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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
- A number of herbal compounds have been used to prevent cardiovascular
- 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
- 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
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
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BEST ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: WHAT WORKS? WHAT DOES NOT? by Dr. Kenneth R.
Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier,
Reprinted by permission of Simon &
Schuster, Inc., New York, New York.
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