Jarrod C. Fritz, Licensed Massage Therapist SC# 3692
A Special Touch for Your Heart’s Health By: Jarrod C. Fritz, LMT A trend that is on the rise in the United States for the New Year is increasing our overall health and wellness. A very important health condition that is becoming more prevalent, yet not recognized by many, is Heart Disease. In fact, Heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States, claiming approximately 1 million lives annually. It is also estimated that by the year 2020, heart disease will be the leading cause of death throughout the entire world! With statistics like this, it is extremely important that we take action in remedying and preventing this potentially fatal condition.
It’s important to begin by understanding that Heart Disease isn’t just a single specific condition, but an ‘umbrella term’ that covers several conditions that affect the structure and function of the heart. These conditions include: your traditional heart attacks (myocardial infarctions), enlarged heart (cardiomegaly), Marfan syndrome, Pericarditis, several different types of Heart muscle diseases (cardiomyopathies), as well as heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias); just to name the most well-known. These conditions can be congenital which means that it is in our genetic make-up. Each condition has a list of causes, but amongst all the conditions there are several common causes including stress (both physical and emotional), high blood pressure, and even poor behavioral choices such as excessive alcohol intake and drug abuse.
Research has shown that an estimated 80 million of all Americans have one or more types of heart disease. In fact, according to a study in 2008, Americans spent an estimated $448.5 billion in medical costs for the treatments of heart disease. It is easy to see why heart disease awareness and prevention is on the rise. Whether a person is at risk for medical treatment or post-hospitalization for heart disease, there are great ways to prevent you and others from becoming a statistic of these horrible conditions. The general list includes eating a better “heart-healthy” diet, exercising at least 30 minutes a day, weight reduction, stress management, and the removal of tobacco from and limited alcohol intake in your daily routines. Lately there have been improved results of the prevention of heart disease conditions with the addition of therapeutic massage to the treatment plans.
Therapeutic Massage is categorized as a Complimentary Alternative Medicine (CAM) with the likes of such modalities as acupuncture, herbal supplements, and vitamins, to name a few. Any type of CAM needs to be discussed and approved by your physician to avoid possible complications in medication, prescriptions, and other treatments. When considering a CAM such as Therapeutic Massage, you may already know about the many positive benefits to the body as a whole, but when we are considering heart disease we need to look at several major benefits that can help prevent these conditions.
Let’s first look at the physiology of how the heart affects muscles, and then we can see one way therapeutic massage can help prevent heart disease. In order for muscles to function properly and recover efficiently, the muscles require nutrients carried in the blood. The major function of the heart is to provide circulation of blood to the body. When muscles become tight due to overuse, poor posture, or even sedentary lifestyles, it limits the amount of blood that the muscles are receiving and therefore causing the heart to strain and work harder to deliver nutrients to the muscles. Strain on the heart due to tight muscles will eventually lead to the weakening and fatigue of the heart as well as a disruption in the natural rhythm used to pump blood throughout the body. Massage therapy relieves tension in the muscle fibers, reduces the amount of interference by scar tissue, and in return increases healthier circulation without overstraining the heart.
Now let’s take into consideration the component of stress as a contributing factor in heart disease. Stress can cause muscles to tense up leading to the physiological effect that we just discussed, but more importantly, stress causes vasoconstriction of the blood vessels as well as a disruption in the production of hormones that regulate heart function and other functions of the body. Application of therapeutic massage stimulates a response in the body that causes vasodialation which again increases circulation of the nutrients in the blood that helps to repair the damage the stress has caused on the body. Massage also promotes the production of parasympathetic hormones such as serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine. The production of these “good hormones” combats the harmful side effects of the stress hormones such as Cortisol that cause distortions in the function of the heart and eventually lead to heart disease. Heart disease is the #1 killer in the United States and is not a single condition, but instead, a group of conditions that need to be taken seriously when it comes to treatment and prevention. There are many traditional allopathic treatments that can help avoid these conditions, but there are also some not so popular holistic therapies that can have huge benefits in the battle against heart disease. Therapeutic Massage is a time tested Complimentary Alternative Medicine that can add a special touch to your heart’s health!