Noninvasive Treatment for Angina (why aren’t cardiologists doing this?) | The Healthy Home Economist

I enjoy reading books from time to time that challenge everything I think I “know” about a particular subject. Not only is this interesting (at least to me), but I find that it helps me think outside the box, consider new angles, and achieve deeper understanding than I had before. One book that has really blown my mind of late is by Thomas Cowan MD, Human Heart Cosmic Heart: A Doctor’s Quest to Understand, Prevent, and Treat Cardiovascular Disease.

In particular, the chapter on What Does Cause Heart Attacks is a must read for anyone with existing or potential heart disease. Dr. Cowan identifies a simple, noninvasive intervention for angina treatment instead of stents or bypass surgery. This alternative is an option for those suffering from the spectrum of angina and unstable angina as well as blocked arteries and/or heart attack itself!

Conventional Angina Treatment

Angina, or chest pain, is discomfort caused by the heart not getting enough oxygen-rich blood. According to the American Heart Association, angina usually feels like pressure or squeezing in your chest. It might even be felt in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. Sometimes, angina pain might be experienced as indigestion.

It is important to note that the various types of angina are not a disease. Instead, they are symptoms of an underlying heart problem. These symptoms occur usually because one or more of the coronary arteries have become narrowed or blocked.

Conventional treatment for angina primarily involves the use of numerous drugs. These include statins, nitrates, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, oral antiplatelet medicines, and/or blood thinners. If symptoms aren’t controlled with meds or if a heart attack is likely or has already occurred, surgery is the next step:


  • Angioplasty is used to improve blood flow to the heart by placing a small mesh tube called a stent inside the artery to keep it open.
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  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) uses healthy arteries or veins taken from other areas in the body. These are used to bypass the blocked coronary arteries. Bypass surgery can improve blood flow to the heart and relieve chest pain. It does not prevent future heart attacks. This surprising finding was published in a large report by the Mayo Clinic in the journal Circulation (1).

Angina Treatment Using Enhanced External Counterpulsation

What if there was a way to help more than 80% of people avoid coronary bypass surgery or stenting? Do you think patients would prefer this instead?

Of course they would if only they were only told about it and given the option by their cardiologists!

Enhanced External Counter Pulsation (EECP) is a technology that is highly successful at treating heart disease noninvasively. This means no surgery. Why does conventional medicine ignore this approach? Perhaps this is because it challenges the notion that blood circulation is mostly dependent on the four major coronary arteries. Dr. Cowan’s book thoroughly debunks this long held idea in very convincing manner.

Angina treatment with EECP is simple. The patient simply lies down on a bed while balloons are placed externally on both legs and around the pelvis. This contrasts with angioplasty where balloons are inflated inside the artery.

The pulsation device then synchronizes the timing of the inflation of the balloons with an electrocardiogram (EKG). The timing is adjusted so that the balloons are squeezing the legs and pelvis at the same time the heart is relaxed and not contracting. This phase of the heart is called diastole.

This synchronized squeezing is performed repeatedly for a little longer than an hour, five days a week for seven consecutive weeks. The goal of this timed external pressurization of the legs and pelvis is to induce the body to create a new collateral circulation to the heart. In essence, instead of cutting a person open, EECP encourages the body to create its own bypass without the risk of anesthesia, the use of a surgeon’s knife, and a long recovery.

The Best News of All ….

When a new major blood vessel is physically inserted into the body via bypass surgery, it ends up getting blocked again eventually. The reblockage occurs much faster for venous grafts than arterial ones. However, by allowing the body to naturally create its own collateral circulation using EECP, the majority of patients experience a resolution of angina symptoms with no drugs or surgery required. These benefits last for 3-7 years. EECP can be used again to further expand collateral circulation if necessary at that time.

In addition, enhanced external counterpulsation helps blood vessels become stronger and more flexible. This is something that stents and bypass surgery don’t offer. In fact, the Mayo Clinic concluded in a major report that bypass surgery only relieves chest pain. It does not prevent future heart attacks. The report also stated that only high risk patients whose lives are in immediate danger actually benefit from bypass surgery.

If you or someone you know is facing a surgical procedure – either stenting or bypass surgery – for coronary artery disease, it would be a wise move to consider noninvasive angina treatment using enhanced external counterpulsation instead. Check out Dr. Cowan’s book for more in-the-trenches ideas for preventing and treating heart disease in a holistically managed way.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

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