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January 28, 2005

Reflections on Cardiovascular Pathology, Part II

After a hiatus of entertaining and nonsensical posts, it’s time for a religiously and spiritually uplifting post. Several weeks ago, I had written part of this post (which can be found here: Part I)  and before I forget the second part, I figure I ought to post it.

In an amazing hadith found in the collections of the great Imams al-Bukhari and Muslim, as well as in the collection of Imam al-Nawawi (may God have mercy on them all), on the authority of Abu `Abdullah al-Nu’man b. Bashir (may God be pleased with him), the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) said: “Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh, which, if it be whole, all the body is whole, and which, if it is diseased, all of it is diseased. truly, it is the heart.”

The first part of this post dealt with the mechanics of the heart when the body is in a state of health. When it’s working normally, the rest of the body is also functioning properly: the heart sends out blood with oxygen and nutrients to cells that take them and pass on carbon dioxide and waste products of metabolism into the blood–you breathe out the carbon dioxide, the waste products are sent to the kidneys. Anyway, in this second part, I want to highlight one specific heart disease, kind of the grand-daddy of all heart diseases, that encompasses most of the things that can go wrong with the heart. It’s interesting that most hospitalized patients in the majority of American hospitals today are patients with this disease: post myocardial infarction congestive heart failure (post-MI CHF).

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is basically a secondary disease that can be caused by a variety of different factors that lead to the death of heart cells. Usually this is caused by a heart attack (medical term: myocardial infarction), which itself is caused by a multitude of different reasons: diet, lifestyle, family history, etc. As the heart cells die out, the heart as an organ itself “fails” to pump out blood, such that the blood coming in is greater than the blood coming out. This causes blood to “backup” into the places from which it came and this backed-up blood begins to pool in various organs (such as the liver, lungs, spleen, etc), causing damange to them. In addition, since the heart isn’t able to pump out the same amount of oxygenated blood as before, the cells that need that blood don’t get it, causing further damange and other symptoms such as shortness of breath on exertion and orthopnea (shortness of breath when lying down). To add more insult to injury, the kidney, which isn’t receving the same amount of blood as before, thinks the body is losing blood… so it actives mechanisms (such as the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system) to prevent urination (which is the primary way of getting rid of extra fluid)… which really sucks since it just adds more “fluid” to the system, and the heart can’t really pump that fluid well, so it just sits there….

In short, it’s a vicious cycle that gets worse and worse as time goes on.

When I was little (ok, like 8, so gimme a break…), I used to think that since the Prophet was illiterate, he just a simple man who didn’t know much about worldly matters. Yet, as I grew older and realized how many hadith correlate incredibly well to scientific facts and occurences, it just boggles the mind when you realize that Prophetic wisdom encompassed all areas of life: primary spiritual, definitely, but also economical, political, biological, social, medicinal, and psychological. When you read the hadith mentioned above and then read the description of CHF, it’s amazing how accurately the Prophet described what happens when the heart is physically diseased: when it is diseased, the whole body is diseased.

It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that the hallmark diseases of our time are cancers and heart disease–I’ll deal with cancers in another post, Inshallah. But in the Western world, heart disease is a result of factors (such as eating fatty foods, not exercising, smoking, etc) that can easily be removed with lifestyle changes. But it requires people to be aware that this disease isn’t brought on suddenly–rather it’s the culmination of years of bad habits that slowly damage the heart until it hits that critical point when the disease is now full-blown.

We believe that there is no separation between the physical and spiritual: in fact, the physical is merely a manifestation of things occuring in the spiritual realm. The fact that heart disease (in its physical form) is rampant in the world now is the manifestation of our diseased hearts (in the spiritual realm) that have lost the remembrance, awareness, fear, and love for Allah. Just as each Big Mac and each day sitting on the couch add up to damage the physical heart, each sin and each day we forget about Allah add up to damage the spiritual heart.

In short, we need to undertake the proper and necessary steps to ensure the health of our hearts–physically and spiritually.

“If it is sound, then the entire body will be sound.”


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  1. barakAllahu feeka ya kr.

  2. Anonymous permalink

    good job mash’Allah…

  3. You are a pointy-eared squirrel.

  4. jazak Allah khair for that postmy younger bro asked why the Prophet SAW was illiterate, and shouldnt he have learned how to read and write?my dad replied, when youre in direct contact with the Creator of the heavens and the earth,(SWT), you dont need to be literate.

  5. Anonymous permalink

    random props…very insight full thinking! mashallah!!!!

  6. Anonymous permalink

    stick to these cardiovascular posts…
    your insight on sports is lame and lacking…
    no eprops for you.. you have angered me… NO EARLOBES FOR YOU!

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