Heart Disease: Blocked Arteries, High Blood Pressure, Elevated Cholesterol, Stroke and Poor Circulation
If you clicked on this condition, it is likely to be because you or someone you know is suffering from heart disease. Perhaps you have recurrent chest pain, have been diagnosed with angina, have experienced a recent or past heart attack, have been diagnosed with blocked arteries (for which by-pass surgery may have been said to be your only option), have high blood pressure or cholesterol, have vascular dementia or just poor circulation. Truly, the number of symptoms associated with heart disease is inundating. So too are the number of people suffering from heart disease and its related symptoms.
Despite the plethora of (very expensive and potentially dangerous) medications on the market to treat heart disease(s), the facts remain that heart disease is the cause of more Canadian deaths per year than any other health factor (disease or accident). The Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation provides this sobering reality when reviewing the most recent statistics (from 1999). They state that some 78, 942 Canadians die each year from heart disease. This equates to 35 % of all male deaths and 37 % of all female deaths per year! They also mention that 8 in 10 people currently have one risk factor for heart disease and that 11 % of Canadians have 3 or more risk factors.
American numbers are equally scary. The American Journal of Cardiology stated that as of 1998, 13.5 million Americans suffer from Coronary Artery Disease (blockages of the arteries of the heart - which is usually treated with by-pass surgery). They state that 1.5 million heart attacks occur every year in the U.S.A. and that 500,000 people die each year from heart attacks.
The point to bear in mind here is that these numbers exist despite the above mentioned plethora of heart medications. Cleary, something more can be done. Indeed, something more does exist with clear medical study to support the treatments. Patients need only to read on, take some notes and ask their doctor if they are familiar with the treatments and research presented. If they are not or try to dismiss the evidence, then such opinions needs to be evaluated by the patient. We at the Millennium Health Centre seek only to provide the information and facts about heart disease and the varied treatment options that most patients have not been informed about. So, lets start……
What Is Heart Disease: Basic Concepts
Heart disease is actually a group of disorders, as indicated in the above review of symptoms. The group of heart diseases includes circulatory disorders, abnormal heart rhythms and changes in the muscles of the heart itself. Of the above group of diseases, circulatory disorders account for 90 % of all heart disease cases. Combined, these various forms of heart disease can lead to poor circulation, swelling of feet, ankles and hands, shortness of breath (especially with the exertion of walking, lifting etc.), fast or slow heart beats, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attacks, strokes, aneurisms and even senile (vascular) dementia.
What Are The Risk Factors For Developing Heart Disease ?
The major risk factors include:
Circulation Disorders: How Do 'The Pipes" Become Clogged ?
- Lack of physical exercise
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Low magnesium and potassium
- Increased fibrinogen (discussed below)
- Essential Fatty Acid deficiency
- High exposure to oxidative toxins
- like smoking, alcohol, coffee, air pollution and more
- this is a critical concern depending on where you work and live
- it requires 'anti-oxidants' (discussed below) to prevent damage.
- 'Type A' personality
- The medical journal Biological Psychiatry (1995) reported that frequent expression of anger lead to elevations of cholesterol and the journal Circulation (1997) reported that males who worried a lot had a 241 % increased risk of developing heart disease. A Type A person also tends to get less sleep, drink more coffee and alcohol, eat poorly and have nervous system overstimulation - all of which will increase the risk of heart disease.
As mentioned above, circulation disorders account for 90 % of all cases of heart disease (of the group of heart disease causative agents). Many speak of 'blocked arteries', need for by-pass or 'blood thinners', strokes, heart attacks and 'poor circulation', but few understand how this process occurs in the first place.
The narrowing (ie. blockage) of your various blood vessels leads to either 'arteriosclerosis' or 'atherosclerosis'. Avoiding a more detailed discussion, the basic difference is that arteriosclerosis is a blockage of smaller arteries and atherosclerosis is a blockage of larger arteries (like those of your heart - which leads to a heart attack). These blockages build up over decades before serious symptoms arise. In fact, the body can tolerate a 50% - 70% blockage of arteries before problems arise - so you don't know it's coming and are duped into believing your invincible. This is the reason we hear about patients who 'were strong as an ox and (magically !) dropped dead one day'. It's for this reason that patients need to consider their heart health at younger (and perceivably healthier) ages.
How do the arteries become clogged? Well, think about your bathroom sink. As debris goes down the sink, some sticks to the walls of the pipes and allows for more material to accumulate. With your arteries and veins, this debris is a mixture of cholesterol, oxidized fatty acids (meaning certain food-based byproducts - the fatty acids found in red meats, dairy etc. - which become 'oxidized' by air pollution, smoking etc.), certain sugars found in starches, something called fibrinogen and more. As these materials deposit on the walls of the blood vessels, they develop a hard shell that forms onto of them. This shell is formed by mainly calcium deposits. The result is a clog (like your bathroom drain) which is hard and impermeable due to the calcium shell. This shell means the vessels are less able to expand as blood pressure changes - resulting in more complicated heart and circulation impairment. Worth noting is that these clogs tend to form in arteries which are less healthy due to a lack of proper (good quality) proteins, vitamins, minerals, essential oils and which are exposed to excessive toxins (such as smoking, industrial solvents & chemicals, air pollution, coffee……………….).
So, these 'plaques' or clogs form and the arteries and vessels become hard and unhealthy. The result is like your bathroom drain with less flow of water (blood) through the 'pipes' (arteries and vessels). Eventually these can become 100 % blocked and a patient will suffer a heart attack or a stroke. Alternatively, a piece of the debris can break off and cause an aneurism or blockage in a vessel in your leg or lung. Conventional treatment is to use medicine to 'thin' the blood to get it through the narrowed arteries, to regulate the rate that your heart beats or to create a detour around a blockage in a vessel through by-pass surgery. No attempts are made to unplug the blockage (like using 'draino') or to use well studied complementary medicines to prevent the blockages, thin blood, reduce cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, prevent 'oxidation' of the debris etc. These options, however, do exist. They simply can not be patented and generate millions per year in sales………….
So, What Options Do You Have In Treating and Preventing Your Heart Disease ?
First, Use Some Well Established Blood Tests Which You Probably Have Not Had Conducted.
Frequently, patients advise ourselves that they have had "all the bloodwork done" regarding the investigation, diagnosis and treatment of their heart disease. In reality, we find that all relevant, conventional researched and accepted tests are rarely conducted. That is a tragedy, as these tests can make a profound impact on the early diagnosis, let alone monitoring and treatment of heart disease. Consider the following:
This is a very simple blood test. What it measures is the level of a protein in the blood that is known to be correlated with heart disease, especially atherosclerosis which can lead to stroke or heart attack. Numerous medical studies published in many of the most prestigious conventional medical journals have noted that if homocysteine is found to be increased in the blood, then the patient is at a greater risk for developing heart disease (such journals as the Annals of Clinical Laboratory Science, the Archives of Internal Medicine and the American Journal of Pathology).
Why this is so important, aside from its significant impact on causing heart disease, is that homocysteine can be easily reduced with specific amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid - hence reducing the risk it poses for causing or worsening heart disease. Worth noting is that a diet high in animal protein (meat, dairy and eggs) will increase homocysteine.
- C-Reactive Protein:
This is also a simple blood test. It measures the level of another protein in the blood which is elevated in various forms of heart disease, especially heart attack. Specifically, it will frequently start to rise before obvious symptoms of heart disease arise. The Physician's Health Study in the United States concluded that C-Reactive protein should be routinely used to predict the possibility of future heart problems, as they noted that elevations of this protein are linked to a 300 % increased chance of heart attack, 200 % increased risk of stroke and a 200-400 % increased chance of peripheral artery disease. These findings and more have been discussed in such medical journals as the New England Journal of Medicine, the American Journal of Cardiology and the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology.
- CK, CK-MB, LDH etc.
These are the names of other well known blood tests which will identify heart disease. Unfortunately, they are usually used only after a patient is suspected of having already had a heart attack or stroke - in order to see how serious the condition may be. They are rarely used to pick up early stages of heart disease, before the condition becomes life threatening. As such, 'windows of opportunity' are often missed to take preventative treatment.
So, the point is that your treatment options start with thorough blood tests. Ask yourself if these have been discussed with yourself or if you think they have been conducted at all. If they have not, then you may wish to discuss why they have not been with your doctor. The medical studies are clear as to the importance of these tests. Your Naturopathic Doctor will most certainly look into their use to get a handle on your condition at the earliest possible stage. This is a starting place at the Millennium Health Centre.
Since Circulation Problems and 'Clogged' Arteries and Veins Account for 90 % of All Heart Disease Conditions, Why Not 'Unplug' the Arteries ?
Chelation therapy is a 'hot' topic in North America to say the least. Many of you may have been told that there is no value, no proof, no studies and no reason why one would have chelation therapy. One patient recounted a story of having been told by his cardiologist that 'nothing could be done' to reverse the 100 % blockage in one of his coronary arteries. He was told he would have to go on with being unable to walk more than 30 feet without using his nitroglycerine spray, with not being able to work and with not being able to know how long he had to live. After some 30 treatments with chelation therapy, this same patient was walking 2 miles a day (in winter and summer !), was back to work, was in a new relationship and felt no angina pain. Upon return to his cardiologist, he was told that this was a 'placebo effect'. In essence he was being told he had 'thought away' his 100 % blockage and severe cardio-vascular disease………. Sounded like a convenient response from a cardiologist who refused to conduct a follow-up angiogram to see if the arteries had, in fact, become less blocked. This real story, unfortunately, is all too common.
So, what is chelation. Well I would encourage you to go to our website's 'Links' section and click on the various chelation sites for all the information you require. But, in a nutshell, chelation is (mainly) an intravenous (injection into your veins) treatment which administers a mixture of vitamins and minerals, along with a 'chelating' ingredient that unplugs the blockages in your arteries and veins. It does so by 'dissolving' the hard shell discussed in the preceding section (see, there was a reason I discussed how your 'pipes' become blocked). While it is an inaccurate analogy, suffice to say it's like pouring 'draino' into the plugged bathroom drain.
Does it work ? Has your cardiologist also claimed it's 'as effective as a good prayer' ? Well, consider the fact that more than 400 medical studies have been conducted which have all demonstrated that chelation improves systemic blood supply. Consider also that more than 20 million treatments have been conducted since the 1950's with not one mortality. Compare these results to by-pass surgery and the use of the convention pharmaceutical drugs. If your doctor has dismissed chelation as a viable option, ask them of their familiarity with the medical evidence and ask them to supply a trial that proves it does not do what is stated on our various links. If they can not supply a trial, or are unfamiliar with the studies conducted, perhaps you can evaluate this lack of awareness.
Chelation is not a panacea for all heart disease patients. However, if you suffer from poor circulation, blocked arteries, senile (vascular) dementia, stroke or more, consider reviewing our website's 'Links'. Also consider reading the books Forty Something Forever: A Consumer's Guide To Chelation Therapy and Other Heart Savers (Harold & Arline Brecher - Healthsaver Press) and / or The Scientific Basis of EDTA Chelation Therapy (Halstead & Rozema - TRC Publishing).
Next, Consider The Numerous Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs and Natural Medicines Studied and Proven To Treat A Variety Of Heart Disease Conditions
A common concern mentioned by our patients is that their medical doctors have told them that vitamins are ' a waste of money' which will not help treat their condition (be that heart disease or something else). That despite the role of B vitamins and folic acid in the treatment of the deadly homocysteine previously discussed. To refute this point, I draw your attention to findings published in the American Journal of Cardiology (1997). It stated that in a survey of the members of the American Academy of Cardiology (ie. the heart doctors themselves), some 54 % admitted to routinely taking vitamin 'anti-oxidants' (like Vitamins C, E and A etc.). In another study (published in the American Journal of Cardiology) it was found that use of vitamin supplements were associated with a 69 % reduced risk of death in those already suffering from heart disease.
- Look at your diet !!!!!
Endless numbers of patients are received at our clinic who have already suffered from a stroke, past heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol etc. etc. Almost always, these same patients have diets which are worsening their condition. But a few considerations are as follows:
- Many are aware of the 'mediterranean diet' for heart disease. Amongst other considerations, this diet increases what are called Omega-3 fatty acids through reduced red meat consumption and increased fish consumption. It also increases the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, garlic and onion, olive oil and good quality fiber. It eats less of the refined bread, pasta, smoked meats, fried food, junk food and animal protein of which the North American diet consumes excessive quantities.
- Low fat diets are NOT the answer. A study in the Annals of Human Biology (amongst others) stated that a low-fat diet did not prove to reduce the incidence of heart disease. In fact, in some circumstances, a low-fat dietactually increased the risk of heart disease by decreasing 'good cholesterol' (as mentioned in the New England Journal of Medicine). The type of fat is critical and detailed diet discussions are required.
- In one study (published in the Alt Med Review, 1998), it was noted that in reviewing 32 countries for the incidence of heart disease, milk consumption was noted to be the most significant diet correlation to heart disease.
- Use safer alternatives in reducing cholesterol
Many patients have come to learn that the popular medications used to lower cholesterol (called 'statin' drugs - which include Lipitor, Lovastatin, Pravachol etc.) can cause serious liver damage. What they do not know is that the also deplete the body's store of a critical nutrient called Co-Q 10. This nutrient prevents heart disease !!!!
Fortunately, a natural form of the 'statin' exists which does NOT cause liver damage or reduce CO-Q10. This natural form comes from Red Yeast Extract and has been shown through numerous medical studies to be an effective medicine in reducing cholesterol (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Current Therapeutic Research, American Journal of Cardiology etc.).
Another alternative to reduce cholesterol is a herb called 'gugglelipids'. This herb has been shown to decrease total cholesterol by 11.7 %, decrease 'bad cholesterol' by 16.8 % and to increase 'good cholesterol' in up to 60 % of patients (published in the journal Cardiology Drug Therapy).
- Use proven natural treatments to improve blood circulation and lower blood pressure:
- Policosanol: This newer natural product has much evidence to support its use to reduce cholesterol. What has also been shown is that it decreases platelet aggregation and, as such, improves blood circulation (without dangerous blood thinners - published in the medical journal named the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology Research). It has also been shown to decrease oxidation, the process that leads to the hard shell forming inside your blood vessels. It is believed to be able to reverse existing atherosclerotic plaques (the clogs in your vessels) and research published in the journal Current Therapeutic Research has shown it can decrease blood pressure.
- Botanical (herbal) medicines: Several herbs exist which can decrease blood pressure, improve circulation, regulate the heart rate and more.
The above is merely a sampling of the natural treatment options available to the heart disease patient. Numerous vitamins exist which will prevent and reverse the dangerous 'oxidation' which can damage arteries and veins. Chinese medicine has been shown to be able to significantly lower blood pressure, improve circulation and treat the secondary symptoms of heart disease. Other herbal medicines have been shown to prevent and reverse age-related dementias which result from impaired blood circulation. The list does go on and, well, I hope you 'get the point' and use this information to seek out more sources in your treatment considerations.
In all, there is much that can be done to treat the varied aspects of heart disease. These natural treatments are safe, are well researched, have much medical journal evidence and are certainly worth investigation. They do require professional guidance to ensure they are safe in your individual circumstance and with your existing medications. As with any integrated medical clinic, the Millennium Health Centre can provide you with an outline of which therapy is right in your individual case. Please go our 'Links' page and visit the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors for listings of doctors in your area or information regarding similar professional associations in your region of our global community.
Here's hoping you are granted the right tests and provided with all available treatment options.
All The Very Best of Health,
Stephen F. Jones B.comm., N.D.
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine