Every Sunday night I organize my pill basket. I painstakingly count to 7 over and over again, filling each day’s box with my prescriptions. I monitor how many of each I have left, store the basket and place my pill container on top. This has become my life.
I had never been on a prescription regimen in my life. That changed dramatically after my heart attack. Now I need a blood thinner, blood pressure meds, a pill for cholesterol, an aspirin, a beta blocker and an anxiety med to round out the bunch. I’m always thankful that these medications are keeping me healthy, but I’m constantly looking for more natural ways to be heart healthy and have ended up trying the spectrum of alternative therapies.
As a girl who hates needles, the release I get from acupuncture far outweighs the anxiety. I was told by the acupuncturist I had horrible circulation, so he prescribed a plan based on opening the body and mind. Using targeted pressure points in my legs, he placed acupuncture needles in designated places, allowing the energy and blood flow to improve. After just a few sessions I felt energized and was crying like a baby. Success.
Reiki is the practice of balancing out the chakras in the body, which carry our life energy. If one of the chakras are out of balance, the body becomes ill. The reiki practitioner uses touch to redistribute the energy and even out the chakras.
During my session, she placed her fingers on the major chakras on my feet, stomach, chest, neck and head, essentially transferring the energy from one place to the next. I definitely knew my body was imbalanced after the heart attack and I felt completely out of sorts. During the reiki session I was told my heart was closed and had recently opened up. Talk about freaky. I did feel better afterwards, like my body was lighter.
I hate getting a massage. I have a number of body insecurities that definitely were enhanced by the heart attack so taking my clothes off and laying on a table for a stranger to touch me caused a little bit of post traumatic stress at first. It sounds weird, but I have spent a lot of time having my body looked at in the hospital and by doctors, and this is a very vulnerable state to be in.
Regardless, I knew my circulation needed help and a friend suggested it. The hour-long massage is horribly uncomfortable for some people, but it’s worth it. If you’re a newbie or uncomfortable during massages like I am, stick with a Swedish massage with light pressure. I left with the same sensation I’ve gotten from acupuncture and it even helped with my tense lower back.
Namaste. I’ve been doing yoga since I was 21. I do some form of yoga every day, whether it is savasana (a deep breathing pose while laying on your back) or a sun salutation (a series of moves that begin and end at the front of the yoga mat). After the heart attack my yoga practice became very useful in helping me handle my anxiety and post traumatic stress.
If I needed a break from it all, I would just sit in child pose, my legs tucked underneath me and my head touching the mat, and visualize my way through it. It requires a lot of patience, but it is worth it.
Meditation may not only reduce the chance of suffering a cardiac incident, it can also help with regulating anxiety and reducing levels of cortisol in the body.
Meditation can be anything from transcendental meditation to simply taking a mini break at work to deep breathe and clear your mind. My favorite meditation involves placing myself at my favorite place (the beach) and paying attention to what is happening; the waves crashing down, seagulls flying by, the smell of the salty water, and the feeling of the sun on my skin.
Whatever you choose, discuss your practice with your cardiologist and make sure you take the medications prescribed to you. Alternative therapies are not a substitute for traditional medical care, but it may help with your recovery.
Sarah Klena is a blogger, educator and runner living in Orlando, Florida. After surviving a massive widow maker heart attack at the age of 31, she has made heart disease awareness her mission. Through her blog, Heart Attack at 31, work with the American Heart Association and speaking engagements, she tells her story and motivates others to take care of their hearts. Her story has been featured in Good Housekeeping magazine, The Dr Oz show and in numerous online publications.
Main Photo Credit: Tharakorn Arunothai/Shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Andrey Popov/Shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Annette Shaff/Shutterstock.com