Treat congestive heart failure (CHF) naturally

Previously, I listed several reversible health conditions known to be risk factors or even direct causes for congestive heart failure (CHF). Let’s look at these in more detail, since they actually suggest treatment strategies for CHF.

Remember that congestive heart failure develops most often after other conditions have damaged your heart over time. The heart’s pumping chambers become stiff or weak, and you suffer from lack of oxygen being circulated to all you organ tissues. Additionally, weak heart chambers allow blood to back up (along with extra fluid, too) and “congest” your lungs, liver, abdomen and lower extremities. With that picture in mind, consider how important treatment of the reversible underlying conditions is for the prevention as well as treatment of congestive heart failure.

Coronary Artery Disease

Most of congestive heart failure is caused by damage from previous heart attack (coronary artery disease). Therefore, be sure you have not ignored any of these risk factors below for coronary artery disease.

  • Tobacco smoking: doubles your risk of heart attack.
  • High blood pressure (see below).
  • Diabetes mellitus (see below).
  • Metabolic syndrome: a combination of high insulin [1] in your blood (triggers lipid oxidation and blood clotting [2]); abdominal obesity; glucose intolerance (prediabetes); and hypertension.
  • Lack of physical exercise, obesity: significantly increases your risk.
  • Eating refined sugar: increases systolic blood pressure [3], contributes to diabetes and metabolic syndrome [4], contributes directly to atherosclerosis [5], and correlates strongly with peripheral vascular disease. [6]
  • Eating hydrogenated oils and trans-fats: promotes atherosclerosis even more than saturated animal fats do [7]. Trans-fats consumption is closely associated with heart attack rates. [8]
  • Emotional stress, anger and depression [9]
  • Low testosterone levels: a serious risk factor for men [10] (fourfold increased heart attack rate if low testosterone). All-cause mortality was 33 percent higher in the lower third compared to the upper third of testosterone levels among 800 men over age 50 who were followed for 18 years. [11]
  • Oxidative stress: makes LDL cholesterol “sticky”; from heavy metal exposure (i.e. mercury), cigarette smoke and radiation. The children of Chernobyl nuclear accident had the highest levels of oxidized LDL [12]. This also includes electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) from cellphones, televisions, microwave ovens, laptop computers, hair dryers, etc.
  • Pesticides and herbicides [13]
  • Hormones and antibiotics: We get these from eating supermarket meat and xenoestrogens (hormone mimickers) found in plastics, spermicidals, detergents and personal care products.
  • Prescription medications: The medicines for heart disease, high cholesterol or high blood pressure can weaken the heart [14]
  • Chronic respiratory, urinary tract or dental infections: quadruple the rate of atherosclerosis (demonstrated in a 2001 Circulation study [15]). Organisms involved included Chlamydia Pneumoniae, Helicobacter Pylori, Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Herpes simplex virus (HSV).
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes Mellitus

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Other Contributing Factors

You should treat any of these conditions that you have: obstructive sleep apnea; thyroid abnormalities; hemochromatosis; amyloidosis; autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis; hyperthyroidism; the use of chemotherapy drugs; or heart valve defects.

Begin With Lifestyle Habits That Heal

I previously mentioned the results of a large (21,000 men) prospective study [16] reported in JAMA (2009) in which 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.

Remember that nutrient-dense, mostly raw, whole food nutrition will reduce inflammation. This means freshly juiced fruits and vegetables; fresh (and cooked) produce; meats from pastured, free-range and mercury-free sources; raw dairy products; sprouted whole grains; and consuming more than 50 percent of all you eat as raw food, but aiming for 80 percent raw. This also means you’ll want to stop eating refined sugar, trans-fats and processed foods.

Regarding exercise training for congestive heart failure: Researchers reported in the June 2012 European Journal of Preventive Cardiology [17] that 12 weeks of exercise training reversed the progression of molecular markers of muscle wasting found in congestive heart failure. Exercise is part of your emotional health, too. You know you have a “personal daily victory” when you take care of your body by exercising.

And finally, Louse Hay would tell us that the spiritual reason for a failing heart is from “squeezing all the joy out of life” and also from “lack of joy, and dealing with issues from anger, not love.” I am certain that reaching out to someone else by your words or deeds to generate this great feeling of love and connection will also improve heart failure. Why not, if it feels good, right?

To feeling good for health,

Michael Cutler, M.D

[1] American Heart Association website at

[2] Nunes JS, Correia LG, Correa JN. Insulin resistance and atherosclerosis  Acta Med Port. 2000 Jul-Aug;13(4):203-10.

[3] Preuss, H. G. “Sugar-Induced Blood Pressure Elevations Over the Lifespan of Three Substrains of Wistar Rats.” J Am Coll of Nutrition, 1998;17(1) 36-37.

[4] Yoo, Sunmi et al. “Comparison of Dietary Intakes Associated with Metabolic Syndrome Risk Factors in Young Adults: the Bogalusa Heart Study” Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Oct;80(4):841-848.

[5] Schmidt A.M. et al. “Activation of receptor for advanced glycation end products: a mechanism for chronic vascular dysfunction in diabetic vasculopathy and atherosclerosis.” Circ Res.1999 Mar 19;84(5):489-97.

[6] Postgraduate Medicine. Sept 1969:45:602-07.

[7] Valenzuela A, Morgado A. Trans fatty acid isomers in human health and in the food industry. Biol. Res. 32(4):273-87.

[8]  Willett WC, Sampfer MJ, Manson JE, et al. Intake of trans fatty acids and the risk of coronary artery disease among women. Lancet 1993. 341: 581-85; Ascherio A, Hennekens CH, Buring JE, et al.Trans-fatty acids intake and risk of myocardial infarction. Circulation 1994. 89 (1):94-101; Lichtenstein AH, Trans-fatty acids and cardiovascular disease risk. Curr. Opin  Lipidol. 2000. 11(1):37-42.

[9] Mittleman MA, Maclure M, et al. Educational attainment, anger, and the risk of triggering myocardial infarction onset. Archives of Internal Medicine 1997, 157:769-775. Also, Jiang W, Babyak M, Krantz DS, et al. Mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia and cardiac events. JAMA 1996, 275:1651-1656.

[10] Bain. 2010. “Testosterone and the aging male: To treat or not to treat?” Maturitas. 2010 May;66(1):16-22. Epub 2010 Feb 13

[11] Laughlin GA et al. Androgen Deficiency and All-Cause Mortality in Older Men: The Rancho Bernardo Study. Abstract 55-2 presented June 5, 2007 at the Endocrine Society Annual Meeting

[12] Per Stephen Sinatra, M.D. the preventive Cardiologist presentation at the The Fourth World Conference on Nutritional Medicine, May 2004, Nikko Hotel, San Francisco, CA.

[13] Karki P, Ansari JA,Bhandary S, Koirala S. Cardiac and electrocardiographical manifestations of acute organophosphate poisoning. Singapore Med J. 2004 Aug;45(8):385-9.

[14] Sarter B. Coenzyme Q10 and Cardiovascular Disease: A Review. J Cardiov Nursing  16(4):9-20, July 2002.

[15] Kiechl S, Egger G, Mayr M, et al. Chronic infections and the risk of carotid atherosclerosis: prospective results from a large population study. Circulation. 2001 Feb 27;103(8):1064-70.

[16] Djoussé L, Driver JA, Gaziano JM. Relation between modifiable lifestyle factors and lifetime risk of heart failure. JAMA. 2009 Jul 22;302(4):394-400.

[17] Lenk K, Erbs S, Höllriegel R, Beck E, Linke A, Gielen S, Winkler SM, Sandri M, Hambrecht R, Schuler G, Adams V. Exercise training leads to a reduction of elevated myostatin levels in patients with chronic heart failure. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2012 Jun;19(3):404-11.


Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.