While Western medicine has made great strides in preventing and treating cardiovascular disease, it’s still the number one cause of death in the U.S. and worldwide. In the U.S, more people die from cardiovascular disease than all forms of cancer combined. Some research suggests that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for heart disease – herbal medications may help. This could be good news for those who do respond to conventional medicines or can’t afford them.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is an evolving ancient Chinese health modality that is thousands of years old. It approaches health and disease holistically with the basis being that the body’s processes are interrelated and connected to the environment. There’s also a focus to bolster the body’s resistance against illnesses. A TCM practitioner’s diagnosis is based on imbalances and disharmonies in the body that contribute to health and diseases. In other words, the practitioner aims to heal the patient and not just treat the disease.
TCM and Heart Disease
A review published by the Journal of American College of Cardiology reported that TCM might complement or be an alternative to conventional Western medicine for the prevention and treatment of heart-related diseases. Researchers reviewed 56 randomized, controlled trials done over a ten-year period. The reviewed studies used TCM medicines for high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries (the most common cause of heart attacks), chronic heart failure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
One of the diseases pointed out in the report was high blood pressure. Untreated, hypertension increases the risk of heart disease. The study pointed out several TCM medicines that showed promise in treating high blood pressure. The herbs tiankuijangya, zhongfujiangya, qiqilian, jiangy, and jiangyabao were found to be similar to some conventional blood pressure lowering medications. They were also considered relatively safe. The report did stay that long-term benefits still need to be studied with long-term trials.
It was noted by the author of the study that Chinese medications are traditionally complex formulas and are usually tweaked by the TCM practitioner, which is part of treating the patient and not the disease theory of TCM. For scientists using Western scientific methods researching the medicinal benefits of TCM medicine, the challenge is how to simplify the therapeutic actions of the many chemical molecules in formulas that can have over ten ingredients. But as the study showed, it’s not insurmountable to evaluate the efficacy of natural ingredients.
Heart Healthy Recommendations
Of course, the best medicine is prevention. The American Heart Association has these suggestions to decrease your chance of getting heart disease.
People who smoke have a two times greater risk of having a heart attack than people who don’t smoke.
Include foods low in saturated fats, sodium, and avoid trans fat. Regularly eat fresh fruit vegetables and fruits. Eat fish (especially oily fish like salmon) at least twice a week. Also include nuts, whole grains, and seeds in your diet. Reduce meat consumption and use low-fat dairy products.
Get some form of aerobic exercise regularly even if it’s just walking and include strength- training exercises that work all the major muscles groups.
Meditate, do tai chi, practice yoga, listen to relaxing music, or find other ways to relax and unwind. By the way, TV watching does not reduce stress. In fact, it can increase stress levels.
While the treatment and the study of using TCM medicine for cardiovascular disease are in its infancy in the West, it looks promising. However, check with your healthcare practitioner before changing any medications or using herbs for medical conditions.
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