Reprinted with permission of Life Extension®.
Palpitations are a symptom described as the sensation of having an irregular heart beat. This is a fairly common symptom that just about everyone experiences at one time or another. Palpitations occur when the heart beats irregularly. Whether or not palpitations are of medical concern is ultimately determined by medical history, physical exam findings, and testing. Most people know when it's time to go to see their physician because the palpitations have become sustained and very uncomfortable, or they are associated with another symptom such as shortness of breath.
Heart rhythm is controlled by factors both intrinsic and extrinsic to the heart itself. The most common damage to the heart's "wiring" comes from damage caused by decreased blood flow from clogged coronary arteries, or from muscle death caused by a heart attack. Additionally, certain drugs and toxins can affect heart rhythm as well.
The classification of abnormal heart rhythm, or dysrhythmia, is too complex to describe here. However, despite this complexity, some basic information can be given. The heart has an amazing ability to tolerate markedly abnormal rhythms. In fact, a double-blind study had to be discontinued because it was found that the group taking the antiarrhythmic drug was experiencing more deaths than the group taking the placebo. The majority of antiarrhythmic drugs have proarrhythmic effects; that is to say they can themselves cause arrhythmias.
Anyone who experiences sustained palpitations for the first time should see a physician before taking any medications and should follow these suggestions: no matter what the cause of a dysrhythmia, ensuring that the heart gets enough blood is essential. (Patients with a family or personal history of coronary heart disease should consult the Atherosclerosis protocol and follow the suggestions given there.) A course of chelation therapy should be considered as well.
Acute Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
The development of potentially life-threatening dysrhythmias during the immediate period following an MI (myocardial infarction) is the reason that heart attack patients are monitored very closely in a CCU (coronary care unit). One therapy which can increase the risk of dysrhythmia is thrombolytic treatment of the clogged coronary artery. When this is successful, there is a sudden influx of blood into the blood-starved area. This often results in dysrhythmia, which can be fatal. The culprit is in part a free radical reaction. Therefore, any therapy directed at this free radical burden could be potentially helpful.
In fact, recent studies have shown that such treatment is important in this setting. A 1998 study looked at patients with a recent AMI (acute myocardial infarction). For 28 days one group received oral treatment with Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10, 120 mg a day), and the other group received a placebo. After treatment, total arrhythmias were 9.5% in the CoQ10 group, compared to 25.3% in the placebo group. When measuring angina pectoris, only 9.5% of CoQ10-supplemented patients were symptomatic compared to 28.1% on placebo, while poor left ventricular function was observed in 8.2% of those patients taking CoQ10 compared to 22.5% on placebo.
Total cardiac events, including cardiac deaths and nonfatal infarction, were also significantly reduced in the CoQ10 group compared with the placebo group (15.0% vs. 30.9%). Other recent studies have demonstrated that giving patients who have recently suffered an AMI omega-3 fatty acids protects them from the development of dysrhythmias in the immediate post-AMI period. Omega-3 fatty acids may be found in flaxseed, perilla, and fish oils.
Based upon clinical findings, the intravenous administration of vitamin C 3 times a week for the 4 weeks immediately following an AMI is recommended. It is hoped that future studies will demonstrate this to be an efficacious treatment. Those interested in this type of therapy should find a physician who practices complementary medicine.
Antiarrhythmia nutrients include:
The use of any of these natural therapies should be with the full cooperation of a trained physician, since any errors could result in sudden death from a heart attack. Those with cardiac arrhythmias should avoid caffeine, heavy alcohol intake, and saturated fats.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine is used in Europe to treat cardiac arrhythmia.
- Calcium reduces blood pressure, acts as an antiarrhythmic, reduces iron overload, and strengthens the bone around the gingival; preventive and therapeutic doses, 1 gram or more of elemental calcium a day. Factor amount of calcium obtained from foodstuffs into the amount required through supplementation.
- Coenzyme Q10 reduces angina attacks, arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, periodontal disease, and heart valve irregularities; lowers blood pressure; is protective to smokers; and supplies energy to the heart; suggested dosage, 30-400 mg a day, depending upon the amount of cardiac support required. (Higher doses require physician supervision.)
- Fish oil concentrates have been shown in several published studies to regulate cardiac arrhythmias at a dose of five to eight capsules a day. Studies on perilla oil show that it works as well as fish oil, without the unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.
- Garlic acts as a hypotensive; decreases fibrinogen; protects against LDL oxidation and arterial wall damage; inhibits platelet aggregation; thins the blood; modestly lowers blood glucose levels; and reduces damage associated with iron overload and the incidence of cardiac arrhythmias. Dosage suggestions are up to 1000 mg twice daily with meals.
- Ginkgo biloba improves circulation and memory; reduces platelet aggregation, arrhythmias, and fibrinogen levels; has antioxidant activity; prevents capillary fragility; lessens angina attacks, dyspnea, and intermittent claudication; and decreases the area in the brain plundered by a stroke; suggested dosage, 120 mg a day (preventive dose) and 120-240 mg daily (therapeutic dose). Note: Some clinicians routinely prescribe ginkgo for patients ages 50 and older.
- Magnesium reduces blood pressure; acts as a calcium antagonist and antiarrhythmic; blocks the sympathetic nervous system; and is beneficial in mitral valve prolapse. Use up to 1500 mg in divided doses throughout the day; preventive dose, about 500 mg elemental magnesium a day.
- Olive leaf extract is hypotensive and antidiabetic; is helpful in some types of arrhythmias; and is protective against LDL oxidation. Use one to two 500-mg capsules 3 times a day, with meals.
- Potassium reduces blood pressure and maintains fluid balance. (The estimated safe and adequate daily dietary intake of potassium, as set by the Committee on Recommended Daily Allowances, is 1.9 grams to 5.6 grams per day.) Many foods richly supply potassium; these sources should be relied upon to meet nutritional needs (when possible).
- Selenium is protective against cardiomyopathy and is beneficial in ventricular tachycardia, hyperlipidemia, congestive heart failure, and diabetes; dosage, 200-400 mcg a day; preventive dose, 200 mcg a day.
- Taurine is hypotensive; arouses the parasympathetic nervous system; is beneficial in congestive heart failure and arrhythmias; and has blood thinning and diuretic properties; suggested dosage, 1500-4000 mg in divided dosages daily.
- Thiamine (vitamin B1) reduces cardiac arrhythmias, palpitations, congestive heart failure, and elevated venous pressure. Some patients may realize benefit from 200-250 mg of thiamine a day; refractory cardiac arrhythmias may require 500-1000 mg a day.
- Tocotrienols inhibit platelet-clumping; reduce cholesterol; and have antioxidant activity. A suggested daily dosage is 100 IU mixed tocopherols and 100 IU tocotrienols if the person is healthy, young, and without a family history of heart disease, and 200 IU of mixed tocopherols and 200 IU of tocotrienols for young adults with some cardiac risk factors or healthy people (50 years of age) without risk factors. 400 IU of mixed tocopherols and 400 IU of tocotrienols for people who have a personal or family history of cardiac disease. This dosage is appropriate for senior subjects and severely stressed or poorly nourished individuals.
- Vitamin D3 enhances calcium metabolism in the sinoatrial node of the heart when given at 1000 IU a day. Vitamin D appears to lower risk of heart attack in older women; suggested dosage, 400 IU a day; if housebound, use 800 IU a day.
- Vitamin E assists in preventing plaque formation; protects LDL from oxidation; strengthens blood vessels; prevents blood viscosity; is beneficial in atrial and ventricular fibrillation; reduces C-reactive protein; helps establish normal heart rhythms and is considered an antidiabetic nutrient; suggested preventive and therapeutic dosage, 400-1200 IU of dry powder vitamin E daily.
WARNING: Do not take ephedra-containing herbs such as Ma Huang.
- Do not utilize any of these suggestions without being under the care of a physician.
- If you have a personal or family history of myocardial infarction, follow the suggestions of the Atherosclerosis protocol.
- Consider chelation therapy.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine arginate, 1800 to 2400 mg a day.
- Calcium, 1 gram a day.
- CoQ10, 100 to 300 mg a day.
- Fish oil, four to eight capsules a day.
- Garlic, Kyolic 1200 to 2400 mg per.
- Ginkgo biloba, 120-240 mg daily.
- Magnesium, up to 1500 mg a day.
- Olive leaf extract, 1500 to 3000 mg a day.
- Potassium, obtained from diet.
- Selenium, 200 to 400 mcg a day.
- Taurine, 1500-4000 mg a day.
- Thiamine (vitamin B1), 500-1000 mg a day.
- Gamma E tocopherols W/Sesame Lignans one softgel.
- Tocotrienols w/Sesame Lignans two softgels.
- Vitamin D3, 400 to 800 IU a day.
- Vitamin E, 400 to 1200 mg a day.
- Avoid caffeine-containing beverages, excessive alcohol, and saturated fats.
For more information, contact the American College for the Advancement of Medicine, (800) 532-3688 for the location and phone number of a physician in your area who specializes in complementary medicine.
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