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Congestive Heart Failure


Congestive heart failure is a condition suffered by many people but, while it is scary, it can be managed by natural therapies in conjunction with standard treatments.  Natural therapies can help to make your life more comfortable if you have this condition.  Read on to learn more.

What is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure is different from a heart attack.  In congestive heart failure, the heart does not stop.  Rather, it becomes less and less efficient at pumping blood.  As the ability of your heart to pump correctly lessens, blood may start to back up in the lungs, liver, or legs.  This can cause shortness of breath, edema, and other problems.

Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure

The symptoms of congestive heart failure include the following:

• breathlessness
• fatigue
• weight gain
• swelling in the feet, ankles, or abdomen
• palpitations
• indigestion
• nausea and vomiting
• loss of appetite
• difficulty sleeping
• weakness
• lightheadedness
• lower concentration and alertness levels
• changes in urination

Causes and Risk Factors for Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure has several causes but the most common are high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. Other causes include:

• abnormalities in the valves of the heart
• congenital heart disease
• cardiomyopathy
• lung disease
• heart tumour

You are more at risk of developing congestive heart failure if you have had a heart attack previously or have heart disease; if you have high blood pressure or diabetes; if you are obese; or if you abuse alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use cocaine.

Nutrition and Supplements for Congestive Heart Failure

There are several things that fall under the nutrition category that may be helpful for people that suffer from congestive heart failure.  These include:

• Carnitine – is a nutrient that helps the body to convert fatty acids into energy and this energy, in turn, is used for muscular activities throughout the body.  Supplements of L-carnitine may reduce your chances of developing congestive heart failure after suffering a heart attack and it can also improve your ability to exercise if you already have congestive heart failure.
• Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ10) – CoQ10 levels are low in people that suffer from congestive heart failure.  Studies have suggested that CoQ10 supplements can help to reduce swelling in the legs, improve breathing by reducing fluid in the lungs, and increase the capacity of people with congestive heart failure to exercise.
• Creatine – is a naturally occurring amino acid that is found mainly in the muscles.  We obtain half from what we eat and the other half is made in the liver, kidney, and pancreas.  People that have taken creatine supplements had significant improvement in their symptoms and ability to exercise.
• Magnesium – is vital for the health of the heart.  It is particularly important for maintaining a normal heart rhythm and is often used to treat an irregular heartbeat.
• Omega 3 fatty acids – may help to reduce the risk of an irregular heart rhythm caused by congestive heart failure.  It can also help with risk factors such as high blood pressure that can increase your chances of developing congestive heart failure.
• Selenium – low levels of selenium in the blood may contribute to congestive heart failure but it is not yet known if supplementation is helpful in treatment.
• Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – low levels of thiamine can contribute to the development of congestive heart failure.  People that have severe congestive heart failure can lose large amounts of weight and become deficient in many nutrients, including thiamine.  Also, diuretics, which are frequently used in the treatment of congestive heart failure, can deplete thiamine levels.  If you have low levels of thiamine, supplementation may very beneficial.

It is also important to consider the role of the everyday diet.  It is likely that you will have to go on a low sodium diet.  If you are having trouble understanding the food labels, a nutritionist or dietitian can give you advice on how to properly interpret these, as well as a safe amount of salt for your diet.  Instead of cooking with salt, or adding salt to your food, use spices to increase your food’s flavour.  These could include pepper, garlic, basil, chilli, and so forth.  Also avoid foods that are naturally high in sodium such as anchovies, olives, pickles, sauerkraut, soy sauce, tomato juice, and cheese.

Herbal Medicine and Congestive Heart Failure

There are some herbs that may be helpful in the management of congestive heart failure.  These include:

• Berberine – is an active ingredient of goldenseal and it can dilate blood vessels.  When added to the standard treatments for congestive heart failure, it may improve heart function and the capacity to exercise, as well as reduce shortness of breath, fatigue, and irregular heartbeats.
• Hawthorn – is a cardiotonic herb as the flowers and berries of this plant have been used to treat irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, chest pain, atherosclerosis, and congestive heart failure.

Acupuncture and Congestive Heart Failure

Acupuncture can help to reduce the mental stress that is felt by people that suffer from congestive heart failure.  The idea is that by controlling stress, the person’s blood pressure and heart rate is reduced, thus reducing the strain on the heart.

Exercise and Congestive Heart Failure

Exercise does have a role to play in the management of congestive heart failure.  It is important to stay active – whether through walking, swimming, cycling, or some other form of aerobic exercise.  Speak with your medical professional to ensure that you are following an exercise plan that is safe for your level of congestive heart failure.  Do not exercise on days that you are feeling unwell or when your weight has increased due to fluid retention.


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