The Best of Both Worlds Is Key to Heart Health

Finding the Right Treatment for You

On the other hand, Lad, of the Ayurvedic Institute says garlic, hawthorn berries, vitamins E and B-12, folic acid, and cayenne pepper are among the supplements that can help maintain blood thinness and prevent heart attack.

Most physicians now agree that dietary supplements — particularly the antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E and the mineral selenium — coupled with eating well and regular exercise, form a strong foundation for a healthy heart. Usually, the physician's position is "supplements in moderation can't hurt."

Take Care in Mixing Vitamins and Medications

White of the American Dietetic Association advises older people with cardiac disease to consult with a physician or registered dietitian to develop an eating plan tailored to meet their specific health needs and to accommodate any condition that might change their nutrient requirements. "Many medications used to treat cardiac disease, including hypertension, can have a negative impact on vitamin and/or mineral status."

"Many herbal products can seriously affect medication regimens involving blood thinners...Vitamins, when consumed in large doses, can act like drugs in the body and may produce some unwanted effects. For example, fish oil supplements and Vitamin E in amounts above 1000 IU/day can increase the tendency to bleed in some people. Red rice yeast contains a chemical similar to that found in the 'statins' (powerful drugs used to lower cholesterol). However, most consumers do not take mega doses of vitamins."

She also warns, "Remember that there is no regulation of dietary/herbal supplements in the U.S. Safety, purity, efficacy and freedom from adulteration cannot be guaranteed in products sold in this country. And always tell your primary care provider about any herbs, botanicals, teas, etc. that you consume."

She also added the caveat that products that contain ephedra (Ma Huang, Chinese ephedra, or epitonin are a few synonyms) and/or caffeine (coffee, tea, kola, guarana, mate) may elevate blood pressure or cause irregular heart rate/rhythms. Ma Huang interferes with the P-450 system, a group of enzymes in the liver and other organs that help break down drugs and their by-products. This can extend the amount of time a drug remains active in the body and can lead to toxic levels of the drug.

Finding the Answers for Heart Health

Like the relationship between the Chinese yin and yang, or among the Ayurvedic three doshas, choosing a strategy to keep your own heart healthy seems to be a question of balance. Science may not have all the answers but neither does alternative medicine.

"There's an obvious gaping hole in Western medicine's ability to do all things. Well, there are some gaping holes in Chinese medicine, too. It turns out — it's one of the wonders of the world really — that the hole in Western medicine is very nicely filled with Eastern medicine and that the hole in Asian medicine is very nicely filled with Western medicine," says Jahnke.