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A Woman's Heart, Herbal Remedies and Heart Medications - Do they mix?

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Talk openly and honestly with your doctor about what you are taking. Someone needs to have the “big picture” concerning your overall health. Too many patients don’t disclose and too many doctors don’t ask. Love them or hate them, with 15 million Americans using supplements, they are here to stay- so be smart in your usage. The best practice is to be proactive and take the lead in ensuring that your health care provider is aware of all medications and herbal supplements or vitamins that you are taking.

Drug/Herbal Supplement Discussion Checklist

-Do inform your doctor regarding all medications that you are taking. For example, if you are seeing a cardiologist, make certain he knows if you are taking blood pressure medication, medication for arthritis, etc. Drugs taken for different medical conditions may also interact negatively.

-Do inform your doctor regarding all over-the-counter medications (allergy, Tylenol, cold medicine) that you are taking or take on a regular basis.

-Do inform your doctor regarding all vitamins or herbal supplements that you take.

-Do discuss potential drug and herbal supplement interactions with your doctor.
(Note: I personally recommend discussing all of the above items with your pharmacist in addition to your doctor. I’ve found pharmacists in general to be extremely aware of potential drug interactions.)

-Do inform our doctor if you make any changes to the medications, herbal supplements or vitamins that you are taking.

Until next time, here's wishing you a healthy heart.

JoAnne Allen, Herbal Remedies, Heart Drugs Don’t Mix: Review, ABCNews Health, Reuters, 01 Feb 20210, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory?id=9720984

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Hi... Thanks for your post! I could not agree with you more. I'm not certain that the average person understands that some of the natural remedies (vitamins, herbs, medicinal teas) can be as effective taking a traditional drug and that you run a risk of overdose if you combine the two. Niacin is a prime example of a "natural" remedy that packs a powerful punch and caution should be exercised for persons on blood pressure medication.

I am definitely not opposed to doctors or taking medicine but have developed a preference over the years for using natural remedies if and when appropriate, or sometimes complimentary to a traditional medical protocol. I lowered my cholesterol 45 points without taking statins last year due to natural remedies and hope to lower it more this year so I can personally attest to the effectiveness of some.

I'm lucky in that I have a physician who believes in preventative health and has encouraged me to explore alternative remedies, particularly in areas where traditional medicine can offer no cure. Not all medical doctors are so open to alternative solutions. Because he's been open to alternative remedies and has encouraged me to take charge and actively participate in health decisions, we've enjoyed great communication on health issues. I go into appointments prepared with my research and questions. Because we're using a preventative approach, I'm getting healthier without taking a lot of unnecessary drugs or supplements. I try to focus on giving my body what it actually "needs."

For me personally, the bottom line is doing my homework and then ensuring I have good communication with the health care providers so we don't have any negative health surprises down the road.

February 2, 2010 - 1:41pm

This is really important material. Herbal supplements and even herbal teas, including some marketed and consumed as beverages, can be potent medicines, and like any kind of drug, they can interact with each other and with synthetic pharmaceuticals as well.

Just as a good doctor checks for drug interactions and side-effects, a good herbalist must check for interactions between herbs and between the herbs and any drugs a person is taking.

It's also important to let your doctor know what herbal supplements you use or what herbal teas you drink, as well as informing them about your diet, since drugs can interact with foods as well. Unfortunately, there's not enough research to comprehensively understand all herb/food/drug interactions--and new ones are constantly being discovered. Many potentially dangerous drug interactions (such as the family of drugs which interacts with grapefruit juice) were only discovered by accident.

I think the best solution is to be cautious and sparing in your use of medication, whether synthetic or herbal. Just because a drug has been approved by the FDA does not guarantee it's safe. If it's not medically necessary to take a drug, you should avoid taking it. And when seeking herbal supplements or medicinal teas, try to limit yourself to using herbs that have been firmly established as safe for long-term use, and consult a doctor and herbalist when in doubt.

February 2, 2010 - 12:50pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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