Alternative Treatments for Arrhythmia
What is an arrhythmia?
The term arrhythmia is used to describe an irregular or abnormal heartbeat. A slow heartbeat is referred to as bradycardia, while one that is faster than normal is referred to as tachycardia. Arrhythmias in most cases are harmless and do not require any treatment. However, some may be very serious and even fatal, most especially if they are multiple ones. When the heart fails to beat properly, it interrupts the consistent flow of blood. This in the long run causes damage to the brain, heart, and other body organs.
There are some alternative treatments that may be used by arrhythmia patients in addition to the conventional treatment prescribed by the physician. All complementary or alternative treatments should be discussed first with the physician before they are applied. This will prevent the occurrence of harmful complications, especially if they are used incorrectly.
Types of alternative treatments
A review of several studies has shown that at least 87 to 100 percent of the participants showed normal rhythm functioning of the heart after using acupuncture. However, there is a need for more research and clinical trials.
A study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology has suggested that acupuncture may help in the prevention of abnormal heart rhythms after atrial fibrillation cardioversion. With this procedure, the heart’s rhythm can be reset, either with electricity or with chemicals.
Omega-3 fatty acids
A study by the American Heart Association has shown that the consumption of fish (fatty fish to be precise) and other foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk for heart disease and prevent arrhythmias. The American Heart Association recommends that each person eats at least two servings of fatty fish weekly. Fishes in this category include:
- Albacore tuna
A serving of fatty fish is equivalent to 3.5 ounces of cooked fish.
Arrhythmia is linked to inflammation and oxidative stress. The same applies to other heart conditions. Antioxidants such as Vitamin E and C seem to be effective in reducing these.
Vitamin C can be used for the treatment of the flu, colds, and cancer. It also helps with arrhythmia. At least 25 to 40 percent of heart surgery patients have issues with atrial fibrillation, which has to do with having an irregular, and rapid heartbeat. In a particular study, it was shown that vitamin C has the potential to reduce postoperative atrial fibrillation evens by 85 percent.
Another study also showed that only 4.5 percent of patients had a recurrence of arrhythmia after receiving vitamin C after cardioversion for persistent atrial fibrillation. The recurrence took effect in 36.3 percent of patients who did not receive the vitamin C.
Magnesium and potassium
The heart is stabilized with magnesium and potassium. If you are deficient in magnesium, then you may experience irregular heartbeats, irritability, and weakness of the muscle. On the other hand, an excess of magnesium can cause:
Most diets have a low magnesium content. Medications such as diuretics, and aging, can cause a drastic depletion of potassium and magnesium. Also, a deficiency in potassium may cause weakness of the muscle and arrhythmia.
Potassium and magnesium, alongside calcium and sodium, are examples of electrolytes that can be found in the blood. Electrolytes initiate and regulate electrical impulses in the heart and deficiency in magnesium or potassium can result in an electrolyte imbalance, which contributes to arrhythmia. Taking potassium or magnesium supplements can reduce the symptoms, but you should consult your physician to have your blood level monitored.
Hawthorn is often used for the treatment of palpitations. This herb, according to the Lahey Clinic, was used by ancient Roman rituals, and in the Middle Ages to treat a variety of medical conditions, including cardiovascular ailments. Presently, people use it for the treatment of congestive heart failure, and it may also play a role in the treatment of irregular heartbeat. However, research on the role of hawthorn in the treatment of arrhythmia is inconclusive.
Other supplements used…
The supplements listed below are oftentimes recommended for arrhythmia. However, there is a need for more research to verify its efficacy:
- Lady’s slipper
Supplements that you should avoid
The following supplements can cause arrhythmia and as such should be avoided:
- Cola nut
You should consult your physician before taking any supplement. Some supplements are capable of doing the task and may react adversely in your system, especially if you are taking other medications at the same time. While you may not experience any issues if you take the right amount, taking the wrong amount can be very harmful, or in some cases, prove fatal.
Take for instance fish oil, it contains eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Both can cause bleeding if they are taken with warfarin. You should stop taking these at least two weeks prior to surgery.
Patients with myasthenia gravis and kidney failure should not take magnesium. Potassium may cause:
It should not also be taken if you have hyperkalemia. Even if you have a low potassium concentration in your blood, you still need to consult your physician prior to taking a potassium supplement.
People who have the following conditions may find vitamin C toxic:
- Sideroblastic anemia
- Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency
Also, people with kidney stones or kidney insufficiency should stay away from vitamin C.
Vitamin E if taken with warfarin may cause bleeding. It can also cause complications if you have a:
- Deficiency of vitamin K
- Liver failure
- Peptic ulcer
- Hemorrhagic stroke
Intake of vitamin E should be stopped at least a month prior to surgery.
There are quite a number of alternatives to help in the treatment of arrhythmia. You should be careful not to take the wrong treatment or have the wrong supplements as that would complicate the situation. Ensure you consult your physician before you adopt a treatment plan or even change a treatment plan.
Tonika Bruce, MSN, RN, MBA. is an accomplished nurse leader, published author, and personal development expert passionate about advancing healthcare management and quality patient outcomes.
She taps into the years of experience in healthcare management to produce credible and easy-to-understand health and leadership content. Her exceptional work has been featured in reputable publications, including Forbes, Recruiter, Inc, and the Color of Wellness magazine.