Natural Alternatives to Heart Medication

  • 31 Mar 2009
  • Reading time 11 mins
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If you’ve been diagnosed with some form of heart disease, be it angina, hypertension, thrombosis, or you’ve had a stroke or heart attack, the chances are you will be prescribed a cocktail of prescribed drugs.

Measuring Your Risk: The main measures that indicate you have risk or have reduced risk are blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and homocysteine level. Let’s look at each one separately.

1. Your blood pressure. This is measured as, for example, 120/76 mmHg. The top figure is the systolic blood pressure, the bottom figure the diastolic blood pressure. It’s the bottom figure—your diastolic blood pressure—that’s the most important figure. If your blood pressure is above 140/90, you have a much greater risk of heart disease. In fact, roughly every 10 point increase above 76 doubles your risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

2. Your cholesterol level. This is broken down into your total cholesterol, your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and your HDL (“good”) cholesterol. You want to have a low LDL cholesterol (ideally below 100 mg/dL), a high HDL cholesterol (ideally above 60 mg/dL), and a total cholesterol of not less than 150 mg/dL and not more than 200 mg/dL. As a rough indicator, with every 50 point increase in your total cholesterol above 200mg/dL, you double your risk of death from cardiovascular disease. With every 50 mg/dL increase in LDL, you double your risk, and with every 20 mg/dL decrease in HDL below 60 mg/dL, you double your risk.

3. Your triglyceride level. This reflects the level of fats in your blood stream and is raised by eating high fat/high sugar diets, or by excessive alcohol. Your trigylceride level should be below 89 mg/dL. As a rough indicator, every 50 mg/dL increase doubles your risk.

4. Your homocysteine level. This is measured in, for example, 6 mmol/l. You want to have a score below 6. As a rough indicator, with every 5 point increase above 6 mmol/l you double your risk of death from cardiovascular disease. There are other important measures such as your platelet adhesion index and your fibrinogen levels, which measure the stickiness of your blood; lipoprotein (a) level, which is a highly significant risk factor; and C-reactive protein level, which indicates inflammation in the arteries. Make sure that your doctor measures all of these important risk factors as well. How Good Are Heart Medications? There are several categories of heart medications, each designed to address one of the major categories I listed above. They include statin drugs, which are designed to lower LDL cholesterol; thiazides, which are diuretics designed to lower blood pressure; beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor antagonists, calcium channel blockers, and nitrovasodilators, all of which are designed to lower blood pressure; and blood thinning drugs, such as warfarin (coumadin) and aspirin.

If you are currently taking heart medication, simply look at the details about your drug to find out which category it falls into. Then read below to learn a bit more about what you are taking. Statin Drugs - Overall, statin medication can be expected to lower LDL cholesterol concentration by an average of 68 mg/dL if taken for several years. Research shows that statins can reduce your risk of a heart attack by about 60 percent and your risk of stroke by 17 percent.(1) However, the risk reduction in minimal in the first year of use. The downside is that statins lower LDL cholesterol by blocking an enzyme that makes mevalonate, a precursor to both cholesterol and co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 is vital to heart health, and deficiency has been associated with fatigue, muscle weakness and soreness, and heart failure. Because statin drugs block production of CoQ10, they also lead to CoQ10 deficiency, a fact that has been well established in human trials. Therefore, long-term statin use can very dangerous. Just how serious these problems are is somewhat unknown. The major trials of statin drugs excluded those with class 3 and 4 heart failure, thus avoiding the chances of seeing an increase in death from congestive heart failure from statin medication.(2)

Other symptoms associated with statins include dizziness, headache, extreme fatigue, swelling of the ankles, muscle aches, fatigue, and suppressed immunity. Additionally, statins can be dangerous if taken with high levels of long-acting (time-release) vitamin B3 (niacin). Thiazides, Beta-Blockers, and Calcium Channel Blockers - All these categories of drugs produce similar reductions in blood pressure, averaging a 5.5 point drop with standard drug doses. Unlike statins however, the reduction happens quickly. Beta-blocker drugs counter our normal stress response, which raises blood pressure. The greatest possible reduction in risk occurs from using combinations of these blood pressure-lowering drugs in low dose combination, in some cases, reducing deaths from stroke and heart disease by half.(3) On the downside, negative side effects are common—especially for beta-blockers—and include extreme fatigue, confusion, sleep disturbances, dizziness, sexual dysfunction, gastrointestinal complaints, and vivid dreams. And the higher the dose, the worse the side effects.

Much older people, pregnant women, and individuals with renal or thyroid disease should be especially cautious about taking beta-blockers, and use the lowest dose possible to get their blood pressure under control. Like statin drugs, beta-blockers also deplete CoQ10. Just be sure that you don’t stop taking your beta-blockers cold turkey, as this could precipitate angina, high blood pressure, or even a heart attack. Heparin, Warfarin (Coumadin,) and Aspirin - These drugs are often recommended if you have a blood clotting problem or have had a heart attack or stroke. Warfarin is particularly effective if you’ve had an embolic stroke, an extensive heart attack, or have mechanical heart valves. Aspirin is less effective for preventing clots and strokes, particularly in women and those over 75. The major side effect of these drugs is excessive bleeding, such as eye and brain hemorrhages, blood in the urine, and bleeding gums.

Warfarin can also cause weakness, cold sensations, itchy skin, fever, and abdominal discomfort. And aspirin has its own can of worms. It causes gastrointestinal bleeding and should be avoided if you have gut problems, a history of hemorrhagic stroke, bleeding ulcers, hemorrhoids, or ......

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