Congestive Heart Failure

iStock_000012942305XSmallWhat is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure (CHF) refers to an inability of the heart to effectively pump enough blood. Weakness, fatigue and shortness of breath are the most common symptoms of CHF.

What Causes Congestive Heart Failure?

Chronic CHF is most often due to long-term effects of high blood pressure, previous myocardial infarction (heart attack), disorder of a heart valve or the heart muscle, or chronic lung diseases such as asthma or emphysema.

What Dietary Factors are Important in Congestive Heart Failure?

Since CHF is most often due to chronic high blood pressure, the same dietary factors important in that condition apply here. Most notably, eliminate salt intake; follow a high-potassium diet rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates; increase your consumption of celery, garlic and onions; and reduce or eliminate your intake of saturated fats.

Which Nutritional Supplements Should I Take for Congestive Heart Failure?

Foundation Supplements. High potency multiple vitamin and mineral formula; Vitamin D3 2,000-5,000 IU/day; Fish oil, EPA+DHA 1,000 to 3,000 mg/day.

Thiamin (vitamin B1) deficiency is common in CHF and can lead to sodium retention, peripheral dilation of blood vessels and worsening of heart failure. Furosemide (Lasix, the most widely prescribed diuretic) and digoxin (a drug used to increase the force of contraction of the heartbeat) can both lead to thiamin deficiency within the heart muscle. Several double-blind studies have shown that daily doses of 80 to 240 mg of thiamin improve CHF in people takine furosemide.

Magnesium deficiency is also common in CHF. The level of magnesium in the blood correlates with the ability of the heart muscle to manufacture enough energy to beat properly. In addition to providing benefits of its own in treating CHF, magnesium supplementation prevents the magnesium depletion caused by the conventional drug therapy for CHF—digitalis, diuretics and vasodilators (such as beta-blockers and calcium-channel blockers). Magnesium supplementation has been shown to produce positive effects in CHF patients who are receiving conventional drug therapy, even if their serum magnesium levels are normal. Take 150 to 250 mg three times daily.

Coenzyme Q10 plays a role in energy production within the heart muscle. Numerous studies have also shown that CoQ10 supplementation is extremely effective in the treatment of CHF. Most of these studies utilized CoQ10 along with conventional drug therapy. Take 150 to 300 mg daily.

Carnitine is a vitamin-like compound that stimulates the breakdown of fats by the mitochondria—the energy-producing units in cells. Several double-blind clinical studies have shown that carnitine improves cardiac function in patients with CHF. Take 300 to 500 mg three times daily.

Hawthorn (Crataegus sp.) preparations have been repeatedly demonstrated in double-blind studies to be very effective in the early stages of CHF and minor arrhythmias. Use standardized hawthorn extracts (1.8 percent vitexin-4′-rhamnoside or 10 percent procyanidin content) at a dosage of 100 to 250 mg three times daily.

How Do I Know if the Recommendations are Working?

The goals in the natural treatment of CHF are to improve energy metabolism within the heart and also improve the blood supply to the heart. Magnesium, thiamin, CoQ10 and hawthorn extracts can achieve these goals. In minor cases of CHF, I have found the natural approach usually provides all the support the heart needs to function effectively. However, in more severe cases, drug therapy will also be necessary. That does not mean nutritional and herbal measures should be abandoned.