Heart Beat: Mainstream thinking on alternative therapies

Heart Beat

Mainstream thinking on alternative therapies

Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of therapies stand (or lurk) in the shadow of aspirin, angioplasty, and other so-called standard therapies for preventing and treating heart disease. These alternative therapies range from the use of herbs and supplements to chelation therapy and meditation. The American College of Cardiology asked several of its members with expertise in this area to take a look at the evidence for some of the most popular alternative therapies. The panel supported a few, gave a cautious thumbs-up to others, and advised against using still others. This table summarizes the 37-page report.

Dietary options

Recommended

  • Omega-3 fats: 1–2 grams a day if not eating fish

  • Plant stanols/sterols: 2 grams a day

  • Soluble fiber: 5–20 grams a day

  • Soy foods: Up to 25 grams a day

May be useful

  • Moderate alcohol consumption: 1–2 drinks a day for men; no more than 1 drink a day for women

  • Tea: 1–2 cups a day

  • Magnesium: Meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance (420 mg for men, 320 mg for women)

  • Folic acid plus vitamins B6 and B12: Daily supplement if homocysteine is high

Not recommended at this time

  • Folic acid supplements if homocysteine is not elevated

  • Garlic, concentrated soy isoflavones, policosanol, or guggulipid for lowering cholesterol

  • L-arginine or L-carnitine

  • CoQ10

  • Hawthorn for mild heart failure

  • Ginkgo biloba or horse chestnut seed extract for peripheral vascular disease

Not recommended

  • Megadoses of vitamin C, vitamin E, or beta carotene. Limit these to what you can get from food.

  • Red yeast rice

  • Ephedra, oleander, and other herbs or botanical products that may promote cardiovascular disease or that interfere with drugs used for it

Mind-body strategies, other procedures

Recommended or possibly helpful

  • Stress reduction

  • Meditation

  • Group support

  • Biofeedback

  • Guided imagery

Not recommended at this time

  • Chelation therapy

  • Acupuncture

  • Energy therapies (acceptable as long as they are used in addition to standard therapies, and don't interfere with them)

  • Off-site prayer

To see the complete report, visit www.acc.org/clinical/consensus/complementary/index.pdf.

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