Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier - The Best Alternative Medicine

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Cardiovascular (Heart) Disease and Cholesterol: CAM Therapies for Specific Conditions

  • Hypnotherapy is used to correct cardiac arrhythmias.

  • Biofeedback, a training program used to improve autonomic body functions, is used to treat about 150 conditions including cardiac arrhythmias.

  • Plant-based, or phytonutrient, diets contain disease-fighting substances known as phytochemicals, and are rich in other nutrients. They are also low in fat and high in fiber, which helps prevent cardiovascular disease and helps remove dangerous toxins from the system. A high-fat diet increases risk of cardiovascular disease. It is widely accepted that modern high-fat, low-plant-content diets that accompanied industrialization have been associated with an increased incidence of degenerative diseases, including cardiovascular disease.

  • Coenzyme Q10, a nutrient, protects against injury from tissue damage after heart attack or surgery.

  • In a study of patients with multiple injuries, the antioxidant enzyme SOD helped mitigate cardiovascular and lung failure, and reduced intensive care treatment and inflammation.

  • Studies show that amino acid L-carnitine supplementation appears to reduce angina and ischemia, and improves exercise duration. In patients with myocardial infarction, it reduces infarction size, angina, cardiac death, and nonfatal infarction.

  • DHEA, a steroid hormone, may replace other declining hormones in older women and protect against cardiac disease.

  • DHEA reduces platelet aggregation in cardiovascular disease.

  • In a study of the Chinese herbal medicine Jianyanling, statistically significant reductions in blood fats were found in the treatment group, which achieved significantly lower levels than the control group.

  • Garlic is a popular substance for reducing cardiovascular risk factors. Garlic may lower blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and inflammation of the arteries, although the actual mechanism remains unknown. Usual dose is 300 mg taken 2 to 3 times per day. Garlic may enhance the blood-thinning effect of such frequently prescribed medications as Coumadin. However, several recent studies indicate that garlic has little or no effect on cholesterol levels and is not recommended for such use at this time.

  • Hawthorn is presently the plant medicine of choice in Europe for regulating heartbeat, angina, and congestive heart failure (CHF). It has a long history of use, with clinical evidence to support its cardiovascular benefits. Usual use of hawthorn is 360 mg daily with meals. It may take up to six weeks before the effects of hawthorn are evident. Although hawthorn is relatively devoid of side effects, its use should be supervised by a physician, to avoid adverse effects. Heart disease should never be self-treated.

  • A number of herbal compounds have been used to prevent cardiovascular disease.

  • Guggul, an herb from a small, thorny tree in India, has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine for the last one thousand years for a variety of inflammatory problems. It also lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels and helps maintain a healthy balance of HDL, the "good" cholesterol, to LDL, the "bad" cholesterol (the HDL/LDL ratio), thereby protecting against cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.

  • Cholestin is a relatively new over-the-counter supplement made from rice fermented with a red yeast. The molecular structure of cholestin is virtually identical to the drug lovastatin. In 1999, the courts upheld the efficacy of cholestin to lower cholesterol and maintained it as an OTC rather than prescription substance.

  • Yoga exercise is an essential component of a cardiovascular program to manage and reverse heart disease. Perhaps the only caution with yoga or other relaxation therapies is a possible hypotensive reaction, or transient drop in blood pressure when standing up too quickly.

  • In a 1984 study, patients in a cardiovascular unit who received therapeutic touch (TT), a procedure involving the physical manipulation of a body's energy fields, showed a significant reduction in anxiety compared to patients receiving mock TT.

  • Lifestyle-based disease interventions reduce development of and recurrence of cardiovascular problems.

Caution: In Germany, the cardiac catheterization rate is only 75 percent as high as that of the United States. Cardiac catheterization is a procedure used to help diagnose and treat heart trouble. Great Britain performs only one-third as many catheterizations as the United States. Similarly, the rate of coronary revascularization procedures is much lower outside the United States. Nonetheless, patients appear to fare well in these countries.

Caution: Patients taking the drug digitalis, a heart stimulant, can die of lethal heart arrhythmias.

Caution: More than 400 IU of vitamin E per day may increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

Caution: People who take thrombolytics, or medications that inhibit blood clotting, should not take vitamin E supplements without checking with their doctor. Herbal thrombolytics may cause excessive bleeding if combined with aspirin or prescription drugs such as Coumadin.

Caution: Active constituents of the herb ephedra are the alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. These potent substances increase blood pressure and heart rate, and pose dangers for people with heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, and enlarged prostate, and for pregnant and lactating women.

Caution: Ginseng should not be used if you have high blood pressure, since it may diminish the effects of blood-pressure-lowering medications.


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Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, Inc.
Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, New York.

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