Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Central-Eastern Connecticut

Heart Health, Herbs and Lifestyle Changes

Patrick Fratellone, M.D. RH (AHG) FIM

Natural Awakenings Central & Eastern Connecticut sat down to chat about heart health and lifestyle with Patrick Fratellone, M.D. RH (AHG) FIM, an integrative physician and cardiologist who has practiced in New York City for 30 years as well as in Fairfield, Connecticut. 

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in men. The two epidemics of obesity and diabetes lead to cardiovascular disease. Men must think about optimizing their lifestyle and controlling risk factors. Heart disease encompasses hypertension (high blood pressure), myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), valvular heart disease, hyperlipidemia (elevated cholesterol) and congestive heart failure. There are lifestyle changes every patient must consider, including dietary and exercise changes. In addition, there are some basic cardiac supplements that can support your cardiac system.

As a cardiologist, what are some of the basic recommendations you make to patients?

You must eat a balanced diet. In today’s fast-paced changing world, convenience often takes precedence over nutritional value. Hundreds of men walk a fast pace while consuming a bacon, egg and cheese on a roll in one hand and a Starbucks coffee in the other hand. Opting for taste can have a dire consequence with cardiovascular health. You need to recognize “bad” foods and either eliminate them entirely or consume them in moderation.

When working side by side with the late Robert C. Atkins of the Atkins diet, I learned one key point from his diet: eat less to no white carbohydrates, thus eliminating sugar. I utilize food allergy testing and blood typing when discussing dietary lifestyle with my patients.

Can you provide an example with dietary changes?

Let’s consider having ice cream after dinner and before bed. Aside from the high saturated fat content in ice cream, the sugar in ice cream leads to obesity, which is a risk factor for heart disease. We know that obesity puts a strain on the heart, requiring it to pump harder, which can lead to high blood pressure and an elevated total cholesterol and the low density lipoprotein (LDL, the bad cholesterol).

If you feel ice cream is not that bad, consider the millions of Americans who still consume soda. Besides the sugar content in soda, there is caffeine and additives which contribute to the development of arteriosclerosis.

What type of diet do you recommend?

I adhere and prescribe to a balanced Mediterranean diet with lean protein, green vegetables and high antioxidant fruit. You must eat quality fish to get your omega 3 oils in your diet. If you do not eat fish, get your omega 3 from walnuts or algae.

A multivitamin is not needed if you eat a balanced diet. There are some heart-healthy vitamins that you should take that are not present in foods. Coenzyme Q10 boosts your heart and brain as well as increases the pump function of your heart. The amino acid L-carnitine also increases the heart pump function, called the ejection fraction. The amino acid L- taurine acts as a natural diuretic if the patient has valvular heart disease. D-ribose is a natural sugar that keeps the heart healthy.

How does a change in exercise and more affect men?

You must commit to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week. This can reduce your cardiovascular mortality by 38 percent. Your doctor should encourage exercise in every patient. Men should consume enough water daily and get at least 6½ hours of continuous, uninterrupted sleep. The amount of water consumed should be half of your body weight in fluid ounces of water. To increase a man’s longevity, you must consume water, get enough sleep and increase your muscle mass as you age.

Are there herbs that can help?

Since high blood pressure is prevalent among men, the herb Hawthorne can be used. Hawthorne (Crataegus ssp.) is an herb that lowers blood pressure, supports cholesterol and can assist with the electrical system of the heart, especially your heart rate. If a male has an increase in heart rate—called tachycardia and leads to an abnormal rhythm—Hawthorne is a great herb. It acts to slow down your heart similar to the conventional medicines called beta blockers. The berry of this herb is used in botanical medicine.

Hibiscus lowers blood pressure similar to the conventional medication class ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors. This class of medications works through the kidneys. Hibiscus lowers blood pressure similar to the ACE inhibitor. There are no reported side effects for this herb.

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) is an herbaceous perennial plant in the mint family, Lamiaceae. Motherwort is used for fast heart rates known as tachycardia. It is especially useful for the anxious male. It is also helpful in cases of an overactive thyroid, known as hyperthyroidism. 

One essential nutrient, magnesium, is used for high blood pressure. There are many forms of magnesium on the market. Magnesium theonate is good for hypertension as it also contains theanine. Theanine is an amino acid to reduce stress.

What other lifestyle change do you suggest?

Lastly, you must incorporate some type of daily meditation into your life. Meditation is often individualized. Some consider yoga or a religious practice to be their meditation. Studies have shown that meditation can reduce your risk of heart disease by reducing stress and stopping living in a “fright-or-flight’ response. This increased level of cortisol, the stress hormone leads to heart disease. Reduce your stress by taking adaptogenic herbs as ashwagandha, rhodiola or gota kola.

Following these lifestyle changes and taking some heart-healthy supplements can increase your longevity. Always consult your physician when using herbs and supplements, especially if you take any medications.

In addition to completing his cardiovascular fellowship at Lenox Hill Hospital in 1994, Dr. Fratellone ( and was an adjunct professor at the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine from 2014- 2022, and currently is an adjunct professor at the School of Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture in New York City. In addition, he is a registered herbalist and a professional member of the American Herbal Guild (AHG). He completed his Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona. His passion is beekeeping. He is the president of the American Apitherapy Society