Congestive heart failure is a chronic medical condition that affects the strength of the heart muscle and the ability of the muscle to pump oxygenated blood around the body. In the past 40 years the number of individuals who suffer from congestive heart failure has grown significantly and today nearly 5 million Americans suffer from this condition. Because of advancements in technology and medical research, new treatment methodologies have enabled patients to increase their life expectancy and decrease the number of side effects they suffer. (1)
Among those treatment methodologies are alternatives to traditional medicine therapy which are gaining popularity, though with holistic medicine practitioners and some traditional Western medicine physicians.
Congestive heart failure is the end product of a number of cardiovascular diseases that decrease the ability of the heart to pump efficiently. A diagnosis of congestive heart failure means that nutritional preventative methods are too late, but nutritional intervention can continue to assist the function of a damaged heart and support traditional medicine medications. Today, researchers believe that nutritional intervention may be able to augment, and possibly substitute, for pharmaceutical drugs therapy. (2,3)
But nutritional therapy and interventions are not the only alternative methodologies available to patients who suffer from congestive heart failure. Another is exercise. Researchers have found that just 30 minutes of exercise twice a week, under the care of your cardiologist, can reduce the risk of hospitalization or death. A study published in Circulation, Journal of the American Heart Association, found that exercise for people who suffer from congestive heart failure is beneficial for their disease. Researchers found that those who participated in more exercise received greater benefits. Remember, before undertaking any exercise program to speak with your primary care physician or cardiologist about your limitations. (4)
Individuals who suffer from congestive heart failure must be careful about their dietary intake as it relates to sodium and potassium. Many people are taking diuretics, or “water pills”, which reduces the amount of sodium and potassium in the body. Potassium is a necessary mineral for the function of any muscle, including the heart muscle. Before adding or subtracting any mineral supplementation to your diet be sure to speak with your physician about the medications which you are currently taking and the guidelines which you must follow.
According to National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, more than $14 billion are spent each year on natural supplementation. (5) In 1993 a study showed that one third of Americans use some form of alternative medicine, and that number has continued to grow over the coming decade. One of the more popular adjuncts to treatment for congestive heart failure has been coenzyme Q10. This is an enzyme that is found in all tissues of the body and is necessary for metabolic reactions. It is used in heart disease because of its antioxidant effects and its ability to stabilize sodium and potassium activated enzymes. There have been several well researched studies that have shown an improvement in several measurements for individuals who suffer from congestive heart failure. (6,7)
Hawthorn is a plant which contains active flavanoids which inhibit vasoconstriction and activate the dilation of blood vessels. It has also been a very popular supplement for use in individuals who suffer from congestive heart failure, and other heart ailments. However, it can increase the action of drugs such as digitoxin and therefore is recommended that patients stop the use of Hawthorn if they are taking any other medication unless they are monitored by their physician.
Another more obvious alternative treatment method is weight loss. By maintaining an optimal weight the individual is able to reduce any unnecessary strain on the heart which decreases the progression of the damage. By restricting alcohol intake and salt intake people are also able to reduce damage.
Other supplements which have been shown to have some effect are fish oils, arginine, carnitine, folic acid, psyllium, ribose and astagalus. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that reduces free radical damage and thiamine, vitamin B1, may actually be the cause of some heart failure when there is a deficiency. Do not next herbal diuretics with other medications because there will be drug interactions. And, guard against any magnesium deficiency, which causes the muscles under function, malfunction or not function at all.
Before making the addition of any of these alternatives treatment methodologies to your particular case it is important that you speak with your cardiologist and ensure that nothing you are going to try will have a significant drug interaction with anything else you are already taking.
(1) American Heart Association: About Heart Failure
(2) The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Vitamin D in Congestive Heart Failure
(3) University of Maryland Medical Center: Heart Failure
(4) Circulation: Exercise and Heart Failure
(5) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: 2007 National Health Interview Survey
(6) Biofactors: Overview of the Use of CoQ10 in Cardiovascular Disease
(7) University of Maryland Medical Center: Coenzyme Q10