Alternative therapies for heart failure may offer benefits, but also some risks

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In a new statement from the American Heart Association, scientists found using complementary and alternative medicines to manage heart failure symptoms offers some benefits but also risks.

The scientific statement encourages people to disclose their use of such treatments to their healthcare team to ensure they are using them safely.

Approximately 6 million U.S. adults have heart failure, a condition that occurs when the heart doesn’t pump as well as it should.

In the study, the team found more than 30% of them use complementary and alternative medicines or CAM.

The committee defined CAM as any medical practice, supplement or approach that does not conform to the standard, conventional medicine.

The types of CAM people with heart failure might use include supplements such as fish oil and vitamin D, or practices such as yoga and tai chi.

The report looked at the safety and effectiveness of these treatments and analyze research published prior to November 2021.

The team found people with heart failure might benefit from some alternative therapies, including omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids such as those found in fish oil.

Studies have shown an association between consuming omega-3 fatty acids and reduced heart failure risk, as well as improvements in heart-pumping ability in people who already have heart failure.

However, the researchers also found that high doses (4 grams or more) of omega-3 fatty acids could increase irregular heart rhythms and should be avoided.

Yoga and tai chi, when added to standard medical care, could help people with heart failure increase their tolerance for exercise, improve their quality of life and lower their blood pressure.

Some therapies – such as vitamin D supplements, the herbal supplement blue cohosh, and parts of the plant lily of the valley – were found to have harmful effects, including harmful interactions with heart medications.

There was mixed data on other therapies, such as alcohol.

Some research has linked drinking low to moderate amounts (one or two drinks per day) with preventing heart failure while drinking excessively or habitually has been shown to contribute to heart failure.

The team concluded people with heart failure should have a conversation with healthcare professionals about using anything not prescribed by a doctor to ensure patient safety.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease, and Vitamin K2 could help reduce heart disease risk.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies that calcium supplements may harm your heart health, and results showing Flu and COVID-19 vaccines may increase heart disease risk.

The statement was written by Sheryl L. Chow et al and published in Circulation.

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