Integrative medicine found to be effective in treating coronary artery disease: Study
09/26/2019 // Evangelyn Rodriguez // Views

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is characterized by cholesterol buildup (atherosclerosis) in the arteries that eventually blocks the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. CAD is the leading cause of death around the world; hence, its treatment is considered a priority. In a recent study published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, Chinese researchers investigated the effectiveness of integrative medicine (IM) in treating CAD. These past few years, IM has gained popularity among patients suffering from different diseases due to its ability to address symptoms conventional treatments could not, and relieve the adverse effects of modern medications. In their study, the researchers reported that IM could decrease the incidence of revascularization, heart attack, and cardiac death in patients with CAD.

Complementary, alternative, and integrative medicine

People often misuse the terms 'complementary' and 'alternative' when it comes to medicine. Complementary medicine refers to approaches used together with conventional treatments, while alternative medicine refers to approaches used in place of conventional medicine. Integrative medicine, on the other hand, combines complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) with conventional treatments in a coordinated way. IM promotes a holistic approach that doesn't just focus on the physical, but also on the emotional, mental, functional, social, and spiritual aspects of health care and wellness.

The most commonly used CAM treatments today are acupuncture, botanical medicine, manual manipulation treatments (chiropractic therapies), meditation, yoga, and homeopathy. Due to increasing interest in the use of CAM, medical schools are beginning to include information about CAM therapies in their curricula. In China, in particular, the use of CAM in combination with conventional treatments is prevalent, especially in the treatment of serious diseases like CAD. However, scientific investigations have yet to find conclusive evidence of the effectiveness of CAM treatments and IM therapies.


Integrative medicine proves beneficial for patients with CAD

In recent years, revascularization procedures have improved drastically. Revascularization is a surgical method used to restore blood flow to an organ or any part of the body that has suffered deprivation (ischemia). This type of surgery is undergone by patients with CAD. However, despite these developments, CAD still remains a global health problem.

An increasing trend of combining conventional procedures like revascularization with CAM led Chinese researchers to investigate the effectiveness of this IM therapy. For their study, they selected 1,087 hospitalized CAD patients from four hospitals in Beijing and divided them into two groups: the IM therapy group and the conventional treatment (CT) group. They considered major adverse cardiac events (MACE), which include cardiac death, myocardial infarction (MI, heart attack), and revascularization, as the endpoint of their evaluation.

The researchers reported that out of the 1,087 chosen participants, 1,040 patients completed the two-year follow-up. 49.4 percent of those patients were in the IM therapy group. During the two-year follow-up, the researchers reported that the total incidence of MACE was 11.3 percent, with most of the events involving revascularization (9.3 percent). Cardiac death and MI occurred in only 3 percent of the cases. (Related: Reverse coronary artery disease safely and naturally.)

When the researchers performed logistic stepwise regression analysis, they found that age (over 65 years), MI, diabetes mellitus, multi-vessel lesions, baseline high sensitivity C-reactive protein levels greater than 3 mg/L, and moderate or severe anxiety/depression serve as negative predictors for revascularization. On the other hand, the use of antiplatelet agents, beta-blockers, statins, and IM therapy proved to be protective predictors.

For cardiac death/MI, age (over 65 years) and heart failure were negative predictors, while statin use was a protective predictor. IM therapy, meanwhile, showed a beneficial tendency.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that IM therapy could decrease the incidence of revascularization and potentially reduce the incidence of cardiac death or MI in CAD patients in a real-world setting.

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