Our aging population has ever more reason to focus on health. Why? Because with age comes a greater risk of illness. A rather unpleasant fact is that congestive heart failure (CHF) is the leading reason for hospitalization of people over 65. But I can tell you about the main contributing causes for heart failure that are reversible.
I’ll also share the important foods and lifestyle factors that can definitely reduce CHF severity and death from CHF. In my article next week, I’ll discuss the most important nutrient supplements for CHF treatment.
Congestive Heart Failure — A Serious Disease
Before you read any further, I invite you to watch this one-minute video overview of congestive heart failure so you will become very clear as to what it is.
Here are some sobering statistics: Once a diagnosis of CHF is made, one out of every five CHF patients has only a year more to live; 50 percent of newly diagnosed CHF patients have only five more years.
CHF is almost as bad as a cancer diagnosis. There are many underlying reasons for a failing heart.
When you consider all the contributing causes, you’ll understand that there are treatment options beyond pharmaceutical drugs.
In addition to one’s genetic predisposition, there are several reversible health conditions that can also cause CHF:
- Long-term high blood pressure: Pressure against the heart wears it out.
- Previous heart attack: The dead portion of the heart muscle never recovers.
- Arrhythmia: Electrical abnormalities weaken heart muscle or cause heart attack.
- Heart valve disorders: The backflow of blood wears out the heart muscle.
- Cardiomyopathy: Diseased heart muscle cannot pump blood.
- Chronic lung disease: Back-pressure increases stress on the right heart chamber.
- Anemia: Heart must pump faster due to fewer red blood cells to carry oxygen.
- Diabetes: Vessel disease develops due to long-standing high-blood-sugar levels.
- Obesity: CHF is significantly more prevalent in obese patients.
- Obstructive sleep apnea: Increases blood pressure in the heart.
- Autoimmune inflammation: Rheumatoid arthritis doubles risk for CHF, but the mechanism is unclear.
- Hyperthyroidism: Increases heart rate and energy demand on the heart.
- Chemotherapy drugs: Increases CHF risk, but mechanism is unclear.
- Alcohol abuse: Leads to thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency; one-third of hospitalized congestive heart failure patients were found to be low in thiamine.
- Amphetamines or cocaine use: Creates a huge metabolic demand on the heart.
- Lifestyle contributors such as smoking, lack of exercise, excessive salt intake and emotional distress: Weakens a heart predisposed to CHF.
What about if you’ve already been diagnosed with heart failure: Is there a treatment path other than what conventional medicine offers? Remember that conventional medicine will still be important, including periodic echocardiograms to monitor your heart strength. Also, some of the prescription medications for CHF have been shown to prolong life (beta blockers, ACE inhibitors) and reduce suffering (diuretics, etc.).
Still, the statistics on CHF survival rates are indeed discouraging. You’ll improve those statistics dramatically with great nutrition, targeted nutrients and lifestyle optimization. Below is what’s available in the natural therapy world for CHF.
Lifestyle Habits And CHF
The results of a large prospective study reported in JAMA (2009) found that adherence to six modifiable lifestyle factors was associated with a significantly lower risk for heart failure: (healthy) body weight, (not) smoking, exercise, (no) alcohol intake, consumption of breakfast cereals, and consumption of fruits and vegetables. Nearly 21,000 men were followed for more than 22 years. Those who did not adhere to these healthy lifestyle habits had more than double the rate of CHF compared to those who implemented at least four. I’d have to add that these lifestyle factors are good, but hardly compare to the healthy lifestyle factors I’d recommend for optimal health. Read on.
What about those who have already developed CHF: Are lifestyle and natural interventions still worth doing? My answer is yes, of course.
Here is list of the most important interventions:
- Nutrient-dense, mostly raw, whole food nutrition reduces inflammation. Freshly juiced fruits and vegetables; fresh (and cooked) produce; meats from pastured, free-range and mercury-free sources; and raw dairy products are far more nutritious than processed foods. More than 50 percent of all you eat should be raw food; aim for 80 percent raw. Consume 40 grams of whey protein per day. Stop eating refined sugar, trans-fats and processed foods. Whole grains are great (unless you are gluten-intolerant), but our modern wheat has some real problems, as I explained in a previous article on gluten. Read and learn how to implement the raw food portion of your nutrition plan; it will be well worth it to get you started. References for this are here and here. Better yet, hire an expert consultant who knows how to teach it to you. You can see someone I highly recommend here.
- Mineral supplements are strongly recommended to strengthen your heart: magnesium, selenium and zinc.
- Hormone deficiency needs to be corrected. Testosterone, cortisol and thyroid hormones are the important ones here. More on this next week.
- Exercise training has shown to reverse CHF. Research reported in the June 2012 European Journal of Preventive Cardiology revealed that 12 weeks of exercise training reversed the progression of molecular markers of muscle wasting found in CHF.
- Tai chi plus endurance training for 12 weeks is even more effective than endurance training alone to improve exercise tolerance and quality of life in elderly patients with CHF.
- Yoga two times a week for eight weeks was shown to reduce edema and depressed mood and to improve quality of life in patients with CHF.
- Stress reduction is key. Daily moderate exercise in which you can relieve stressful thoughts includes: walking; deep, slow breathing for 10 minutes while focusing just on what you enjoy; listening to healing music to lift your mood; and inviting feelings of confidence and peace. Seek out a therapist who does energy healing work such as reiki, body talk, emotional clearing, cranial sacral therapy or massage therapy with guided imagery. In a small, randomized control study reported in 2007, meditation was found to improve CHF functional capacity, quality of life and depression compared to control subjects who were instead given health education. The meditation group also had fewer re-hospitalizations. Stress reduction lowers the need for cortisol and adrenaline, and thereby reduces heart rate, blood pressure and inflammation.
- Sauna treatments were found to increase ejection fraction and exercise capacity in CHF patients.
In my next article next week, I’ll discuss what nutrient supplements you need to know about that reduce CHF.
To feeling good,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
Easy Health Options
Editor’s Note: My special report uncovers how you can avoid a heart attack, unclog your arteries, reverse heart disease and heal a failing heart NATURALLY… all without dangerous drugs or surgeries. Click here to read this urgent medical alert.
Paulo J. Nicola, Hilal Maradit-Kremers, Véronique L. Roger, Steven J. Jacobsen, Cynthia S. Crowson, Karla V. Ballman, and Sherine E. Gabriel. The Risk of Congestive Heart Failure in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism Vol. 52, No. 2, February 2005, pp 412–420. Find online at:
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Effectiveness of transcendental meditation on functional capacity and quality of life of African Americans with congestive heart failure: a randomized control study. Ethn Dis. 2007 Winter;17(1):72-7.