Complementary therapies

At present the most successful way of treating heart failure is by medication, though some studies have suggested that transcendental meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques help to reduce blood pressure and increase people’s sense of well-being. Research is also being carried out into the possible benefits of tai chi. NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) issued guidelines in June 2006 on the treatment of high blood pressure that stated that relaxation therapies such as stress management, meditation, cognitive therapies, muscle relaxation and biofeedback, can have a modest effect on reducing blood pressure and people, ‘may wish to pursue these as part of their treatment’.

Though many people thought that learning to relax and concentrating on things that took them out of themselves would be beneficial, few had actively tried new things and most said that they preferred to talk to their family or their doctors.

Feels she does not need alternative therapies because she gets her support from medical staff and…

Age at interview 66

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 65

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Most people said they had not tried complementary medication such as herbal remedies in case they might interfere with their usual medicines. Others speculated that their doctors would not like them to ‘experiment’ with other remedies. A woman who had tried valerian to help her sleep found that it interfered with warfarin and said she always checked with her chemist before buying anything.

Someone who had tried homoeopathy and cranial osteopathy said that though they would probably work for other people, they had not worked for her. She said that she started feeling better once doctors had got her medication right. A man who tried Reiki healing said that it gave him a set time outside his usual routine when he could relax and reflect.

She tried various complementary practices – homoeopathy and osteopathy – but found they didn’t…

Age at interview 53

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 49

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He describes Reiki healing which helped him to relax and reflect.

Age at interview 39

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 37

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Several people talked about how their religious faith helped their recovery and said they put themselves in God’s hands. Others said they prayed regularly and attended places of worship, and one man was pleased to have led a service and preached at his local church. A woman who sees her priest regularly for home communion said she also valued being able to talk to him because he was such a good listener.

Says he prays and puts himself and his health in God’s hands.

Age at interview 46

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 45

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Many activities were said to be therapeutic including keeping a reflective diary, painting, yoga and meditation (see ‘Sports, hobbies and activities’). Others said they had tried listening to relaxation tapes and several people were thinking about joining relaxation and yoga classes. A woman who had been bereaved said that looking after herself helped her look and feel better and was helping to restore her self-confidence.

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There were a number of ways that people used to unwind or overcome some of the strain of heart failure, which included watching television and old films. Someone else said his own mantra (‘it really doesn’t matter’) whenever he found himself stressed or upset (see ‘Stress and heart failure’).

What carers think

We talked to some of the husbands and wives of people with heart failure. They talked about the changes they had noticed in their partner...