A recently conducted survey has found that more and more heart patients are turning towards alternative treatment and dietary supplements as compared to the healthy population. It was observed that almost three fourth of the heart patients follow some form of alternative treatment and around one third of them take dietary supplements in addition to the medicines prescribed by their doctor for their heart.

The problem arises when these alternative therapies or dietary supplements are taken without informing the doctor. This could pose a problem as these therapies may hamper the effect of the prescribed medications.

A study conducted involving 100 heart patients showed that 74% of the heart patients were following some form of complimentary/alternative therapy; 50% of them were on some dietary supplement, herbs or vitamins and 35% were following some mind-body techniques such as yoga.

Also 42% of these heart patients were on a prescribed blood-thinning medication (such as aspirin) along with a dietary supplement (such as ginkgo biloba, ginseng, garlic, vitamin E, fish oil), which also have anti-coagulant effect (i.e. reduces blood clotting).

The studies showed that complimentary or alternative therapy (such as yoga, chiropractic, acupressure) do not pose any threat when combined with conventional heart treatment. However, the doctors were more concerned about the last group (42% of patients) as taking two blood thinners could cause uncontrolled bleeding in addition to other interactions between the supplements and drugs.

Hence it is recommended that patients should consult their doctors before taking dietary supplements, herbs etc. or starting any new treatment to avoid any adverse effect.