Heart Disease

Fighting Heart Disease-Part 2 of 2

Whether you believe in the benefits of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) or swear by Western science, there are several modalities to treat heart disease. In this article, find out how Western medicine goes about addressing this malady. For treatment from the perspective of TCM, click here.

Common Methods

  • Diuretics treat hypertension by increasing the excretion of water via urination, which lowers blood pressure.
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors relax the blood vessels by preventing the body’s production of angiotensin II, which narrows blood vessels and releases hormones that can raise blood pressure.
  • Beta-blockers reduce blood pressure by blocking the stimulatory effects of the hormone adrenalin. The heart beats slower with less force, and blood vessels open up.
  • Blood thinners prevent the formation of blood clots. There are two types of blood thinners: * anticoagulants prevent formation of fibrin, the protein that makes existing blood clots less likely to break off
  • antiplatelet drugs prevent platelets in the blood from sticking together
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs inhibit the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase to prevent overproduction of cholesterol in the liver.
  • Fibrates lower elevated plasma triglycerides by inducing lipolysis (breakdown of fats)

For Serious Cases

There are surgical procedures of varying invasiveness to clear the blood vessel blockages in the heart:

  • Coronary angioplasty and stent placement is a procedure to open the narrowed or blocked coronary arteries in order to insert a small, metal mesh tube that expands the artery and prevents it from closing up.
  • In a coronary artery bypass, a piece of vein from the leg or artery from the chest or wrist is attached to the coronary artery above and below the narrowed area or blockage, allowing blood to bypass around the blockage.
  • An automated external defribillator (AED) is a device that delivers a therapeutic dose of electrical energy to the heart in order to regulate the cardiac rhythm, allowing the heart to beat as per normal.
  • A pacemaker is a small device implanted in the heart or abdomen that sends electrical impulses to the heart in order to regulate abnormal heart rhythms.
  • A heart transplant is performed on patients with final-stage heart failure, and involves surgically removing the diseased heart and replacing it with a healthy heart from a deceased donor.

New Developments

  • In cardiac resynchronisation therapy (CRT), small electronic devices are placed under the skin in the chest to help the left and right sides of the heart beat in unison.
  • Chelation therapy is believed to be able to remove the calcium that contributes to arterial plaque. However, the debate continues whether the results are conclusive and if risks outweigh benefits.
  • Predictive blood test technology is being developed on the basis that odd-shaped blood cells are often the antecedent of specific symptoms, such as heart attacks.

Novel Therapy

  • Capsaicin is the chemical that gives chilli its kick. It helps lower blood pressure by releasing proteins that dilate the blood vessels. A September 2009 report in Science Daily says capsaicin spread on skin is able to reduce damage caused by a heart attack because it signals some nerves, which then activate pro-survival pathways in heart tissues.


This is an adaptation of an article, “Love Your Heart”, which first appeared in Issue 5 of Natura magazine