The Heart Made Powerful
( Originally Published 1904 )
"The heart, like any other muscle, owes its vigor to the activity of respiration. The exceptional muscular strength of insects is no doubt due to the fact that they respire from nearly every part of their bodies. Individuals with organic heart disease enjoy the best health when they are able to live in open-air life."—Albert Abram,. M. D.
"I can't endure very much exercise," sighs some poor fellow. "I have a weak heart. In fact, I don't really exercise at all — I don't dare to."
And the truth is that he does not do much of anything that enables him to taste the real pleasures of living. Too many men and women who believe that they have weak hearts live on and on, always dreading to act as other and happier people do, always trying to stave off the death that they believe to be inevitable if anything like exertion is undertaken by them.
Now, how do you go about strengthening the weak muscles of the arm or of the leg? You exercise them and so, from being soft, flabby and all but useless, they become hard, firm and enduring. The heart itself may be defined as a great muscle; it is one mass of muscular tissue; it is composed of a great number of constituent muscles, and everyone of these is capable of being strengthened and hardened so as to resist all ordinary strains. Thus the organ may be made to do its work in the manner that Nature in-tended it to.
This is one of the most harrowing of all complaints. The average victim of heart disease goes through life with a sentence hanging over his head. He feels like a condemned man. He knows not what moment he may be called to the other world. The thought of death is constantly with him.
Medical science offers but little relief and can give the sufferer but little hope. All remedial agents used by physicians, at the best afford only temporary re-lief from the painful and dangerous symptoms that appear from time to time. Various strong drugs are prescribed, but after all, the most famous medical men candidly admit that there is no cure for heart disease. You can prolong your earthly existence by taking watchful care of yourself, but the sword of death hangs over your head; it cannot be removed and is liable to descend upon you at any moment.
The writer does not care to controvert the theories of those supposed to be experts on the subject, but his experience has taught him beyond all possible doubt, that the heart and the great arteries connected with it can be strengthened, and made more vigorous in every respect, by the same methods that increase the general vigor of the internal functional and muscular systems..
Medical men frequently condemn athletics; they maintain that the exercise often over-strains the heart; but it will be well to note that in nearly every instance where overstrain of this character is observed, the victim. has suddenly changed his habits from one extreme to the other, from-activity to entire inactivity, though he continues to eat the same quantity of food. The strain, therefore, instead of being caused by the over-use of the external muscular system, is really caused by the overwork of the stomach and other blood-making organs. Investigation will usually prove that it is not the hard training, but the sedentary life and the extremely heavy eating which follows the cessation of training that causes the heart troubles of athletes.
There are many diseases of the heart, but those most usual are: Overgrowth, Dilatation, Fatty De-generation, Inflammation, Valvular Disease, Palpitation, Angina Pectoris and Aneurism.
It would be impossible to describe accurately in this short chapter the various symptoms manifested in the different diseases classed as heart troubles, but rarely is there any special difficulty in realizing their presence, if serious. Each of the several diseases mentioned is accompanied by symptoms that usually indicate its character, though in many in-stances they differ only in minor details. As the treatment to be described is intended to remedy the abnormal condition that is the cause of the disease by building up the strength of the entire internal functional system, the character of the disease, as manifested in declared symptoms, is of but little importance.
Some of the following symptoms accompany and indicate various affections of the heart : Palpitation heavy beating of the heart; ringing in the ears; spots before the eyes; dizziness; slight, feeble pulse, which is greatly increased on very slight exertion; shortness of breath; occasional pain in the region of the heart; attacks of faintness; irregular beating of the heart; inability to lie on the left side without pain: noises in the ear; rubbing sounds heard on listening to the heart. Congestion of the stomach; bloody and some= times highly-colored urine; paroxysms of pain in the heart, which are frequently so great as to make tense and rigid every part of the body. Dropsy and apoplexy are also sometimes demonstrated.
The causes of heart disease are various. Any influence inclining to weaken the functional system will affect the organ. Dissipation, overwork, use of stimulants, . excesses in eating and drinking, can be classed as the most frequent of the causes. The victims of heart disease are usually heavy eaters. Re-member that it is more likely to be overwork of the internal functional system than of the external muscular system that induces this trouble. The process of .blood-making practically begins in the stomach. When conditions are such that the blood is not of proper quality, if the stomach' is constantly over-loaded, or indigestible combinations and unwhole--some foods are eaten, maladies of some sort are bound to follow, and if the heart is not especially strong it may be the first organ to suffer.
It. is not within the province of physical culture treatment to attempt to advise where serious and painful paroxysms of the heart are. manifested,. but the- writer firmly believes that usually where such symptoms do appear, the application of cold, wet cloths to the affected parts would be a far safer and more beneficial method of treating the patient, than is the reckless introduction into the circulation of the strong poisons that are so frequently used. No physician can dare to predict with absolute certainty the effect of a powerful drug. The heart can-not be stimulated unless it has sufficient vital strength to awaken to the danger of the presence of poisonous elements in its tissues. You may be able to spur on an exhausted horse, but you will find that, when he has gone to his farthest limit, no amount of spur-ring. will affect him. The heart is, to a certain ex-tent, similar. The properties of all heart stimulants are poisonous to an extreme degree, and if the organ has sufficient vital strength to be aroused to greatly increased activity because of their presence, it certainly has sufficient strength to continue to maintain life.
The first object to be continually kept in view in remedying a chronic weakness of the heart is to keep the circulatory system in a clearly normal condition, so that the work of pumping the blood throughout the entire body may be lightened as much as possible. Cold applications, massage, rubbing and kneading the various parts of the body will be found of advantage. Cold water is an especially valuable assistant in accelerating the external circulation. Where or whenever it comes in contact with the body the tissues contract, thus forcing the blood contained therein toward the heart; and when- this tissue relaxes, new blood flows into it.
If you are not accustomed to the use of cold water it is your imperative duty. to begin to be so at once. ,Do not, however, go from one. extreme to the other. Begin by using water of a moderate temperature, bathing the entire body with a sponge or wet cloth. Or, if your condition is very serious, you need bathe only a part of the body at a time. But gradually, day by day, lower the temperature of the water, though care must be exercised at all times that it is not so cold that you cannot quickly recuperate from its effects with a feeling of warmth. About the safest -and most comfortable method of bathing is to take your exercise first, then a dry friction bath, using two .soft bristle brushes or a very rough towel, rubbing the body thoroughly all over until the cuticle is quite pink from the accelerated circulation excited by the :friction. Following this, water of a decidedly cool temperature can be used and enjoyed.
- Exercise is another agent that will assist vastly in circulating the blood throughout every minute capillary of the entire body, and it will also greatly increase the activity of all the depurating organs. The skin, kidneys, lungs. and bowels will perform their work of eliminating the impurities far more effectively if you exercise regularly than if you lead an inactive life.
Understand, I am far from advising excessive exercise for a weak heart, or for a strong one, either, for that matter. But there is no question whatever that exercises that are selected and employed with care and common sense, will render anyone's heart stronger. It is a fact, well-known to both physicians and experienced physical trainers, that any "disease" of the heart that has not progressed to an incurable stage can in time be cured, if the right sorts and amounts of exercise are used. And the heart that is not diseased in the least, but is merely not as strong as it ought to be, can be put in the full prime of condition. In both cases the means are the same—judicious exercise.
When one is conscious of having a very weak heart, he must exercise with constant watchfulness at first. Palpitation or distress of the heart, and shortness of breath, are signs that must be accepted as danger signals. The warnings indicate that the exercises must be made less severe until the heart has been distinctly strengthened. But he who has no clearly defined heart trouble, can go right ahead with his exercises until Nature warns him to be more careful—a warning that will not come unless the work be carried to the point of abuse. Fatigue, in every instance, is an indication that enough exercise has been obtained for the time being.
As is indicated by the quotation at the head of this chapter, the heart receives the most vigor from the act of breathing. The muscles of the heart are of the involuntary kind. Constant deep breathing, by purifying the blood more rapidly in the lungs, and by in-creasing the whole functional vigor, gives the heart more work to do by increasing the rapidity with which the blood is circulated. This additional amount of "pumping" of blood by the heart gives the muscles of the latter more work to do—more exercise, that is; which, if it be carried to a reasonable limit, renders its muscles stronger and sounder. Hence it follows that the. heart is better able to perform its work.
The simplest of all exercises for the heart is that of standing in the outer, pure air and breathing deeply... Surely no individual can fear that his heart is too weak to endure the strain of continued deep breathing. Yet,-this is the essence of heart-exercise, and the more strenuous exercises are valuable only from the fact that they compel continued profound inhalations and the coincident passage of great quantities of life-giving oxygen into the system.
Many patients suffering from heart trouble are actually condemned to die because of the physician's fear of exercise. Now the truth is, that none have ever recovered without a certain amount of exercise. It is absolutely essential to build up the nervous, muscular and functional systems. Supply the body with a better quality of blood, build up superior powers in the stomach and in the nervous system, and the heart is naturally affected thereby. Slowly but surely it will increase in strength and at length become normal.
It is well, however, to remember the necessity of extreme care in taking exercises while suffering from a trouble of this nature. Violent exercises of every kind should be avoided entirely until all symptoms of the disease have disappeared. Light, easy movements, such as moderate walking, and swinging of the arms in various ways, will be found of special ad-vantage. You may also exercise with a chest weight for developing the muscles of the walls of the upper portion of the trunk this, if accompanied by deep breathing, is especially recommended.
Several exercises that illustrated herewith, can always be used to advantage. They are intended to bring into action the large muscles located near the heart, and in every instance will be of great benefit. They will often produce immediate relief if an uncomfortable feeling is noticed in the organ.
Though exercise, massage, cold bathing, and other . means of building up general vigor are of value, an appropriate diet is also of great importance. The greatest possible care must be used to avoid over-loading the stomach. This does not by any means suggest the necessity of starving, or" eating so little that you will be poorly nourished, but your diet should be so regulated that the digestion will go on in a harmonious and satisfactory manner. Avoid eating too heartily of meats. Stimulating drinks of all kinds should be tabooed. Even tea and coffee should be avoided. Two meals per day will be found better -than three; though, if you are eating three, and apparently digest them without difficulty, there should be no especial necessity for a change. Pure distilled water should be kept at hand at all times, and should be used freely. Every morsel of food should be chewed to a practical liquid before swallowing. Never drink at meal times. Be sure that several hours" elapse between your last meal and the time you retire.
The friction bath and cold bath can be taken in the morning or evening, whichever is most convenient.
In some few cases where serious digestive disorders accompany heart disease, fasting one day out of three will hasten a recovery. The uncooked food diet will undoubtedly bring about a more speedy cure, but health may be regained while using the ordinary diet if it be confined to wholesome foods, and if the hygienic means for attaining general health as here suggested are rigorously followed.
Remember always, that the exercises which compel you to take the greatest gulps of air without causing distress to the heart, are those that are most beneficial to this organ.
Exercise 1. Recline on sofa with your head near the edge. Now secure a small stool or light weight of any kind and ex-tend the arm far over the head, with the elbows rigid, as shown in the illustration. Next, keeping the elbows rigid, bring the arm up in a perpendicular position. Repeat the exercise until tired.