The foramen ovale is a small opening located on the atrial septum that is used during fetal circulation to speed up the travel of oxygenated blood through the heart. When in the womb, a baby does not use its own lungs to oxygenate blood; it relies on the mother to provide oxygen rich blood from the placenta through the umbilical cord. Normally the foramen ovale closes at birth when increased blood pressure on the left side of the heart forces the opening to close.
If the atrial septum does not close properly, it is called a patent foramen ovale. This type of defect generally works like a flap valve, only opening during certain conditions when there is more pressure inside the chest. This increased pressure occurs when people strain while having a bowel movement, cough, or sneeze.
How does a PFO affect the body?
If the pressure is sufficient, blood may travel from the right atrium to the left atrium. If there is a clot or particles in the blood traveling in the right side of the heart, it can cross the PFO, enter the left atrium, and travel out of the heart to the brain (causing a stroke) or into a coronary artery (causing a heart attack).
A stroke occurs when circulation to a part of the brain is blocked. The resultant lack of oxygen can cause problems that range from death to permanent or temporary affects on muscle control and body function.
A PFO does not cause a stroke, but its presence may be a pathway for a stroke to occur by allowing blood to flow from the venous system to the arterial system without going through the lungs first. One of the important functions of the lungs, in addition to oxygen exchange, is to filter acidic debris from the venous blood returning to the heart. If this acidic debris goes to the arterial circulation, it can lodge in an artery serving the brain, heart, or other major organ causing an arterial embolization. When it lodges in the brain, a stroke occurs. If the effects of the stroke last less than 24 hours, the stroke is called a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). If the symptoms persist longer than 24 hours, it is termed a stroke.
The best treatment to prevent and/ or reverse a possible heart attack or stroke is an alkaline lifestyle and diet, as outlined in our new book, The pH Miracle Revised and Revisited, that will prevent bowel congestion and constipation, reduce or prevent allergic reactions to environmental toxins, reduce cellular acidic debris, prevent thrombosis, and keep the blood clean and flowing throughout central and peripheral blood circulation.