In this issue, a woman with heart disease visits a TCM physician to relieve her symptoms and boost her wellbeing.
When someone diagnosed with heart disease decides to be treated using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), chances are that he or she is expecting a cure specific to the disease.
However, TCM is rarely so targeted; rather, its approach is a lot more holistic. TCM physicians are always looking out for disharmony patterns, which refer to a complex web of signs and symptoms that are revealed at a given stage of the disease (for example, the disharmony of yin and yang elements, qi-deficiency, etc). Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic’s Physician Zhang Feng shares that in each visit, she will observe for abnormalities from four diagnosis methods of observing, smelling and listening, questioning and pulse analysing. It’s only after this whole process of gathering and analysing all the information and indications of the body that the physician can have a full understanding of the patient’s condition, and arrive at a diagnosis, which is termed as the zheng in TCM.
Each patient has a unique zheng, and this is the foundation of TCM treatments to be prescribed. “TCM treatment is administered to work on the zheng, not based on the medical condition diagnosed by Western medicine such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, lung infection, etc,” explains Physician Zhang. Such treatments do more than boost the body’s immunity and wellbeing. “These treatments harmonise the elements in your body that affect the symptoms inherent to the condition, leading to great curative effects,” she affirms.
Mdm Rosie Nah went for a medical check-up in 2010 and discovered that she had an irregular heartbeat. After consulting a cardiologist, she learnt that she had heart disease. To complement the work of her Western-trained heart specialist, Mdm Nah decided to use TCM to work on her overall wellbeing.
In her first consultation with Physician Zhang earlier this year, Mdm Nah complained of frequent giddy spells, poor quality sleep, lethargy and dry throat. Through her own checks, Physician Zhang concluded that, besides high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat, Mdm Nah suffered from weak qi and deficient yin-element. Taking a look at Mdm Nah’s medical report from her cardiologist, Physician Zhang concluded that, at this stage of Mdm Nah’s condition, it was sufficient to prescribe medicine concocted from natural Chinese herbs, to be consumed within 2½ weeks. Treatment will then be adjusted based on the patient’s progress.
At her next consultation, Mdm Nah shared that she was already experiencing fewer giddy spells and feeling less tense. Her qi was better regulated and her yin-element stronger, contributing to a lower blood pressure. Physician Zhang again prescribed oral medication, but altered the composition to suit Mdm Nah’s current zheng, as her health had somewhat improved.
The 4 Diagnosis Methods
- Observing: Observe the entire body, which includes the colour of tongue, complexion, body shape, body posture, movement and vitality.
- Smelling and Listening: Observe the smell of body odours, excretions and secretions of any form; listen to the voice, tone, and sound of respiration or cough.
- Questioning: Inquire about the main concerns or complaints, the onset and duration of the problem, and relevant medical history and symptoms.
- Pulse Analysing: Feel and evaluate the pulse by pressing on certain parts of the body such as the skin, muscles, acupoints, limbs, chest, abdomen and other areas.
Preventing Coronary Heart Disease
You can alter your lifestyle to prevent coronary heart disease. Physician Zhang highlights that it is important to be cautious about food, as they affect your health directly. “Avoid deep-fried and fatty food.” She advises. Regular exercise promotes qi and improves blood circulation, which is important in maintaining cardiovascular health. However, overexertion may cause exhaustion to the qi in the body. For people who are deficient in yin or yang, this exhaustion may trigger chest pains. Hence, consult a doctor before you start an exercise regimen.
“Sleep well” is another piece of advice that Physician Zhang endorses. In TCM, the lack of rest is said to harm the liver and spleen, affecting the circulation of qi and blood, causing blood stasis and, eventually, leading to chest pain.
Are You At Risk?
Here’s a checklist of risk factors for coronary heart disease:
- High blood cholesterol levels: Includes bad (LDL) and good (HDL) cholesterol.
- High blood pressure: Anything over 140/90 mmHg (130/80 if you have diabetes or kidney disease) is considered high.
- Smoking: This activity constricts the blood vessels, thus raising blood pressure.
- Insulin resistance and Diabetes: Insulin resistance often leads to full-blown diabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels is too high because the cells can’t convert the sugar to energy.
- Obesity: According to the Health Promotion Board, adult Asians with a BMI of 23 and above are at risk.
- Metabolic syndrome: This group of risk factors raises your chances of coronary heart disease as well as other problems, such as diabetes and stroke.
- Lack of exercise: Being physically inactive exacerbates other risk factors.
- Unhealthy diet: Avoid foods high in saturated and trans fats, salt and sugar.
- Age: Even if you adopt a healthy lifestyle, plaque will still accumulate in the blood vessels over time. Risk of coronary heart disease increases after the ages of 45 years in men and 55 years in women.
- Family history: Immediate relatives with heart problems generally mean an increase risk factor.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock. This article first appeared in NATURA magazine issue No.3.