Congestive heart failure results from a tired, weak, energy-starved heart that is losing its ability to pump blood efficiently. Sadly, it results in approximately 30,000 deaths annually. However, congestive heart failure is only a symptom of an underlying problem.
The heart does not simply "fail" on its own, even though the underlying cause might not easily be figured out. Why is this important? Because the treatment that's right for you will need to take into account many factors that are unique to your situation:
- The stage of your disease
- The nature and severity of your congestive heart failure symptoms
- Your sensitivity to traditional cardiac drugs
- Your tolerance for side effects
- Other factors and circumstances that might be contributing to (and possibly be the primary cause of) your heart's weakened state.
These might include high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes, alcoholism, damaged heart valves, previous heart attacks, deficiencies of vital nutrients, stress, anger … and the list goes on.
Treating Congestive Heart Failure
The medical community has come a long way in the treatment of congestive heart failure, and for many patients, traditional medicine is effective.
Prescription medication, in particular, can dramatically alleviate symptoms. However, as with all strong drugs, the side effects can be almost as problematic as the initial congestive heart failure symptoms.
In other cases, the drugs simply aren't providing enough relief—you feel better, but not "in the pink." For these kinds of patients, I usually prescribe a course of complementary natural therapies to improve their prognosis.
In some cases, natural therapies, which have few or no side effects, can reduce the need for conventional medicines. In many cases, alternative therapies can enhance traditional medicines and provide relief that was lacking with drug therapy alone.
Many patients benefit greatly from blending conventional and alternative therapies—a strategy I recommend if you are dissatisfied with your current treatment plan for congestive heart failure.
Alternative Therapies for Treating Congestive Heart Failure
Here are my top alternative therapies for treating congestive heart failure. They are listed in the order in which they should be tried. You often need a four-to-six-week trial to determine whether they are doing any good. It is a good idea to tell your physician what you are up to.
Remember, it's safe to use natural remedies with medication but not as an immediate substitute for a medication. Eventually, you may be able to cut back on your prescription drugs by as much as 50 percent.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) Supplement
Coenzyme Q10 is prescribed by many highly trained, board-certified cardiologists across this country, as well as in Western Europe and Japan, in the treatment of congestive heart failure.
Unfortunately, there are still too many cardiologists who not only fail to recommend it but actually scoff at the idea, perhaps because they've been trained to believe that anything natural can't be as effective as a highly engineered drug.
Nonetheless, my own experience with patients and the enormous body of science supporting CoQ10 has convinced me that CoQ10 is the greatest addition to the treatment of congestive heart failure in this century.
CoQ10’s primary role is the production of energy at the cellular level which fuels the heart's essential blood pumping functions. Since all cellular functions are dependent upon energy, CoQ10 is essential for the health and normal functioning of all human tissues and organs.
Normally, the amount of CoQ10 within the heart muscle is 10 times greater than in any other organ, but in congestive heart failure patients, the heart cells are CoQ10-deficient, and the heart literally is not strong enough to pump blood from its own chambers.
Clinical studies show that 87 percent of patients with congestive heart failure and hypertensive cardiovascular disease improved after taking CoQ10 for six months, and for some, the gentle, natural boost to their energy-starved hearts brought dramatic improvement.
For congestive heart failure, start with 180 mg daily and increase to 360 mg over three weeks. Significant relief from symptoms may take a few weeks to months. If you are generally healthy and are interested in preventive health, take 30-60 mg daily.
Hawthorne Berry for Congestive Heart Failure
If your response to CoQ10 is insufficient, the next step is to add hawthorn berry (Crataegus spp.), a congestive heart failure treatment I've used extensively, particularly in patients sensitive to digoxin.
According to clinical research, hawthorn berry can increase the action of digoxin, making it possible to decrease the dose of digoxin, thereby avoiding or lessening digoxin-related side effects.
In fact, some patients with mild congestive heart failure get significant relief with hawthorn berry alone, an effect supported by double-blind studies in Europe. The German government recognizes hawthorn berries as an approved heart medicine.
How does hawthorn work? It is believed to improve the heart's ability to metabolize energy and utilize oxygen, and the berry's extracts contain flavonoids that increase the heart muscle's force of contraction.
Hawthorn berries also normalize irregular heartbeats, help lower blood pressure and enhance circulation by dilating the arteries.
Aim for 500–1500 mg daily or take as a tincture in water three times daily. For prevention, I recommend drinking hawthorn berry tea, which you can make by pouring boiling water over a cup of berries and letting them steep for 15 minutes.
L-carnitine and L-arginine Amino Acids
L-carnitine, an amino acid reportedly taken by marathon runners to enhance athletic performance, may increase energy available to the heart muscle cells of congestive heart failure patients by supporting free fatty acid metabolism. Aim for 500 mg twice daily.
L-arginine is another amino acid. It improves blood flow to the heart by stimulating endothelial cell releasing factor (ECRF), thereby inhibiting a chain of complex reactions that might otherwise cause plaque to form in the arteries and stifle blood flow to the heart. Use 2–4 grams before bedtime.
In stubborn, severe cases of congestive heart failure, I turn to Levodopa (L-dopa). It's the natural counterpart of an intravenous drug called Dobutamine.
When congestive heart failure approaches terminal stages, cardiologists sometimes opt to administer Dobutamine, although they must hospitalize the patient for half a day in order to closely monitor the individual for dose-related adverse reactions.
Many patients experience an increase in heart muscle strength with this once-weekly treatment, improving the effectiveness of their heart's pumping action.
Like Dobutamine, Levodopa is converted to dopamine in the body and can have similar beneficial effects on the weakened heart, but it can be taken orally.
Vitamin B-6 promotes the conversion of L-dopa to dopamine and should therefore be taken along with the L-dopa to maximize the beneficial heart effects.
L-dopa dosages need to be determined and carefully adjusted for each patient, so you’ll need to work with an alternative-minded physician for this treatment. Side effects can include rhythmic muscular twitches, heart palpitations, lightheadedness, nausea and vomiting.
Respect Your Body
The whole point here is to give your heart, and your quality of life, the best possible chance for improvement. For this to happen, it's critical that you and your physician respect the uniqueness of your body and of your particular heart condition—every patient is different.
For your best shot at good quality of life, you should have a cardiologist who is willing to try complementary options.
If you have congestive heart failure and are unhappy with your response to traditional treatment, take heart: The alternative therapies I've outlined here, along with eating the Mediterranean way, regular activity, and opening your heart emotionally, could make the difference you've been hoping for.