Congestive heart failure (CHF) occurs when the heart is unable to effectively pump enough blood throughout the body. When the pumping ability of the heart becomes weak, water and sodium accumulate in the tissues and cause a fluid congestion. This congestion puts further strains on the circulatory system.
In systolic type CHF, fluid accumulates in the lungs (pulmonary congestion), and in the diastolic type of CHF, fluid accumulates in the feet, ankles, legs, and abdomen. It is also possible for patients to have heart failure without any symptoms of congestion.
Congestive Heart Failure is a clinical syndrome, which can be caused by a myriad of underlying disorders. These include, and are not limited to; diabetes, chronic lung disease (asthma or emphysema), and other types of cardiac disease (heart attacks, coronary artery disease, rheumatic heart disease, or heart valve disorder).
Other risk factors include smoking, physical inactivity, high cholesterol, and obesity. Congestive Heart Failure is the most common cause for hospitalization in patients over the age of 65, and affects more men than women. CHF also affects twice as many African-Americans as Caucasians, with twice the mortality rate.
The general symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure include:
- Shortness of Breast (dyspnea)
- Fluid Accumulation (edema in feet, ankles, legs, and/or abdomen)
- Exercise intolerance (shortness of breast with daily activity)
- Persistent coughing (blood may be present in sputum)
- Cardiac asthma (shortness of breath when lying down)
According to the American Heart Association (1):
- Approximately 5 million Americans have Congestive Heart Failure.
- An estimated 500,000 new cases of CHF will be diagnosed this year.
- About 80% of men and 70% of women diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure will die within 8 years.
Congestive Heart Failure may be evaluated by electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, and chest x-rays. Treatment varies, and is directly influenced by the underlying health condition or problem that may be causing CHF, such as hypertension or diabetes. Various medications may be prescribed for Congestive Heart Failure. Angiotensin-converting enzyme, or ACE inhibitors; vasodilators to expand blood vessels; beta-blockers to reduce left ventricular oxygen demand; digitalis to increase heart pumping rhythm; and diuretics to eliminate fluid accumulation are all common approaches in the modern treatment of this condition.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a naturally occurring nutrient that boosts cellular energy production in the mitochondria, the cell’s energy powerhouse. Several studies have found that CoQ10 supplementation energizes the heart muscle, decreases chest congestion, and may protect against congestive heart failure (2-4). Other studies report that CoQ10 supplementation may significantly improve heart function in patients with CHF when used as an adjunct to conventional drug therapy, than results obtained from conventional drug therapy alone (5, 6).
Magnesium is often low in patients with congestive heart failure. A deficiency of this mineral can lead to irregular heartbeat and coronary artery spasm (7). Supplementation with magnesium can significantly improve heart function in patients with Congestive Heart Failure when used as an adjunct to conventional drug therapy, more so than results obtained from conventional drug therapy alone (8-10).
Carnitine is a vitamin-like nutrient that boosts energy production through the breakdown of fats by the mitochondria. Several studies have shown that carnitine supplementation improves heart function in patients with CHF and can significantly improve heart function when used as an adjunct to conventional drug therapy (11-13, 6).
Hawthorne (Crataegus sp.) is an herb that has been widely used in Europe for heart and circulatory problems. Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of hawthorne supplementation in treating early stages of Congestive Heart Failure (14, 6).
Supplementation with the amino acid arginine has been shown to increase the body’s circulation by dilating blood vessels. Studies have shown that arginine supplementation improves heart function in patients with Congestive Heart Failure (15-17).
Human Growth Hormone
Supplementation with human growth hormone may be of benefit in the treatment of Congestive Heart Failure. Several studies have shown that both the supplementation with human growth hormone alone, and in conjunction with conventional medications, improved hears function and clinical symptoms in patients with CHF (18- 22).
Taurine, a derivative of the amino acid cysteine, may be beneficial in patients with CHF. Supplementation with taurine has been shown to help improve heart function and protect heart muscle cells during heart surgery (23).
Potassium, a nutritional mineral, is often low in patients with congestive heart failure, which can lead to irregular heart rhythms (24). Low potassium levels are often due to prescribed cardiovascular drugs, such as loop and thiazide diuretics and some calcium channel blockers. Supplementation with potassium to maintain blood potassium levels can help prevent potassium loss and irregular heart rhythms (25, 26).
Vitamin E may be beneficial in patients with heart disease, such as CHF. Vitamin E supplementation helps to lower LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels, prevent LDL oxidation by free radicals, and prevent heart fibrillation. Eliminating these risk factors reduces the risks for developing atherosclerosis and helps to improve heart function (27, 28).
Essential fatty acids (Fish oil, Flax oil, Perilla oil)
Essential fatty acids, such as fish oil and flax oil, may be beneficial in patients with heart disease, such as CHF. Fish oil supplementation has been reported to help reduce plasma cholesterol levels, with the most significant decreases being in triglyceride levels. The many constituents of fish oils may improve the overall functioning of the heart (29, 30). Alpha-linolenic acid (perilla oil or flax oil) has been found to reduce the incidence of atherosclerosis, stroke, and second heart attacks (31).
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