For centuries there has been a wide separation between Eastern and Western medical thought. The Eastern approach has been integrative and the Western discriminative. Western medical science has uncovered evidence that the Eastern approach has validity and an ability to promote health and longevity.
About fifteen years ago a group of scientists in Australia made the discovery that stiffness of the Aorta (the body's largest blood vessel running from the heart through the chest and abdomen) is predictive for risk of death from all causes.
Many other studies have confirmed this observation. Related studies have shown that exercise is an effective way to reduce Aortic Stiffness. It has also been shown that dietary influences (Omega-3 in particular) and stress management lower Aortic Stiffness. Aortic Stiffness has been found to identify individuals in their 30's at higher risk for heart disease, long before conventional markers of cardiovascular illness are apparent.
There has been much discussion in the scientific literature regarding Aortic Stiffness as a cardiovascular risk indicator but absolutely no discussion regarding the relationship between Aortic Stiffness and risk of death from all causes. Western Medicine is unable to consider this information within the context of a discriminative paradigm.
Understanding why Aortic Stiffness predicts risk of death from all causes is not difficult when approached from an Eastern perspective. Please let me provide a focused discussion of body anatomy to illustrate this point.
The Aorta is positioned immediately in front of the spinal column as seen in the diagram below.
Aortic Stiffness is a measure of stiffness along the spinal column. The ribs have a mobile joint attached to a vertebra at each level of the thoracic portion of the spine and increased spinal stiffness leads to stiffness of the rib cage as well. The Diaphragm muscle has intimate connections with the spine and rib cage as shown in the diagrams below.
The spine, rib cage and diaphragm muscle are connected and stiffness of the spine will induce restricted motion of the rib cage and diaphragm. I have coined the term Core Mobility for mobility of the spine, rib cage and diaphragm muscle.
The Eastern understanding of health is based upon an interdependence of the body's tissues, organs and circulatory structures. Physical mobility of the body's components and free circulation of fluids between regions of the body and within internal organs is essential for health and long life.
The spine has had great importance as an organizing principle in Eastern medicine. The Chakras are arrayed along the length of the spine and cranium. The ancient Taoists created the Neijing Tu diagram that arrays the body's physiology (from an Eastern perspective) along the spinal axis.
Each breath is an engine promoting circulation of blood through the internal organs and circulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to the brain. AS the diaphragm descends it compresses the liver, spleen,adrenal glands and kidneys that have shapes matching curves of the diaphragm where they come in contact. Each breath acts on the sponge like internal organs to squeeze out fluids with each inspiration and draw fluids through the myriad channels, sinusoids and canaliculi that serve as porous pipes transporting nutrients to and waste products away from cells deep within each organ. Each breath creates pressure changes in the spine that drive CSF up the spine, around and then through the depths of the brain. The brain and spinal cord have 250ml of fluid that is replaced four times daily. To do this it is necessary to efficiently pump CSF past the frond like areas deep within the brain known as the Choroid Plexus.
With stiffening of the spine, rib cage and diaphragm each breath is less and less able to promote organ function and CSF circulation. Spinal mobility (as measured using Aortic Stiffness) is essential for organ and brain health.
Each time the heart beats a wave (Primary Wave) strips down the walls of the entire arterial tree including the Aorta. This is the pulse wave palpable at the wrist. The Aorta sends off branches to the intestinal tract, the kidneys and then divides to form the blood vessels feeding the legs. At each Aortic branching and at the Aortic division, reflections of the Primary Wave appear and travel back towards the heart. The reflections sum to form a Reflected Wave. In a young person this Reflected Wave arrives back at the heart just as the heart completes a contraction and starts to relax. The Reflected Wave maintains pressure in the Aorta, promoting blood flow into the coronary arteries feeding the heart muscle. Lovely and sbbtle timing designed to feed the heart muscle while it is in a relaxed state.
When the Aorta stiffens, as a result of aging and other causes, the Primary and Reflected Waves travel more quickly as a result of all waves travelling faster in stiffer media. Early return of the Reflected Wave causes the Primary and Reflected Waves to crash into one another. This results in Hypertension (High Blood Pressure), increased work load on the heart muscle leading to increased chance for heart failure and decreased blood flow to the heart during its relaxation phase leading to diseased coronary arteries and increased risk of heart attack. The high peak pressures that occur with early return of the Reflected Wave injure the lining of the small blood vessels carrying blood to the brain's cortex with small areas of ischemic damage (brain cell death) accumulating.
Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Kung work the entire body and have a focus on spinal movement.
Core Mobility is a real and very important concept responsible for good health and long life. It is important to give people an ability to objectively monitor Core Mobility and its response to exercise, diet and stress in order to define a healthy path forward.
Twenty years ago I was a student of a Taoist monk who had taught e the art of Tai Chi for the previous twenty years. he asked to me to show people why they should stretch between the heart and the kidneys. Over the last twenty years I have worked to honour his request. My aim was to create simple and easy technology allowing people to monitor Core Mobility through measurement of Aortic Stiffness. This aim has been realized through the iheart Internal Age System.