation of 4 drops of lavender essential oil in hot water for 30 minutes was found to significantly increase the coronary flow velocity reserve (an indicator of bloodflow to the heart) and decrease levels of serum cortisol.

Taipei (Taiwan) Medical University recently conducted some research into the effects of bergamot essential oil vapour on resting heart rate and systolic / diastolic blood pressure (systolic – heart contracting / diastolic – heart resting).  Exposure to the bergamot essential oil was significantly associated with a reduction in both heart rate and blood pressure for the first hour.  Interestingly, exposure for more than an hour was found to increase heart rate and blood pressure, suggesting that the effect of the essential oil may change depending upon the time of exposure.

Massage

The effects of massage on stress, heart rate and blood pressure are well documented.  In a study in a hospital in Sweden healthy individual received massage over two 4-week periods with a 4 week gap in between.  After the first period of massage systolic blood pressure was found to be reduced but there was no significant difference in the diastolic blood pressure.  However, after the second 4 week period both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure were found to be reduced, resulting in the authors suggesting massage may be tried in people suffering from high blood pressure due to stress.

Remember giving a treatment is also good for you as well …

A study looked to determine if giving a massage had an impact on the mental state of the massage therapist.  The study concluded that massage therapists themselves may benefit from giving a therapeutic massage by experiencing less subjective anxiety following the giving of a massage.