What comes to mind when you think of life-threatening health conditions you’d like to avoid? Cancer typically tops the list of diagnoses that most people are afraid of. And while cancer is undoubtedly a horrible disease, it’s not as common as heart failure. Did you know that more people are hospitalized with heart failure than all types of cancer combined?
Over 6 million Americans live with congestive heart failure, with roughly 650,000 new diagnoses yearly. This debilitating illness is projected to cost the nation $160 billion by 2030. Individually, the average total medical cost for a heart failure patient is approximately $25,000 a year.
While there are many reasons people develop heart failure, it nearly always stems from cardiomyopathy. Therefore, healing from cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure requires an in-depth understanding of these complex conditions.
What is cardiomyopathy?
Cardio refers to the heart. Myopathy comes from the Greek words “myo,” which means muscle, and “pathy,” which means suffering or disease. Put together, cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle.
Individuals with cardiomyopathy have hearts that are abnormally enlarged, thick, or stiff. As a result, the heart’s ability to pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body is reduced. Left untreated, this serious condition that weakens the heart often leads to congestive heart failure.
There are several types of cardiomyopathy, with the two most common being:
- Dilated cardiomyopathy
Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common type of cardiomyopathy. It occurs in adults 60 and younger, and is more frequently seen in men and children. Sometimes referred to as systolic heart failure or heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, dilated cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, enlarges and loses its ability to pump well.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
Typically inherited, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy often presents unexpectedly in childhood or early adulthood. This condition causes a thickening of the heart muscle, resulting in the ventricles’ stiffness.
When left untreated, the damage caused by cardiomyopathy can lead to congestive heart failure.
What is congestive heart failure?
Congestive heart failure, or heart failure for short, is a serious condition in which the heart is not working as efficiently as it should. While the name might suggest otherwise, heart failure isn’t a complete loss of heart function. Unlike a sudden cardiac arrest or a heart attack, which can cause immediate loss of heart function, heart failure is a slow yet progressive disease.
How is congestive heart failure diagnosed?
A doctor who suspects congestive heart failure may order multiple tests, such as an ECG, coronary angiogram, MRI, or blood test. However, an echocardiogram is the most commonly used test for congestive heart failure. This non-invasive test uses ultrasound waves to produce images of the heart.
An echocardiogram can help cardiologists determine the amount of blood the heart pumps with each squeeze, referred to as an ejection fraction (EF). A healthy heart’s ejection fraction is approximately between 50-70 percent. For example, an ejection fraction of 60 percent means that more than half of the blood in the left ventricle gets pushed out with each heartbeat. An ejection fraction above 50 percent generally guarantees that the body’s cells get the oxygen and nutrients needed to function.
Types of heart failure
Doctors use the ejection fraction to determine the different types of heart failure, such as:
Left-sided heart failure
- Systolic heart failure
Also referred to as heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF), systolic heart failure occurs when the left bottom chamber of the heart (ventricle) becomes weak, making it difficult for the heart to pump enough blood through the body. Systolic heart failure is the most common type of heart failure.
- Diastolic heart failure
Also referred to as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), diastolic heart failure occurs when the left ventricle becomes stiff, causing the heart to be unable to relax properly. Diastolic heart failure typically occurs in older adults or as a result of underlying conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Right-sided heart failure
Right-sided heart failure, also called cor pulmonale, typically occurs due to left-sided heart failure. When the left ventricle cannot pump blood to the rest of the body, fluid is forced back through the lungs, weakening the right side of the heart.
Symptoms of heart failure and cardiomyopathy
Symptoms of congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy vary from person to person and typically worsen as the disease progresses. While some individuals experience no signs until a major catastrophic event, others may notice the following:
- Shortness of breath, which may worsen when lying flat
- Coughing or wheezing
- Loss of appetite
- Abnormal heart rhythms, such as a fast heart rate or skipped beats
- Swelling in the legs, ankles, or abdomen
- Unexpected weight gain
- Loss of consciousness, such as fainting
What causes congestive heart failure?
Most physicians will agree that heart failure has multiple causes, which may include:
- Heart attack
- Alcohol or drug-induced
- Tachycardia, usually from AFib
- Valvular heart disease, such as aortic stenosis, aortic insufficiency, or mitral regurgitation
- Autoimmune problems
- Sleep apnea
And while all of these things may contribute to the onset of heart failure, they don’t address the underlying causes that lead to heart problems in the first place.
The real cause of congestive heart failure is how most Americans live. As a society, many have strayed from our ancestors’ path. Instead of eating a whole-food, organic-based diet, moving our bodies regularly in nature, and embracing the sun, we are destroying our health.
Natural strategies for congestive heart failure
The typical pharmacologic approach to CHF and cardiomyopathy often includes beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, ARB, digoxin, and diuretics such as Lasix. More recently, a new class of drugs called SGLT2, such as canagliflozin and dapagliflozin, have been added to the mix.
While medications may result in improvements, they also have significant side effects. Many heart failure patients report feeling unwell from the effects of the medications they are told to take. Cardiovascular issues do not result from a pharmacological deficiency. Drugs serve a time and place in heart failure treatment, but there should always be a goal to reduce or eliminate them safely.
The best strategies for treating congestive heart failure naturally include:
Consume an organic diet free of pesticides, chemicals, and other artificial ingredients. Avoid processed foods, sugar, gluten, and unhealthy vegetable oils.
Instead, focus on whole foods such as vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Include organic grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry, and eggs. Increase your consumption of wild-caught fish. Adding grass-fed organ meat to the diet would also be heart-helpful.
Studies have found nutritional deficiencies predict poor outcomes in those with CHF. Getting the appropriate nutrients from eating a healthy diet is critical. However, some individuals may benefit from additional support through supplementation. Hawthorn berry, CoQ10, and L-carnitine are excellent natural remedies that support a failing heart. Natural Heart Doctor has multiple supplemental support protocols for cardiomyopathy.
Most Americans lead a very sedentary lifestyle, spending most of their time in cars, behind computers, or on couches. Time spent in nature is minimal, as it is with the healing sun.
Movement is essential in reducing the symptoms of cardiomyopathy and CHF. After medical clearance:
- Aim to exercise at least five days a week, preferably in the fresh air.
- Embrace nature with hikes in the woods, bike rides, and walks outside.
- Allow as much of your body to see the sunlight each day as is safely possible.
- Avoid toxins in your home and environment.
Advanced biohacks for reducing cardiomyopathy and strengthening the heart include red light therapy, sauna use, and cold therapy. Studies have found red light therapy may improve tissue damage that results in heart failure. Research also suggests that sauna use is associated with improved cardiac function, at least in the short term.
While diet and exercise are vital components in healing the heart, the mind should not be ignored. Unfortunately, stress is an often-overlooked factor in the development of cardiomyopathy.
Stress increases inflammation in the body, which indirectly harms the heart. For example, Takotsubo syndrome, also referred to as stress cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome, is a condition that weakens the heart when a person undergoes sudden acute stress.
For the mind to work well, the body must be well rested. Therefore, an essential natural strategy to reduce the impact of cardiomyopathy is sleep. Aim for 8-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
Surround yourself with a loving community and avoid toxic relationships that may harm your heart.
Getting a congestive heart failure or cardiomyopathy diagnosis is certainly scary. After all, no one wants to hear that their heart is at risk of failure. However, while CHF is generally a progressive disease, there are many things you can do to halt the progression and even reverse the disease.
The most important thing someone with heart failure or cardiomyopathy can do is to get to the root cause of the problem. What if a B1, zinc, or copper deficiency is contributing to your heart failure? What if low levels of magnesium or potassium are the source? How about mold mycotoxins or environmental toxins?
At Natural Heart Doctor, we believe in using the most advanced testing in the world to find the why behind the disease and use the information to fix the problem. Level 2 testing is the best place to start for individuals with CHF. Only through addressing the root cause of heart failure can we hope to achieve the 100 Year Heart.
Eat well, Live well, Think well
Medical Review: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD 2022