Traditional Chinese Medicine May Help Diabetes Patients Prevent Heart Disease

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) may be an effective preventative for heart disease, a condition people with diabetes have increased risk of developing.

As reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a review of studies published during the past decade revealed TCM might be a beneficial complement or alternative to traditional Western medicine for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular problems.

The TCM studies reviewed by researchers were randomized controlled clinical trials that used TCM with patients having diabetes, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and chronic heart failure.

Western scientists have frequently dismissed TCM since most of its formulas contain multiple ingredients with an abundance of chemical molecules. This makes it difficult to pinpoint therapeutic mechanisms in research studies. Plus, TCM medications are not subjected to a rigorous approval process, as are Western drugs, and many are unavailable in the U.S.

Yet, heart disease continues to be the primary cause of death globally, and despite innovations in Western medicine, gaps in treatment and prevention persist. Traditional Chinese medicine is being looked at to potentially fill these gaps.

The reviewers found that certain Chinese medicines showed benefits with each cardiovascular condition studied. For instance, in eight randomized controlled studies involving TCM and high blood pressure, five medications - Tiankuijiangya, Zhongfujiangya, Qiqilian, Jiangya, and Jiangyabao - reduced patient hypertension safely. These formulas are potential treatment alternatives for patients intolerant of Western medicines, or who cannot afford them.

However, researchers caution it will take in-depth trials to determine whether the benefits of TCM medications translate into longterm positive heart-health outcomes.

“Of note, one should bear in mind that traditional Chinese medicine medications are usually prescribed as complex formulae, which are often further manipulated by the practitioner on a personalized basis,” said Yuxia Zhao, senior author of the review and a physician at Shandong University Qilu Hospital in Jinan, Shandong, China.

Source: American College of Cardiology
Photo credit: Kristoffer Trolle

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