There is no substitute for medical care when considering a serious—even potentially fatal—condition such as coronary heart disease. The first thing to do if you notice any symptoms of a heart problem, including chest pain, is to see your doctor. Medical treatment may be required to prevent heart attack. However, your doctor may recommend nonmedical measures, such as:
- exercise conditioning,
- relaxation techniques such as yoga, and
- a low-fat diet.
These measures may help ease the symptoms of coronary heart disease, especially angina, and may help ease the effects of some risk factors. For example, relaxation techniques may help you overcome stress and block pain impulses by refocusing your concentration. These techniques include meditation, yoga, biofeedback training, and self-hypnosis. For maximum benefit, you should choose a relaxation technique that you are comfortable with and practice it for 20 minutes once or twice a day. In addition to the direct positive effect on your cardiovascular system, relaxation techniques may help you make other lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking and contribute to a general sense of well-being.
Vitamin therapy may also work in conjunction with your medical treatment. High doses of niacin can lower blood cholesterol levels, reducing the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries. In addition, recent studies indicate that vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin that also inhibits blood clotting, may help reduce the risk of heart attack. However, do not take any more than the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of any vitamin without first consulting your doctor; some vitamins in high doses can have toxic effects.
Other more controversial, alternative therapies include garlic, which may be consumed as deodorized pills, and fish oil (omega-3 fatty acid) supplements. Ongoing studies indicate that large amounts of garlic may have a modest cholesterol-lowering effect. Any benefits of fish oil supplements are offset by the increased calorie and fat intake. Thus, experts recommend eating one or two servings of salmon, cod, or other cold-water fish a week rather than taking fish oil pills.