Harvard Men's Health Watch

Chelation for heart disease

Q. Does chelation therapy work for heart disease? I have a friend who swears it will help him avoid having a second heart attack.

A. The benefits of chelation are unclear but the procedure has real risks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 100,000 Americans have used chelation in the past year (although not only for heart disease). The therapy involves intravenous infusions of a chemical called EDTA, which binds to minerals like calcium and removes them from the body. Proponents believe the chelation shrinks calcium-rich blockages, called plaques, found in the blood vessels of people with heart disease.

In several studies, chelation has shown no benefit for heart disease. However, chelation has known side effects, such as excessively low calcium levels, low blood pressure, and permanent kidney damage. Since chelation is not covered by most insurance plans, it is also expensive: Each treatment typically costs $75–$125, repeated up to dozens of times over several months. Currently, the American Heart Association recommends against chelation therapy for treating heart problems.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »