Arrhythmia and angina (pain in the chest area) are symptoms of heart disease. They are together here because the drugs used to treat them are often the same.
Examples of Cardiac Glycosides (Digitalis Drugs)
Digoxin (Cardoxin, Digitek, Lanoxicaps, Lanoxin)
What Do They Do in the Body? The digitalis drugs are derived from the plants Digitalis purpurea and Digitalis lanata, otherwise known as foxglove. Although an exact description of their action on the heart is complicated and technical, in essence what they do is make the heartbeat strong and increase the heart’s ability to pump blood.
What Are They Prescribed For? CHF and irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
What Are the Possible Side Effects? Although the digitalis drugs are used to treat irregular heartbeat, they can also cause it. Other adverse effects can include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
The primary danger of these drugs is too high a dose. The optimal dose and a toxic dose are not far apart with these drugs. Since the dosage can be inadvertently increased in many ways, overdosage is a very real concern. A long list of drugs can slow the clearance of digitalis drugs from the body or increase the effects of digitalis drugs. People taking this medication need to be very alert to what they are eating and drinking.
The early symptoms of an overdosage are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and loss of appetite. Other symptoms include headache, weakness, fatigue, sleepiness, confusion, restlessness, visual disturbances such as blurred vision, depression, skin rash, hives, irregular heartbeat, and gynecomastia. Your physician should be notified if you have any of these symptoms.
What Are the Interactions with Other Drugs? To be on the safe side, those who take the digitalis drugs should not take any prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal medicine without first checking for possible interactions.
What Are the Interactions with Food? Food in general slows the absorption rate of digitalis drugs but doesn’t necessarily decrease levels. In other words, you’ll get the same dose, but it will be delivered more slowly. However, a high-fiber meal can actually reduce the dose of a digitalis drug by carrying some of it through the intestines unabsorbed. High-carbohydrate meals may slow absorption more than balanced meals. High-fat meals may cause the body to reabsorb the drug, slightly increasing levels.
What Nutrients Do They Throw out of Balance or Interact With? The digitalis drugs increase the excretion of magnesium and potassium.
What Else to Take While Taking These Drugs. Be sure to take a good mineral supplement if you’re taking digitalis drugs. Low potassium combined with high digitalis can be a deadly combination, causing irregular heartbeats, so it’s especially important to keep your potassium levels high by eating potassium-rich foods such as bananas, nuts, avocados, figs, prunes, tomatoes, and meat.
Along with diuretics, laxatives and licorice root can also deplete potassium.
Examples of Nitrates/Nitrites
Isosorbide dinitrate (Isordil, Sorbitrate, Isosorbide, Dilatrate)
Isosorbide mononitrate (Monoket, ISMO, Imdur)
Nitroglycerin (Nitrostat, Nitrolingual, Nitrogard, Nitrong, Nitro-Bid, Nitrocine, Nitroglyn, Minitran, Nitrodisc, Deponit, NitroDur, Nitrol)
There are no specific natural alternatives to these drugs. In other words, if you have such severe angina that not taking one of these drugs could put your life in jeopardy, it’s important to keep taking it while you work to reduce your angina symptoms naturally. Since these drugs are most often taken only when an angina attack occurs, you’ll naturally wean yourself off them as your angina is reduced. These drugs are somewhat outdated as heart attack and angina preventives; if you’re taking daily doses whether or not you have an angina attack, ask your physician about switching to a safer drug.
What Do They Do in the Body? Reduce or relieve spasms in the heart muscle, thereby dilating blood vessels and lowering blood pressure.
What Are They Prescribed For? Angina attacks.
What Are the Possible Side Effects? Postural hypotension (feeling dizzy or faint when you stand from a sitting or lying position) can be a dangerous and possibly fatal side effect. These drugs can also damage organs. Other side effects include aggravation of some types of angina (chest pain) and some types of glaucoma, and they may cause severe headaches, blurred vision, and dry mouth.
Adverse reactions can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn, involuntary passing of urine and feces, impotence, urinary frequency, anxiety, restlessness, agitation, weakness, dizziness, fainting, rebound angina and hypertension, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, pounding heart, rash, flushing, twitching muscles, joint aches, bronchitis, sinus infection, sweating, and water retention.
Think Twice About Taking These Drugs If . . .
• You have existing hypotension.
• You have kidney or liver disease.
• You have glaucoma.
What Are the Interactions with Other Drugs? Nitrates may reduce the effects of heparin, an antiocoagulant. Nitrates may interact dangerously with Viagra and other drugs for erectile dysfunction.
Alcohol, aspirin, and calcium channel blockers may increase the effects or prolong the action of nitrates.
Prescription Alternatives: Hundreds of Free, Natural, Prescription-Free Remedies to Restore & Maintain Your Health, by Earl L. Mindell, R.Ph, Ph. D, & Virginia Hopkins, M.A. Published by McGraw-Hill.