IntroductionTakayasu’s Arteritis is a disease of the main artery that supplies fresh, oxygen-rich blood to the whole body. This makes it a serious condition also affecting the whole circulatory system including the blood vessels and the heart. The artery we are talking about is called ‘aorta’. Its walls get inflamed, thin and stretched, due to the cells that build up the wall are attacked by the immune system.
Function of The AortaThe aorta originates at the left ventricle and runs through the abdominal cavity, and then divides into two branches, each supplying one of the lower extremities. The whole body depends on the aorta for receiving oxygenated blood. When the aorta is sick and not able to function well, the body starts to suffer; and the lower body and the brain are the first to notice symptoms.
Some or many of the following symptoms may be observed by a person developing Takayasu’s Arteritis:
- Strange Sounds Heard By Stethoscope : When the heart rhythm is observed through a stethoscope, it feels abnormal.
- Varying Blood Pressure : The blood pressure measured over one limb differs from that observed in another limb.
- Fatigue and weakness : The body receiving a decreased oxygen amount becomes fatigued and weak easily.
- Constant Pain in The Limbs : The muscles and joints becoming painful signal that something is not right with the blood supply.
- Dizziness, Fainting : The brain also receives a decreased oxygen level, causing dizziness and even fainting.
- Inability to Concentrate : One is not able to concentrate or be attentive.
- Mild Stroke : The heart is working its best but still there is an imbalance in the blood going out and the blood coming in; sometimes mild strokes may occur in the heart.
CausesTakayasu’s Arteritis is a rare disease, which makes its exact cause difficult to find out. It is thought to be an autoimmune disease, where the immune system mistakenly identifies as malignant and attacks the cells of the internal walls of the aorta. When a person has other autoimmune disorders, it can trigger Takayasu’s Arteritis for them. Sometimes, Takayasu’s Arteritis can run in families.
Risk FactorsTakayasu’s Arteritis mostly affects young women aged 15 to 40 years. Also, all people affected are of either Asian or Latin American origin.
DiagnosisDiagnosis of disorders of the blood vessels requires angiography i.e. scanning the blood vessels to monitor blood flow. The scanning is usually done using x-rays, computed tomography (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Sometimes a biopsy (cutting out a sample of the inflamed tissue) is required.
Although an inflammation of the main artery is itself a threat to the whole circulatory channels, it may also lead to other more serious conditions that are also life- threatening:
- Bursting artery : The walls of the arteries stretch and become thin at some points, and may burst, causing severe internal bleeding.
- Heart attack : A part of the heart may stop working.
- Heart Failure : The heart may stop functioning altogether.
TreatmentDrugs such as steroids and anti-inflammatory medications are used to suppress symptoms. Anti-immune medications i.e. those that block or suppress the immune system are given so that the Arteritis can be kept in its initial stage.
Yoga For Management of Takayasu’s Arteritis
This disease is caused by a confused immune system, and the peripheral nervous system plays a great role in managing the working of the immune system. Keeping in mind the necessity of more of a passive routine than active one, three practices from the ancient yoga texts are recommended for individuals with Takayasu’s Arteritis:
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
Nadi Shodhana means ‘purification of the blood channels’. It is recommended especially to cure the disorders of the subtle cardiovascular and immune system. During the whole duration of Pranayama practice, breathing should be deep and relaxed. This practice should ideally be done in fresh air.
- Sit on a mat/ carpet/ dari with the back straight and the spine relaxed.
- The wrists should rest on the knees, with no strain in the elbows or the shoulders.
- Close your eyes gently.
- Place the index finger of any hand on the forehead and the middle finger either suspended, or with the index finger.
- Place the thumb tip on one nostril. Inhale with the other nostril.
- Exhale with the same nostril.
- Place the ring finger on this nostril and release the other nostril held by the thumb.
- Inhale deeply and exhale with the same nostril.
- Practice thirty respirations in the beginning.
The corpse pose: it is a relaxation asana and when practiced immediately after Pranayama, yields great benefit. It may seem easy and serve no purpose at first, but practicing relaxation asanas is an essential part of immune and idiopathic disorders, because the mind plays a great role in stimulating the immune system and the endocrine system. This pose could also be practiced in bed.
- Lie on the bed/ mat/ blanket.
- The whole body should be relaxed.
- Arms should rest on both sides of the body.
- Close your eyes gently.
- Breathe normally, inhaling deeply and exhaling fully.
- Pay attention to the breaths. Observe each inhalation and exhalation.
- Don’t interfere in natural respiration.
- On instruction by the therapist/ guru, remove attention from the breath.
- Open your eyes when guided.
- Take a side turn and get up from the mat or go to sleep as preferred.
Yoga Nidra is also known as ‘yogic sleep’. This practice can act as a bridge between relaxation and meditation. During Yoga Nidra, the body is reenergized as it is in actual sleep, in much less time. It is actually more beneficial than an actual sleep. Yoga Nidra should be done under the guidance of an expert or a guru. It is done by first practicing Shavasana.
- Lie down in Shavasana.
- Start by moving the attention towards the feet.
- After a few seconds, move the attention up through the legs, the pelvis, the back, the abdomen, the arms, the thorax, the neck, to the head.
- Observe the whole body.
- Breathing should be regular and relaxed.
- When guided, wake up and end the session.
- Yoga Nidra cools down the body.
- It rejuvenates the mind, the brain and the nervous system.
- It is extremely beneficial for all mental, immunological and idiopathic disorders. Sometimes, when the patient cannot move nor do any other activity on their own, Yoga Nidra is the only safe and recommended treatment for a patient.
All these practices shall be the most effective when done in a series, one after the other.
Lifestyle/ Dietary Tips
Besides practicing yoga, some tips should also be followed so that the blood vessels all over the body function well and support the aorta and the heart:
- Avoid packed, processed and preserved foods. They have lesser nutritional value than fresh food, and contain unhealthy amounts of fat, salt and sugar.
- Consume less fried and heavy food, especially if it has been cooked commercially.
- Eat more home-cooked food. The food made commercially has a lot of ingredients to enhance the taste, which decreases its nutritional value.
- Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts. They will fulfill all your requirements of minerals and vitamins.
- Electrolytes: consume electrolyte-enriched drinks especially in summer, like lemonade, coconut water, etc.
- Ghee: Ghee extracted from cow’s milk is an excellent tonic for the blood vessels and the heart. It should be eaten around 1 teaspoon at a time with rice, pulao, dals, khichari, etc.