If you’re one of the almost 5 million Americans suffering from congestive heart failure (CHF) currently, you aren’t alone. Doctors diagnose about 550,000 new cases annually. CHF or its complications account for 20 percent of hospitalizations and almost half of the deaths of Americans over age 65. When your heart is struggling to pump enough blood to your body’s organs, you need all the help you can get. Researchers are discovering that patients can manage their congestive heart failure better by combining prescription medications with dietary supplements.
Understanding Get to Know Your Heart’s Decline
Your veins transport oxygen-poor blood to the right side of your heart, which pumps it to your lungs. After adding oxygen and removing carbon dioxide, your lungs deliver oxygen-rich blood to the left side of your heart. When your heart is healthy, it pumps at least 50 percent of that blood in one beat through your arteries to the rest of your body.But your heart muscle weakens over time, and your blood vessels narrow as you age. When your heart fails, it can pump only up to 40 percent of its blood supply. That causes two problems.
Your body doesn’t get the blood it needs when your heart is tired. Excess fluid or congestion can accumulate in your lungs, legs, ankles and feet, so sudden weight gain often is the first sign of congestive heart failure. You also may feel extremely tired and out of breath when doing everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs and eating. As fluid builds up in your lungs, you may experience shortness of breath, a chronic cough with or without mucus or blood or wake up in the middle of the night with a choking feeling.
CHF causes include coronary artery disease, clogged arteries, a previous heart attack, hypertension, cardiomyopathy, valvular heart disease, arrhythmia, aortic stenosis, mitral or aortic regurgitation and pulmonary hypertension. Diabetes, thyroid diseases, HIV/AIDS, alcohol abuse and illegal drug use also can contribute to CHF.
Conventional Prescription Treatments
Doctors have a host of congestive heart failure medication options including angiotension-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors like Altace (Ramipril). This prescription drug keeps your body from making the angiotensin II hormone that can narrow your arteries. Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) prevent your angiotensin II hormone from affecting your heart and blood vessels.
Vasodilators relax or dilate your blood vessels so your heart can pump easily. Beta-blockers enable your heart to beat more slowly and pump less blood. Calcium channel blockers encourage your blood vessels to relax by preventing calcium from entering your heart and blood vessel muscle cells. Digitalis glycosides strengthen your heartbeat, so your heart can pump more blood. Diuretics help remove excess fluids and salt from your body. Aspirin can lower your risk of having a second heart attack or stroke.
Carnitine:A vitamin-like compound, carnitine promotes energy metabolism in your heart muscle cells, boosts your oxygen uptake and increases your stress tolerance. Several double-blind clinical studies have shown that carnitine improves cardiac function in CHF patients.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10):This powerful antioxidant strengthens your heartbeat to augment output and enhances energy production in your heart tissue. A study found that CoQ10 treatment improved left ventricular function in congestive heart failure patients. Numerous studies have shown that combining CoQ10 supplementation with conventional drug therapy is extremely effective in CHF treatment. A recent meta-analysis found that CoQ10 helped boost ejection fraction, the percentage of blood your heart pumps in one beat.
Fish oil: Taking this omega-3 fatty acid supplement or eating cold-water fish can reduce your heart rhythm disturbance risk and lower high blood pressure. It also may decrease your chances of heart palpitations, atrial fibrillation and ventricular arrhythmia. When using standard care, adding fish oil supplements can improve your condition even more. A high intake of fish and marine omega-3 fatty acids can provide protection against CHF and reduce the mortality of manifest heart failure.
L-arginine:Four trials found improvement in heart failure outcomes with L-arginine supplementation. A study showed that this amino acid prolonged exercise capacity in congestive heart failure patients.
Magnesium: A magnesium deficiency is common in CHF. The magnesium level in your blood correlates with your heart muscle’s ability to manufacture enough energy to beat properly. Research has shown that this natural mineral produces positive effects in CHF patients who are receiving conventional drug therapy. A study reported that subjects who took magnesium supplements for six months could exercise without chest pain for significantly longer amounts of time.
Resveratrol:Research has shown that this phytochemical from grapes and thus red wine can be helpful in the metabolic cardiology treatment of congestive heart failure. Resveratrol switches your body’s biochemical pathways toward tissue maintenance, which helps protect cardiovascular health.
Thiamin (vitamin B1): The thiamindeficiency that’s common when you have CHF can lead to sodium retention, peripheral blood vessel dilation and worsening heart failure. Studies have shown that taking daily thiamin supplements improved CHF.
Vitamin D: Scientists associate vitamin D deficiency with heart dysfunction and failure. Vitamin D supplementation strengthens the heart muscle and reduces inflammation. It lowers your risks of developing high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and diabetes that may lead to CHF.
Consult Your Doctor
Before adding supplements to your congestive heart failure therapy, talk to your doctor. Avoid any that might interact with your medications. Then follow recommended dosages for the natural remedies that may improve your condition and quality of life.