Most of us want to do the right thing. This is especially true when it comes to our heart health. We educate ourselves, evaluate risk factors and then take action! We exercise, walk, try to eat right, manage our blood pressure, take steps to lower or maintain cholesterol, and take supplements and vitamins. In other words, we work really hard to be proactive and reduce or eliminate our risk factors for heart disease. What happens when doing the right thing backfires and hurts us instead?
According to a review published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, new research indicates that some of the common herbal supplements we take (such as ginkgo biloba and St. John’s wort) may have unexpected and unwelcome side effects for those who are already taking medications for heart disease. When taken together, some drugs and herbal supplements may cause the drug to lose its potency. It’s also possible for the exact opposite to happen. Depending on the drug and herbal supplement, the effectiveness of the drug may actually be increased to an unhealthy level. According to the review, the results may lead to serious complications including arrhythmias, heart attacks, excessive bleeding and in some instances, death.
Not everyone agrees with the review. The review was referred to as a “biased, poorly written and contrived attack on herbal supplements” by the Council for Responsible Nutrition. (Reuters) They counter that herbal supplements do benefit our overall health and that many are known to benefit our heart as well.
More and more people are turning to herbal supplements to enhance their overall health. In the United States alone, more than 15 million people take some type of herbal supplement. I’m one of them. I lowered my cholesterol last year using supplements, without taking statins- so the review in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, along with the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s response, is of particular interest to me. What do we do when we have two opposing viewpoints? How do we determine who is “right?” Who do we listen to?
As with the solution to any dilemma, the key is communication.