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Complementary therapies for heart health

Thinking about using complementary or traditional therapies along with your conventional treatment? Before you make a decision, here are some things to think about.

Many people in New Zealand have long used traditional therapies to support their health and wellbeing. An even larger number are turning to complementary therapies as they become more widely available and accepted. For others, these therapies may be part of their cultural traditions e.g. rongoā. 

Some of these therapies are supported by scientific evidence, however for many others; there is no robust evidence to prove that they are beneficial. This doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t work, it just means that the experts have not yet studied them enough to know exactly what they do.

Can I get unwanted side effects from complementary therapies?

Complementary therapies are often expensive to buy, and can potentially interfere with prescribed medications. If you are thinking about taking a complementary therapy to manage your cholesterolblood pressure or overall risk of heart attack or stroke, talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist and they can check if it is safe to take.  

It’s also important that the word "natural" does not mean that it is safe or low risk. It is possible to have an unwanted reaction to natural products – even those that are safe – particularly if they are taken in large doses.

If it is important to you to use traditional therapies, there are a number of things you might like to consider, such as:  

  • If it is safe to use with any medication you may currently be taking or may be prescribed
  • What the benefits to you may be
  • What the side effects may be.

Talking to your doctor about complementary therapies

Here are some questions that you may like to ask your doctor before starting any complementary therapies:

  • Do I need to see a doctor before I start taking this therapy?
  • What are the most commonly used complementary therapies for my condition?
  • Are there any side/unwanted effects from this therapy? 
  • Will this therapy interfere with my medication? 
  • Is there any research into the complementary therapy that I would like to use?
  • Where can I find reliable information about the complementary therapy I would like to use?

Whenever you are taking any medication, you should make sure you understand what it is doing for you and what to look out for. Do you understand the heart medications you are taking? 

Find out about conventional medications