Now more than ever, people are turning to home remedies like herbal remedies, dietary supplements, and homeopathic products, as well as activities like yoga, massage therapy, and acupuncture to treat their ailments. The alternative medicine market reached $100 billion in 2021 and projections show that value will more than triple over the next five years, according to a 2022 report from Research and Markets.
As non-traditional approaches continue to grow, the American Health Association (AHA) plans to release new guidelines before the end of the year regarding alternative medicine as it relates to heart disease.
The use of alternative medicine was a topic of discussion during a panel held on Sunday, November 6 during the 2022 AHA Scientific Sessions. Experts addressed myths related to alternative medicine among people with heart disease, such as heart failure. Want to know what the experts think about alternative medicine? Here’s a look at what they discussed.
Don’t put alternative therapy above traditional medicine
“It is critical for us to educate our patients about potential interactions with heart failure medications,” said session moderator Biykem Bozkurt, MD, a cardiologist specializing in heart failure and heart transplantation and professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Dr. Bozkurt pointed out that standard therapies today have a critical impact on the survival of people with heart failure, and it is a myth that “significantly marketed” herbal or alternative therapies should ever. be used instead of standard therapies, which are proven to improve cardiovascular disease. deaths and hospitalizations for heart failure.
Other research presented at the AHA meeting supported this premise. A Cleveland Clinic trial published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that six dietary supplements commonly used and marketed to improve heart health did not lower LDL cholesterol compared to a low-dose cholesterol-lowering drug (also called a statin) or a placebo. The six supplements studied included fish oil, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, plant sterols and red yeast rice.
Read product labels to ensure safe use of medications
Some alternative medicines may do more harm than good, according to panelist Prateeti Khazanie, MD, who specializes in advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology at the UCHealth Heart Failure Clinic at Anschutz Medical Campus in the Colorado. Dr. Khazanie shared the story of a patient who drank an herbal tea that had a lot of licorice root in it. Too much licorice can lower a person’s potassium levels and disrupt normal heart function.
“He was probably drinking 5-10 cups of this tea a day and his blood pressure was unbelievably high,” Khazanie said. “But we were able to take him off the licorice root tea and found that his blood pressure had gone down and he didn’t need as much medication.”
This is why reading product labels is important. She added that upcoming AHA guidelines will highlight several other products — depending on the dose and medication taken — that may be potentially harmful, such as grapefruit juice, gingko, bitter orange, black cohosh and vitamin E supplements.
Patient-doctor communication is essential
For Khazanie, medical professionals should know which alternative products patients can take in order to better advise them and work with them as partners in their health.
However, it can be difficult to figure out how to talk to patients about alternative medicine, Khazanie noted. “Some of the complementary and alternative medications come in the form of tea or some other supplement that they take and they don’t really consider it medicine,” she said. On top of that, some patients want to feel empowered by their decision to take something natural as opposed to “unnatural,” so Khazanie says healthcare providers need to learn to communicate in ways that don’t underestimate. a patient’s opinion.
Some alternatives may offer certain advantages
Not all alternative medicine is “bad” for your heart. Panelist Barry Bleske, PharmD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Administrative Sciences at New Mexico University of Health Sciences in Albuquerque, highlighted that fish oil is recommended as a potential complementary therapy for reduce cardiovascular deaths and hospitalizations in people with heart disease. failure with reduced ejection fraction (when the left ventricle muscle does not pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body).
He also noted that some studies have shown CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10) supplements and vitamin D to be potentially beneficial, but research has produced mixed results.
“As for some of these alternative treatments, they appear to be safe – there are no really significant drug interactions,” Dr. Bleske said. “So if the patient takes it, it probably won’t interact with their heart failure medications and it might possibly help the patient in some ways. I have patients who have taken coenzyme Q who say it’s It’s the best thing they’ve ever taken.
Mind-body practice can be a powerful tool
Bleske also noted that mind-body practices such as yoga and tai chi fall into the category of safe practices that can improve physical health and mental attitude, contributing positively to any medical treatment a patient has. can receive. Another study presented at the AHA sessions (which was not published in a peer-reviewed journal) showed that mindfulness behavior, teaching individuals to develop a healthy relationship with their diet, exercise and adherence to medications, could cause a significant drop in blood. pressure.
In some cases, a “natural” product may provide no real benefit, but may produce a placebo effect where patients improve simply because they believe the product works. “The mind is a powerful thing,” Bleske said. “If people believe something works and it makes their life better, that all helps make it positive therapy.”
Since many of these herbal supplements and remedies are sold in pharmacies, pharmacist William Baker, PharmD, panelist and associate professor of pharmaceutical practice at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, says pharmacists can help educate consumers about these products.
“Pharmacists may be more readily available than a doctor, and they may be able to give expert advice on whether a product might be right for a patient,” says Dr. Baker. “I worked in a retail pharmacy and people often asked my opinion. A lot of people just assume a supplement will work because it’s sold in the store, but I could advise them if I’m not sure if the product is going to be beneficial or if it may cause harm.