Heart disease alternative treatment

Treatment


Coronary heart disease

Heart medicines should not be stopped suddenly without the advice of your doctor as there is a risk this may make your symptoms worse.

Antiplatelets

Antiplatelets are a type of medicine that can help reduce the risk of a heart attack by thinning your blood and preventing it clotting.

Common antiplatelet medicines include:

  • low-dose aspirin
  • clopidogrel
  • ticagrelor
  • prasugrel

Statins

If you have a high cholesterol level, cholesterol-lowering medicine called statins may be prescribed.

Examples include:

  • atorvastatin
  • simvastatin
  • rosuvastatin
  • pravastatin

Statins work by blocking the formation of cholesterol and increasing the number of low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptors in the liver.

This helps remove LDL cholesterol from your blood, which makes a heart attack less likely.

Not all statins are suitable for everyone, so you may need to try several different types until you find one that is suitable.

Beta blockers

Beta blockers, including atenolol, bisoprolol, metoprolol and nebivolol, are often used to prevent angina and treat high blood pressure.

They work by blocking the effects of a particular hormone in the body, which slows down your heartbeat and improves blood flow.

Nitrates

Nitrates are used to widen your blood vessels. Doctors sometimes refer to nitrates as vasodilators.

They’re available in a variety of forms, including tablets, sprays and skin patches such as glyceryl trinitrate and isosorbide mononitrate.

Nitrates work by relaxing your blood vessels, letting more blood pass through them.

This lowers your blood pressure and relieves any heart pain you have.

Nitrates can have some mild side effects, including headaches, dizziness and flushed skin.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors

ACE inhibitors are commonly used to treat high blood pressure. Examples include ramipril and lisinopril.

They block the activity of a hormone called angiotensin II, which causes the blood vessels to narrow.

As well as stopping the heart working so hard, ACE inhibitors improve the flow of blood around the body.

Your blood pressure will be monitored while you’re taking ACE inhibitors, and regular blood tests will be needed to check that your kidneys are working properly.

Around 1 in 10 people have kidney problems as a result of taking the drug.

Side effects of ACE inhibitors can include a dry cough and dizziness.

Angiotensin II receptor antagonists

Angiotensin II receptor antagonists work in a similar way to ACE inhibitors.

They’re used to lower your blood pressure by blocking angiotensin II.

Mild dizziness is usually the only side effect. They’re often prescribed as an alternative to ACE inhibitors, as they do not cause a dry cough.

Calcium channel blockers

Calcium channel blockers also work to decrease blood pressure by relaxing the muscles that make up the walls of your arteries.

This causes the arteries to become wider, reducing your blood pressure.

Examples include amlodipine, verapamil and diltiazem.

Side effects include headaches and facial flushing, but these are mild and usually decrease over time.

Diuretics

Sometimes known as water pills, diuretics work by flushing excess water and salt from the body through urine.

Want to know more?

  • British Heart Foundation: medicines for your heart

Heart Attack | Medicines to Treat Heart Attack

If you’ve had a heart attack, your doctor has probably prescribed medicines you’ll need to take for a long time. These medicines:

  • Help improve blood flow to your heart.
  • Prevent blood clotting.
  • Reduce your risk of having more heart problems in the future.

Path to improved health

Below is information about medicines that are commonly prescribed to treat heart attack. This includes their benefits, risks, and side effects. If you have questions or concerns about the medicines you’re taking, talk to your doctor.

ACE inhibitors

ACE inhibitors can help if your heart is not pumping blood well. This type of medicine improves blood flow by helping to dilate (open) your arteries. It also lowers your blood pressure.

If you have acute coronary syndrome (ACS), your doctor may want you to take an ACE inhibitor. Having ACS means that you have reduced blood flow to the heart. It could be caused by a variety of conditions. One ACE inhibitor might be all the medicine you need. Or your doctor may prescribe one in combination with other medicines. These could include a diuretic or a beta blocker.

Side effects: ACE inhibitors don’t usually cause troublesome side effects. The most common side effect is a dry cough. More rare side effects include:

  • Dizziness.
  • Reduced appetite.
  • Fatigue (feeling out of energy).
  • Problems with your kidneys.
  • An increase in the level of potassium in the blood.

Risks: Because ACE inhibitors can cause birth defects, pregnant women shouldn’t take this medicine.

In rare cases, ACE inhibitors can lead to a serious allergic reaction. This reaction can cause swelling in certain areas of the body. It’s more common in black people and people who smoke. It can be life-threatening. You should get immediate medical attention if you experience swelling after taking an ACE inhibitor.

Aspirin

Your doctor may want you to take a low dose of aspirin each day. Aspirin helps keep your blood from forming clots. Blood clots can clog the arteries that carry blood and oxygen to the heart. Blockages in these arteries increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Side effects: Common side effects of aspirin include nausea and upset stomach. Some people feel nervous or have difficulty falling asleep when taking aspirin. Call your doctor if your symptoms are bothersome.

Risks: Aspirin can increase your risk of stomach ulcers. It can also cause bleeding in your stomach and intestines. Doctors prescribe a low dose of aspirin for people who have ACS. The dosage is usually between 81 and 162 mg per day. The low dose provides the same benefits as a higher dose. But there is less risk of internal bleeding.

Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of aspirin therapy. He or she will prescribe the aspirin dose that’s right for you and tell you how to take it.

Beta blockers lower the heart rate and blood pressure. They help improve blood flow to the heart, reduce chest pain, and prevent more damage to the heart. Your doctor may want you to take a beta blocker alone. Or he or she may want you to take it in combination with other medicines. These could include a diuretic or an ACE inhibitor.

Side effects: The side effects of beta blockers tend to be mild. Common side effects include cold hands, fatigue, dizziness, and weakness. Less common side effects include shortness of breath, difficulty sleeping, depression, and decreased sex drive.

Risks: Beta blockers are not recommended for people who have asthma. This type of medicine can trigger severe asthma attacks.

Beta blockers may make it difficult for people with diabetes to recognize signs of low blood sugar. One of these signs is rapid heartbeat. If you have diabetes, your doctor will probably tell you to check your blood sugar often.

Stopping beta blockers abruptly increases the risk of heart problems. If you need to stop taking a beta blocker, it’s important to stop gradually. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.

Antiplatelet medicines help prevent blood clots. They don’t allow certain cells in the blood (called platelets) to clump together. This reduces the risk of blockages in the coronary arteries that can lead to heart attack and stroke. They’re sometimes prescribed along with aspirin therapy.

Side effects: Some common side effects of antiplatelet medicines include:

  • nausea
  • upset stomach
  • stomach pain
  • diarrhea
  • itching
  • rash

Talk to your doctor if you experience side effects while taking this medicine.

Risks: Because antiplatelet drugs prevent blood clotting, they can increase the risk of serious bleeding in some people.

Diuretics (water pills) help the body get rid of extra sodium (salt) and fluid. They reduce the amount of fluid flowing through your blood vessels. This lowers your blood pressure.

Diuretics are commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure. They are sometimes used in combination with beta blockers and ACE inhibitors.

Side effects: Common side effects of diuretics include:

  • increased urination
  • increased thirst
  • fatigue
  • muscle cramps
  • low blood pressure

Less common side effects include increased blood sugar, increased cholesterol, irregular menstrual periods in women, and impotence in men.

Risks: People who take diuretics can have too much or too little potassium in their blood. This depends on the type of diuretic they take.

Statins are used to lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels. They may also help increase “good” cholesterol (HDL) levels. Most people who take statins will take this type of medicine for the rest of their lives.

Side effects: Muscle pain is the most common side effect of statins. The pain can be mild or severe. Less common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, gas, and constipation. People who take statins may also get a rash. This side effect is more common when a statin is taken in combination with niacin. This is another medicine used to lower cholesterol levels.

You’re at higher risk of having side effects from statins if you:

  • Are a woman.
  • Are age 65 or older.
  • Have liver or kidney disease.
  • Have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
  • Take several types of medicine.

Some people may feel discouraged by the side effects caused by statins. However, the side effects are not usually life-threatening. Your doctor can help you find ways to manage them. If you’re worried about side effects, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking statins.

Risks: In some people, statins can cause liver damage.

Anticoagulants (blood thinners)

Blood thinners don’t actually thin the blood. They decrease the ability of the blood to clot. This helps prevent clots from forming in the blood vessels. It also may prevent clots from becoming larger. Large clots can cause more serious problems.

Side Effects: The most significant side effect of blood thinners is bleeding. Your blood doesn’t clot as easily. If you cut or injure yourself, you’ll bleed more than normal. The risk of bleeding being a major event is low.

Blood thinners can cause interactions. These could be with some foods, prescription medicines, or over-the-counter supplements. Less serious side effects include:

  • Swelling at the injection site.
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, or inability to eat.
  • Fever.
  • Heavier than normal menstrual periods or bleeding between periods.

Risks: Some people who take blood thinners are more at risk of having bleeding problems. These include people who:

  • Are older than 75.
  • Take other blood-thinning medicines.
  • Have high blood pressure.
  • Have cancer.
  • Have problems with their kidneys or liver.

Be sure to tell your doctor about any other medicines or supplements you take. Tell other health care providers that you are taking a blood thinner.

Things to consider

All medicines can cause side effects. They also can carry risks for certain people. Always tell your doctor about any medicines you take. Tell him or her about any side effects you’re experiencing. Make sure they know your full medical history so they can prescribe the best medicine for you.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What is the best medicine for me?
  • Should I take more than one medicine after having a heart attack?
  • Am I at risk for complications from any of these medicines?
  • What types of side effects can I expect from the medicines you are prescribing?

Resources

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: Heart Attack

U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus: Heart Attack

Heart Attack Diagnosis and Treatment

Early treatment for a heart attack can limit damage to your heart.

Antiplatelet drugs, heart bypass surgery, and clot-busting medications are a few ways to treat a heart attack.

If you have symptoms of a heart attack, it’s essential to call for emergency medical care right away so that you can be evaluated and treated as soon as possible.

The treatments your doctor recommends will depend on the level of blockage in your coronary arteries and the extent of damage to your heart muscle.

Once a heart attack is confirmed or strongly suspected, your doctor may put you on medications to help unblock clogged arteries and restore blood flow to your heart.

You may also be given medications to prevent future clots or to reduce your heart’s workload.

Depending on the extent of blockage in your coronary arteries, you may also require a catheter-based or surgical procedure to open up a blocked artery or to create a new route for blood to reach your heart. (1)

Tests Can Help Make a Diagnosis

A number of diagnostic tests may be used to find out whether you’ve had a heart attack.

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) This test uses electrodes that attach to your skin to record your heart’s electrical activity. The results are shown as waves on a monitor or paper.

Since injured heart tissue doesn’t send electrical signals normally, an ECG can show that a heart attack is happening or has happened. It can also help your doctors determine the likely location of your heart attack.

Blood tests When you have a heart attack, heart muscle cells die and release proteins into your bloodstream. By measuring levels of these proteins, doctors can learn the timing and severity of your heart attack.

Common blood tests in this category include troponin, CK or CK-MB, and serum myoglobin.

Coronary angiography This test involves injecting a special dye through a catheter into your coronary arteries and using X-rays to view how the dye moves through the vessels, looking especially for any blockages.

If a blockage is found, your doctor may recommend a procedure to open the vessel with a stent or possibly a surgery to bypass the blockage.

Echocardiogram This test uses sound waves (ultrasound) to create a moving image of your heart on a monitor. It’s used to look for possible damage to certain structures of your heart, such as your valves and heart muscle.

Other imaging tests Your doctor may also order a chest X-ray, a computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to check for damage to your heart and surrounding structures. (1,2,3)

Drugs Can Help Break Up Clots or Prevent Them From Forming

During or after a heart attack, your doctor may start you on one or more medications to break up blood clots, prevent future clots, or keep a partial blockage from getting worse.

These medications include:

Thrombolytics (“clot-busters”) If diagnostic tests show that one or more of your coronary arteries is blocked, your doctor may start you on a thrombolytic or “clot-busting” drug, like alteplase, tenecteplase, urokinase, or reteplase.

These medications work to quickly dissolve any blood clot that may be causing the blockage. They’re given as an intravenous (IV) infusion through a tube.

Thrombolytics are most effective at limiting damage when given as soon as possible, ideally within 30 minutes of the start of your chest pain or other heart attack symptoms. To have any significant effect, they must be given within a few hours of when your symptoms started. Also, thrombolytics are less commonly used now because of broad availability of cardiac catheterization to perform coronary angiograms and place coronary stents.

Anticoagulants (blood thinners) These drugs reduce your blood’s ability to clot. They may prevent existing clots from growing larger and causing more serious problems.

Heparin, the anticoagulant most commonly used after heart attacks, is given by intravenous (IV) or subcutaneous (under the skin) injection.

Antiplatelet drugs Aspirin may be recommended by a 911 operator or given by emergency medical personnel on your way to the hospital. It stops blood clots from forming by preventing platelets from sticking together.

Once you’re at the hospital, emergency room doctors may give you drugs called platelet aggregation inhibitors, which also help prevent new clots and the growth of existing clots.

Beta blockers These drugs help lower your blood pressure and reduce your heart’s workload. They can relieve chest pain and discomfort, limit heart muscle damage, and reduce your risk of another heart attack.

ACE inhibitors These drugs also lower your blood pressure and reduce the strain on your heart, potentially limiting damage to the organ.

Statins These drugs lower your blood lipid (cholesterol and triglyceride) levels, potentially reducing your risk of a future heart attack or stroke. (1,2,3)

Surgeries and Other Treatment Options

Depending on the extent and location of blockages in your coronary arteries, your doctor may recommend a procedure or surgery to restore and maintain blood flow to your heart.

Potential procedures include:

Angioplasty and stent placement Angioplasty, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), is a procedure to open a narrowed or blocked coronary artery.

Your doctor will insert a plastic tube through a small incision in your groin or arm and guide it through your artery to the site of the blockage.

A small balloon is then inflated from the tube to open up the blockage.

A mesh tube called a stent may be left in the area to keep your artery open.

Heart bypass surgery Also known as coronary artery bypass grafting, this surgery creates a new route for blood and oxygen to reach your heart.

Your doctors will take part of a blood vessel (often a piece of vein from your upper leg) and use it to make a detour, or bypass, around your blocked artery.

Most people are placed on a heart-lung bypass machine, or cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) pump, during this surgery.

This machine does the work that your heart would normally do while doctors operate on your heart.

Heart bypass surgeries typically last four to six hours. (1,2)

Pacemaker placement A heart attack can temporarily or permanently disrupt the electrical activity in your heart that’s responsible for a normal heartbeat.

You may require a pacemaker during your hospital stay if your heartbeat is irregular or too slow. This battery-powered device sends electrical impulses to help your heart beat normally.

If your doctor determines that you’ve sustained permanent damage to your heart’s electrical conduction system, you may require a long-term pacemaker after your hospital stay. (4)

Additional reporting by Quinn Phillips.

How Do Naturopathic Doctors Prevent and Treat Heart Disease?

Heart disease, the leading killer for both men and women in the U.S., is largely preventable if caught and treated early. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) excel at preventing and treating cardiovascular disease because they focus on identifying the underlying causes of disease and empowering patients to make enduring lifestyle changes to restore and maintain their health. A study investigating the effects of lifestyle changes in patients with atherosclerosis (the buildup of fatty, cholesterol-rich plaque in the arteries) found that after only one year of following lifestyle recommendations, about 80% of participants were able bring about plaque regression and avoid surgery without the use of lipid lowering agents.

Trained to treat the whole person, naturopathic doctors address the genetic, environmental, and behavioral/lifestyle factors that lead to cardiovascular disease. While treatment approaches are individualized to each patient, here are six key focuses for naturopathic prevention and treatment of heart disease:

1.Comprehensive intake to identify risk factors and underlying causes. Root causes of heart disease often show up as warning signs in other bodily systems, and many times they are the result of chronic inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can arise from poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, stress, autoimmune disease, food allergies, and many other sources. Inside arteries, inflammation helps kick off atherosclerosis, which narrows the arteries and increases the risk they’ll become blocked. This can lead to heart attacks and certain types of strokes.

Naturopathic doctors spend 1-2 hours with patients in an initial appointment, and a good portion of this time is dedicated to identifying sources of inflammation. Trained to be “inflammation hunters,” NDs perform a methodical review of your major bodily systems (skin, digestion, joints, respiratory, etc.). They will also ask detailed questions about your diet and physical activity, and discuss your main stressors and coping strategies.

Naturopathic doctors look carefully for conditions such as insomnia, fatigue, and depression because they are all serious risks for both heart disease and heart attack. These conditions deplete vital neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, that are essential for good endothelial (blood vessel) health. Your doctor will individualize treatment with an emphasis on natural agents, such as clinical nutrition, botanical medicine and counseling. Naturopathic doctors avoid the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) if possible. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen have been associated with heart attacks and heart failure.

2. Targeted labs for a clear picture of what’s happening inside your body. Naturopathic doctors will match diagnostic lab tests to learnings from your intake in order to determine what is causing your symptoms. Just as the intake is a detailed interview process, so are labs an in-depth series of questions to your body. They will be individualized, and may include the following:

  • Lipid panel that includes oxidized LDL (the primary type of cholesterol found in plaques), inflammatory markers, autoimmune markers, and lipoprotein particle analysis
  • Full glucose panel
  • Comprehensive neurotransmitter profile

3. Management of vital signs with medications as needed. Naturopathic doctors follow the Therapeutic Order, a set of guidelines for clinical decision making that prioritizes minimally invasive therapies to support the body to repair itself. Because of this, NDs lead with natural treatments. However, they are also trained to use pharmacological drugs when necessary.

If their state license permits, NDs can prescribe medications such as diuretics, beta-blockers, and ACE inhibitors as a bridge to manage symptoms of chronic inflammation or cardiovascular disease (e.g. hypertension), until the body repairs itself. If not, they will refer patients to and collaborate with a conventional medical colleague.

Naturopathic doctors will help you balance potential unwanted side effects of these medications with natural protocols that can correct them. The goal is to reduce or eliminate reliance on medications in the long-term by addressing the root cause(s) of heart disease.

4. Optimizing gastrointestinal function. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a common source of inflammation in the body. Gut flora are living microorganisms that provide a wall of protection between your digestive tract and your blood stream. When the flora in your digestive tract are not in balance, you risk developing localized inflammation. This can lead to alterations in intestinal permeability (leaky gut) which can contribute to heart disease.

Naturopathic doctors help repair the GI tract using their extensive training in diet and clinical nutrition. Restoring proper PH, balancing flora, correcting leaky gut and constipation–linked with a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease–are focal points of naturopathic GI treatment.

5. Addressing endothelial dysfunction. The endothelium is the inner lining of your blood vessels. It is considered one of the largest organs in your body, and plays an important role in maintaining good heart health. If the endothelium is not functioning optimally, you have an increased risk of arterial inflammation and plaque build-up, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Endothelial dysfunction is caused by lifestyle factors including tobacco use, obesity, age, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, physical inactivity, and poor diet.

A focus of naturopathic medicine is empowering patients to make lifestyle changes in order to achieve optimal health. Your doctor will work with you to restore normal endothelial function using a combination of lifestyle modification, botanical medicine,12, and/or clinical nutrients ,,.

6. Motivating physical activity. Exercise is linked to improvements in numerous cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, depression, inflammation, diabetes, and more. Naturopathic doctors believe it is their duty to inspire patients to exercise, rather than just give them guidelines. Because of the extra time they spend getting to know your lifestyle and support systems, they are often able to give you creative and personalized recommendations for physical activity that you can not only implement, but also sustain.

Alternative Medicine for Heart Disease

Alternative Medicine for Heart Disease: The Key Is Prevention

Conventional and alternative medicine experts agree that lifestyle choices can influence your risk of developing heart disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer. “Exercise is cheap, and there are no drug interactions,” Dr. Novey says. A diet that’s low in saturated fat and high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids can also help guard against heart disease.

According to Novey, omega-3 fatty acids are “one of the most outstanding cardiac risk reducers out there.” Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease; boost high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as “good” cholesterol; and act as a mild blood thinner, which may help stave off blood clots.

To get those omega-3s, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fish at least twice a week or taking natural fish oil. People with heart rhythm problems should talk to their cardiologist before taking fish oil capsules, however, since these supplements may exacerbate underlying conditions that cause irregular heartbeats.

Reducing stress is key to controlling blood pressure and helping to prevent heart disease. Alternative medicine like deep breathing, yoga, and tai chi are good stress-relieving activities. “One of the biggest gifts you can give yourself is to learn how to relax,” Novey says.

Alternative Medicine for Heart Disease: Chelation Therapy

Chelation therapy is a medical treatment commonly used to rid the body of heavy metals, like treating lead or mercury poisoning. Its use in treating heart disease is controversial and questionable.

During chelation treatments, an amino acid called EDTA (ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid) is injected. It binds to heavy metals and minerals and leaves through the urine. People who support the use of chelation therapy for heart disease say EDTA can also remove the calcium deposits that help form dangerous arterial blockages.

Typically, chelation therapy for heart disease requires many infusions over the span of four weeks and costs thousands of dollars, which is not covered by insurance. The FDA, the AHA, the National Institutes of Health, and the American College of Cardiology, among others, say there’s no proof that chelation therapy helps to treat or prevent heart disease.

According to the AHA, the EDTA used in chelation therapy can lead to serious complications, including kidney failure, low blood pressure, seizures, and difficulty breathing. Chelation therapy has even been associated with several deaths.

A large, long-term study is being conducted to determine the safety and effectiveness of chelation therapy for heart disease. Until the study is completed, the known risks of chelation therapy for heart disease appear to outweigh any potential benefits.

Alternative Medicine for Heart Disease: Dietary Treatments

High cholesterol is a major risk factor for developing coronary heart disease. Novey says certain foods and supplements can help you manage your cholesterol:

  • Niacin. This B vitamin works in the liver to reduce the fatty acids that form cholesterol. Niacin can help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglyceride levels while boosting HDL. Potential side effects include nausea, intense flushing, and liver problems. Niacin should only be taken under a doctor’s supervision since special blood tests are necessary to monitor for liver damage.
  • Red yeast rice. Researchers have found that this Chinese supplement can lower LDL and triglycerides. Red yeast rice contains monacolin K, which is a statin — a chemical compound that lowers cholesterol. In fact, monacolin K is the principal ingredient in the prescription cholesterol drug lovastatin (Mevacor).

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned certain brands of red yeast rice due to concerns that the statin levels can cause muscle, liver, and kidney damage. The FDA ordered manufacturers to remove the statin in red yeast rice sold in the United States, but several brands still contain it. Talk to your doctor before taking red yeast rice to treat your heart disease, since it can interact with prescription drugs.

  • Plant sterols (phytosterols). Sterols are naturally found in nuts, fruits, vegetables, and some vegetable oils. They have been shown to help lower LDL and are now being added to food products such as juice, mayonnaise, and margarine.
  • Oat fiber. The soluble fiber in oats likely helps the body get rid of excess cholesterol, which can improve heart disease. The American Dietetic Association recommends three grams of soluble fiber a day to help lower cholesterol and possibly lower blood pressure.

Novey recommends eating natural, unprocessed foods for optimal heart health. “Nature has this all figured out — changing the food changes what nature intended.”

If you’ve had a heart attack or other serious heart issue, you’re understandably confused and concerned about what happens next. Is it only a matter of time before you have another heart attack or cardiac issue? Does heart disease mean your heart is “diseased” forever?
According to researchers and dieticians, the answer is no—heart disease can be reversed, and one of the best ways to reverse heart disease is through cardiac rehabilitation.
“Cardiac rehabilitation programs are designed to help people with heart disease build back their heart health,” said cardiologist Bryan Martin, DO. “Programs focus on diet, exercise, counseling and education as a way to recover and avoid future cardiac complications.”
One specialized cardiac rehab program is Ornish Lifestyle Medicine’s “undo it” program.
What is “undo it?”
Dr. Dean Ornish, the creator of Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, developed the “undo it” cardiac rehabilitation program, which incorporates diet, exercise, stress reduction and community support into a comprehensive program to undo heart disease. “Undo it” is spaced out into 18 four-hour sessions, for a total of 72 hours. In these sessions, a care team teaches you how to manage stress, be conscious of how much you exercise, help maintain a heart-healthy diet and offer support.
“Diet, exercise and stress are all factors that influence the heart,” said Dr. Martin, medical director of Ornish Lifestyle Medicine at Geisinger Wyoming Valley. “Because of the supportive community, people on the diet find it easier to stay committed and make improvements to their heart health.”
What is the Ornish diet?
Part of “undo it,” The Ornish diet is a type of vegetarian diet that can reverse the symptoms of heart disease. The diet has gained popularity in the last 30 years because participants averaged losing 24 pounds and most kept the weight off—something uncommon for other major diets, and helping get rid of a major risk factor for heart disease. Unlike other diets, the Ornish diet’s positive effects have been documented through research, which is why many doctors and health professionals prescribe the Ornish diet for patients.
“On the Ornish diet, people eat beans, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables,” said Dr. Martin. “You can also eat some low-fat and nonfat dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt. While on the diet, avoid all meats, oils and sugars. You’re also encouraged to quit smoking and reduce your alcohol consumption.”
The Ornish diet causes weight loss because it lowers your fat and calorie intake and eliminates your cholesterol intake. As a result, this puts less pressure on your heart. In addition to reversing heart disease, the Ornish diet can reverse diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Results vary by person, but people have lowered their BMI by ten percent, lowered their cholesterol by 40 points and lowered their blood pressure by 35 points.
“People following the Ornish diet often notice that chest pain goes away and there’s an increase in blood flow to the heart in only three weeks,” said Dr. Martin. “After a year, their arteries are less clogged, and after five years, they experience even more improvement.”
Dr. Bryan Martin, DO, is a cardiologist at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre. For more information about Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, visit Geisinger.org or call 570-808-7973.

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Pre-publication history

  1. The pre-publication history for this paper can be accessed here:http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/12/299/prepub

Heart failure

At present the most successful way of treating heart failure is by medication, though some studies have suggested that transcendental meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques help to reduce blood pressure and increase people’s sense of well-being. Research is also being carried out into the possible benefits of tai chi. NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) issued guidelines in June 2006 on the treatment of high blood pressure that stated that relaxation therapies such as stress management, meditation, cognitive therapies, muscle relaxation and biofeedback, can have a modest effect on reducing blood pressure and people, “may wish to pursue these as part of their treatment”.
Though many people thought that learning to relax and concentrating on things that took them out of themselves would be beneficial, few had actively tried new things and most said that they preferred to talk to their family or their doctors.

Feels she does not need alternative therapies because she gets her support from medical staff and…

View full profile Age at interview: 66 Sex: Female Age at diagnosis: 65 SHOW TEXT VERSION PRINT TRANSCRIPT I’ve never tried alternative therapies at all. I decided this is quite enough and I didn’t feel that it was a suitable thing. Maybe it is for some people, it’s not for me. I’m taking the medication, I’ve had two lots of surgery, there’s a third, there’s an option for later on. I’m watching my diet, I’m doing what exercises I can I feel I’m coping better mentally now, so that’s quite enough to be on board, I don’t feel I need to try anything else. I’ve got people who listen to me, people who help me medically as well, that’s enough. Most people said they had not tried complementary medication such as herbal remedies in case they might interfere with their usual medicines. Others speculated that their doctors would not like them to ‘experiment’ with other remedies. A woman who had tried valerian to help her sleep found that it interfered with warfarin and said she always checked with her chemist before buying anything.

Someone who had tried homoeopathy and cranial osteopathy said that though they would probably work for other people, they had not worked for her. She said that she started feeling better once doctors had got her medication right. A man who tried Reiki healing said that it gave him a set time outside his usual routine when he could relax and reflect.

She tried various complementary practices – homoeopathy and osteopathy – but found they didn’t…

View full profile Age at interview: 53 Sex: Female Age at diagnosis: 49 SHOW TEXT VERSION PRINT TRANSCRIPT Yes, my sister is very much into homoeopathy. And she asks me to try it, and I did try it and… it does help some people, it didn’t help me. And I tried lots of things before I got onto the right dose of medicine but no, nothing helped me not like the doctor’s tablets, I don’t think anything does, not for a heart.

Did your sister try any particular treatment or any particular pills or?
Yeah I forget what they were now. But I know homoeopathy is, is very good and it does suit some people and I also went to an osteopath..a cranial osteopath I think they’re called. Yeah, and I had massage and it was very nice but it still didn’t do me any good. I still think that it’s just the doctor’s tablet’s that have made me feel better. But some people it might, I’m not saying it’s no good you know. And my sister gave me aromatherapy and reflexology as well because she can do all that, and it’s very nice having it done, but no just the doctor’s tablets make me better.
Text onlyRead below

He describes Reiki healing which helped him to relax and reflect.

View full profile Age at interview: 39 Sex: Male Age at diagnosis: 37 HIDE TEXT PRINT TRANSCRIPT The person I went to see was actually a Reiki master as well, a Reiki healer and she did one Reiki exercise on me, mainly where I laid down and put the hands over the face and you can feel the warmth. Whether that’s this magical transference from A to B or the fact that you’ve got a small amount of air between A and B and of course it heats up between the two, body heat, is what I think it is.
You still feel that, but for me it doesn’t matter where you think necessarily the energy comes from, whether it’s a mystical being or whether it’s from somewhere you can see, you can understand, it’s about feeling relaxed and can you think deep and get in a relaxed state and I can. I’ve always been able to do that before, so I was okay with that, but it didn’t, wasn’t as if oh this was now hocus pocus, it makes no difference, it was just another technique, somebody else being able to do it to you. Just like massages, those sort of things can deeply relax you.
And, and some of the sessions were okay in that it, I think that what was good about it was it was a set time to think, time out of here if you will, just to sit and perhaps just chat a little bit and then just reflect. So that was probably the biggest benefit. There wasn’t anything that I came away thinking, ‘Oh, I’m glad I did that because now I feel better about this’, I don’t think there was anything so startling about what came out of it.
Several people talked about how their religious faith helped their recovery and said they put themselves in God’s hands. Others said they prayed regularly and attended places of worship, and one man was pleased to have led a service and preached at his local church. A woman who sees her priest regularly for home communion said she also valued being able to talk to him because he was such a good listener.

Says he prays and puts himself and his health in God’s hands.

View full profile Age at interview: 46 Sex: Male Age at diagnosis: 45 SHOW TEXT VERSION PRINT TRANSCRIPT Well, we’re all religious in a way and when things happen we all call his name no matter, I don’t care who you think you are, right. Right, you’re still going to say ‘Oh My God,’ right? So if you don’t believe in him, why call his name? So he is up there, right. Now, it’s not so much that I was brought up in a Christian background, obviously right, but obviously as you go through life you learn different things, right. And you know… I put myself in his hands at the end of the day. Like I said, if I was going to through an operation I have to trust in him and he’s going to use the doctors as an instrument and help them to help me, you know what I mean? So that’s all I could do, all I could wish for, just pray to him saying, ‘I hope it goes through.’ If it does, it does, I’ll see you on the other side sort of thing! And that’s it basically but it’s not so much, I have my beliefs, everybody has beliefs and everybody interprets their beliefs differently, you know what I mean? So, I’m not saying follow me or do this but we’ve all got beliefs you know.
Many activities were said to be therapeutic including keeping a reflective diary, painting, yoga and meditation (see ‘Sports, hobbies and activities’). Others said they had tried listening to relaxation tapes and several people were thinking about joining relaxation and yoga classes. A woman who had been bereaved said that looking after herself helped her look and feel better and was helping to restore her self-confidence.media 30463}There were a number of ways that people used to unwind or overcome some of the strain of heart failure, which included watching television and old films. Someone else said his own mantra (‘it really doesn’t matter’) whenever he found himself stressed or upset (see ‘Stress and heart failure’).

Last reviewed April 2016.
Last updated March 2012.

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