The heart acts as a mechanical pump to supply oxygenated blood along with nutrients to all parts of the body. Congestive cardiac failure (CCF) is a medical condition in which the heart loses its normal efficiency. If left untreated, this condition worsens over time and may lead to a complete failure of the heart, thereby causing death. CCF can be caused due to coronary artery disease (CAD), heart attack, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects, high blood pressure, valvular diseases of the heart, as well as general medical conditions like thyroid disease, and kidney disease.
Common symptoms of CCF include breathlessness on exertion or at rest, congested lungs, fluid and water retention (causing swelling of feet and – later on – bloating of the entire body), loss of appetite, nausea, dizziness, fatigue and weakness, and rapid or irregular heartbeat. Not all symptoms may be present in all affected individuals; and some may have no symptoms at all, at least in the initial phase of the disease.
Early diagnosis and management of this medical condition is important in order to prevent permanent and irreversible damage to the heart and increased mortality. The goal of the modern (Allopathic) system of medicine is to treat the known cause, ease symptoms, improve quality of life, prevent the condition from worsening, and reduce the need for hospitalization as well as the risk of death.
Some of the medicines commonly used include ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, beta blockers, blood vessel dilators, digoxin, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, potassium, magnesium, and heart pump medications. Regular graded exercises, lifestyle modifications and regular, lifelong medical follow-ups are important to maintain a good quality of life and achieve good heart control with medications. Lifestyle modifications include quitting smoking and alcohol consumption, changing diet, and reducing weight.
For patients with specific causes and advanced or severe disease, surgical treatment options may be offered. These include coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), heart valve surgery, implantable left ventricular assist device (LVAD), and heart transplant. Heart failure management is thus a team effort and includes the services of cardiology physicians and surgeons, nurses, dietitians, physiotherapists, social workers and counselors.
While there is an established treatment protocol in the modern system of medicines for CCF, such medical interventions need to be continued lifelong in almost all affected individuals and are generally observed to just keep the medical condition and all symptoms in control, with possibly a gradual decline in overall function. The addition of concurrent Ayurvedic herbal treatment can help to expedite the process of improvement in symptoms, and indeed help in recovery and completely healing in several patients; especially those without any cause requiring surgical treatment. This holds true even for patients having multiple medical complications and co-morbidities.
Ayurvedic herbal medicines help improve heart function, improve blood circulation efficiency, reduce inflammation and atherosclerosis in heart vessels and thereby help to remove obstruction in the coronary arteries. Damage to heart muscles due to alcohol and substance abuse can also be reversed completely using herbal medicines.
With regular treatment, affected individuals notice a definite improvement in symptoms like swelling, breathlessness, fatigue and reduced appetite. Objective tests like chest x-ray and 2-d echo test reveal improvement in such parameters as reduction in the size of enlarged heart chambers, improved valvular efficiency, improved heart ejection fraction, reduced load on the lungs, and resolution of swelling in and around the pericardium.
Improvement is apparent within a few weeks of commencing Ayurvedic herbal treatment. For most affected individuals, Ayurvedic treatment is usually required for about six to eight months. Once the clinical signs and symptoms have subsided, and objective heart parameters show definite improvement or near-normal features, Ayurvedic treatment can then be gradually tapered and stopped completely. A few modern medications can be continued as required in the minimum possible dose so as to maintain the cardiovascular status in an optimum condition.
Concurrent Ayurvedic herbal treatment can thus be judiciously used to treat refractory patients having CCF so as to dramatically improve the overall outlook of long term treatment of CCF and significantly bring down mortality resulting from this condition.