How exciting to know that the solution to both of these issues, heart disease and a broken health care system, is not ‘out there’, waiting for a congressional resolution or pharmaceutical discovery. For each of us, the answer lies easily within reach of our daily activities.
“Nearly 75 percent of our annual 2.5 trillion medical expenses are readily preventable”.
“Cardiovascular disease is 95 percent preventable”.
“In 2006, 60 billion was spent on angioplasty procedures, yet the risk of death from heart disease remained unchanged”.
“For many large firms, such as Starbucks, the cost of health care exceeds the costs of what they pay their employees”.
These are just a few of the comments I heard from presenters at a recent cardiology conference in San Francisco, the source for this month’s newsletter.
Even modest exercise, like walking daily, will decrease the risk for heart disease in both men and women by 50 percent. Regular exercise holds many benefits such as ensuring healthy skin and contributing to neurogenesis, an increase of neurons in the brain, helping to reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Healthy lifestyle habits, including diet and exercise in just three months will stimulate over 500 genes that reduce the risk for cancer, especially breast and prostate cancer. These benefits are enhanced with stress reducing techniques such as meditation.
A 2007 study in JAMA concluded that stress is as bad for the heart as smoking. Stress shrinks telomeres. Telomeres are at the end of genetic messenger molecules, the shorter they are, the shorter and unhealthier our life becomes: a trend now apparent in the 21st century.
Physicians often use fear as an incentive to take prescription drugs, however since two thirds of people discontinue their prescription drugs after two to three months, alternative methods and motivations need to be considered. Dr. Dean Ornish, a noted cardiologist, has pioneered an insurance backed program to prevent and reverse heart disease using a spectrum of natural therapies: healthy whole food plant based diet, regular exercise and stress reduction. The joy realized from engaging in these activities provides a freedom that is sustainable, unlike that provided by the promises of prescription drugs. He currently is working to have his program covered by Medicare. For more information on his approach see: www.pmri.org.
Antidepressants have been the number one prescribed drug for the last 10 years. It is no wonder that studies show loneliness, depression, feeling unloved, instability and anger all significantly increase ones risk for heart disease. Stress promotes the production of inflammatory compounds in the body that thicken blood and promote clots, increase weight, insulin resistance (see Diabetic Syndrome newsletter), blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms and the likelihood of a heart attack. One presenter quipped that the difference between illness and wellness is the ‘I’ in illness and the ‘we’ in wellness.
Men and women do not always exhibit the same symptoms when it comes to heart disease, with women’s complaints often being attributed to menopausal issues. Dr. Beverly Yates, an expert in women’s heart health, author and national TV and radio personality addressed this subject. Heart irregularities in women are often mistreated with unhelpful drugs such as antidepressants. Heart symptoms of women that warrant special attention include a recent change in breathing or altered sense of breathing, pain in the upper abdominal area, and or a feeling that something is not quite right in the chest or feeling of unease.
Dr. Mimi Guarneri, founder and medical director of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, uses state-of-the art cardiac imaging technology and lifestyle change programs to aggressively diagnose, prevent and treat cardiovascular disease. She echoed the sentiment of other speakers in that statin drugs (cholesterol lowering drugs) do little to lower the incidence of heart disease (see Cholesterol newsletter), although at 20 billion dollars a year these drugs are quite lucrative for the pharmaceutical companies. That North Americans consume nearly half of the global production of pharmaceutical drugs annually is definitely not something to boast about.
Inflammation, not cholesterol is the issue behind cardiovascular disease. Most of the inflammation in our body is from unhealthy diets, however, excess fat, especially around the midriff, produces a host of inflammatory compounds that not only hurt the heart, but inhibit weight loss (see Diabetic Syndrome newsletter).
Heart specific nutrients addressed at this conference are readily found in healthy diets and include a host of anti-inflammatory antioxidants such as vitamin C, E, and beta carotene, plant sterols (health promoting nutrients that contain a cholesterol base), fiber, vitamin D3, essential fatty acids, and a full spectrum of B vitamins and minerals, including magnesium the most important mineral for heart regularity. Ribose and carnitine are two essential amino acids that promote heart health by providing vital energy production within each cell of the heart. These nutrients, along with Co-Q 10 make up the majority of heart healthy nutrients for prevention of all types of cardiovascular disease including angina, arrhythmia, mitral valve prolapse, plaque and congestive heart failure.
Stephen Sinatra, MD spoke on the subject of grounding, a rather unconventional approach to heart health. His research reveals the beneficial aspects of our physical connection to the earth. When our feet or body have contact with the earth, which was the natural course for millions of years, physiologic changes occur in the body including reduction of inflammation, adrenal balance and blood clot reduction due to the natural blood thinning that occurs with this contact. For more information of this provocative subject, see his new book Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? by Ober, Sinatra and Zucker.
These are just a few of the subjects addressed at this conference. I hope you have found this information informative, inspiring and practical. Your comments are always welcome. One last resource mentioned at this conference was a book titled The Blue Zone, with tips for longevity and quality of life in the 21st century. Check it out.
Jon Dunn, ND