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Stress Cardiomyopathy - Broken Heart Syndrome

Aromatherapy for a Broken Heart

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The heart is a very fragile and strong organ. It is the center of our being and a very vulnerable focal point. The heart plays a role in every function of the body. It can be "hurt," "lost" and left in San Francisco. It can also "skip a beat" or be attacked by a stroke. Our heart is our life force and in Chinese medicine it is the fire element. Yet it can "fail" us, as in heart failure. The heart has rhythm and can block, just not in a football game. Sometime, our heart talks to us with sounds and murmurs. There are some people who listen to their hearts speak to them while others have not listened and may have taken a path of least resistance. There is time, however, that we all listen when our heart speaks to us. That time is when there is what is called a broken heart.

When the Heart is Broken

When the heart is broken, a spectrum of feelings is manifested. These feelings consist of hurt, pain, anger, sadness, relief and forgiveness. In the process of living with these feelings and going through the experience of having a broken heart, what happens physically and emotionally to women?

Emotional Connection to Broken Physical Heart Organ

In my practice, many women have scheduled an appointment with me for an annual gynecological examination or they were returning for their weekly obstetrical examination. Within the first few minutes of interviewing the patient about her medical history since the last visit, I realize there is a strong emotional and physical component to the visit that is not directly related to what is considered a routine exam. In essence, the emotional and physical components are indicative of a broken heart. I make a holistic assessment of the patient’s medical history, emotional, spiritual, physical and clinical findings. These cases may warrant a referral to a specialist, depending on her status at that moment. A follow up visit is always scheduled.

Throughout time, it has been said individuals have died of a broken heart. For instance, a wife died and then her husband died from natural causes within a week or a sister died and her sibling died naturally very soon thereafter. Were the subsequent deaths just a coincidence or did they die from a broken heart?
 

Brokent Heart Syndrome

Researchers have started scientifically looking at such cases and calling it the Broken Heart Syndrome. In health care terminology we call this condition stress Cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy is heart muscle weakness. It can occur after various emotional and physical stressors such as fear, surprise, anger and the death of a loved one. Stress cardiomyopathy affects primarily women and occurs most frequently in middle aged women and women over age sixty. Many of the women that have been studied have no prior history of heart disease and the majorities are postmenopausal. There is no known reason for the increase frequency in women in these age groups and postmenopausal women in particular. Physical stressors can fuel a stroke or seizure and as mentioned emotional stressors such as fear, grief and anger can cause this condition.

A woman who is emotionally dis-stressed can suddenly and unexpectedly experience a heavy feeling in the chest, shortness of breath, abnormal rhythm of the heart, low blood pressure, congestive heart failure and shock. It can be life threatening. She may appear sad, express feelings of sadness, lock of concentration and difficulty sleeping at night. The good news is there can also be a quick and complete recovery.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a fantastic complementary therapy. One hundred percent essential oils are more potent than herbs –less is better than more. They are volatile oils which are obtained directly from the root, flower petals, leaves or skins of fruit. The price can range from approximately five dollars to several hundred dollars for a half ounce. It takes 2000 pounds of rose petals to make one pound of oil. Therefore there is a variance in the cost of essential oils. The essential oils widely used to restore the heart are Rose Otto, Jasmine sambac, Neroli, Rosewood, and Lavender. Essential oil blends can be used through inhalation and application methods. They can be inhaled by using a diffuser, sniffed directly from the bottle (less expensive oils) or they can be used in the bath/shower or through vapor and nebulizer. They can be applied by massage or as perfume oil.

Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender has a long history as a medicine and perfume. In Chinese medicine it circulates heart Qi. It can restore vitality, relieve tension and calm a person. Dried lavender buds can be added to the bath or a tea can be made from the dried herb. To make a single note lavender perfume oil add three drops of 100% Highland or Bulgarian lavender essential oil to one tablespoon of jojoba oil. Jojoba oil is a stable carrier oil, won’t rancid and is relatively odorless.

The benefits of essential oils are numerous. However, care must be taken in using them. Aromatherapy is very technical. One oil can cancel out the effects of another oil. Some oils are toxic and what may benefit one person may have no effect on another person. One fragrance may be pleasant to one person and offensive to another. Determine which oil is best for you. Our behavior is affected by the aromatic scent. They also help the body regulate itself and come into balance. Therefore the stressors and feelings produced by a broken heart are relieved with the consistent use of aromatherapy.
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