Context: Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and its incidence is rapidly accelerating in developing nations. Patients often search for therapies that are alternatives to traditional treatments, such as heart medicines, coronary bypass surgery, or coronary stenting. Ayurveda is an ancient, East Indian, holistic approach to health care, and its use has never been formally evaluated for patients with coronary heart disease.
Objectives: The study intended to examine the feasibility and effectiveness of comprehensive ayurvedic therapy-incorporating diet, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, and herbs-for patients with established coronary heart disease.
Design: The study was a prospective, single-group, pilot study.
Setting: The study took place at the University of New Mexico Cardiology Clinic and at the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, NM, USA.
Participants: The participants were adults with a history of a prior heart attack, coronary bypass surgery, or a coronary intervention (ie, a coronary angioplasty and/or stent).
Intervention: All enrolled patients were evaluated by a single ayurvedic physician with >40 y of experience, and each received therapy consisting of a calorically unrestricted ayurvedic diet; instruction in yoga, meditation, and breathing; and use of ayurvedic herbs.
Outcome measures: The primary endpoint was arterial pulse wave velocity, a marker of arterial function and vascular health. Secondary endpoints included the following measurements: (1) body mass index (BMI); (2) blood pressure (BP) and amount of reduction in BP medications; and (3) levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides. All parameters were measured at baseline and after 90 d of therapy.
Results: Twenty-two patients were enrolled in the study, and 19 patients completed it. The research team observed significant improvements in arterial pulse wave velocity (P = .015), and favorable reductions in BMI (P < .0001), total cholesterol (P = .028), LDL cholesterol (P = .024), and triglycerides (P = .046). HDL cholesterol did not change significantly (P = .90). A majority of hypertensive patients were able to reduce or eliminate their antihypertensive medications (P = .0058).
Conclusions: The study's results suggest a favorable effect for ayurveda on arterial function and multiple risk factors in patients with established coronary heart disease.