By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Wellness
I want to share some sobering statistics with you:
- One person in America suffers a coronary event every 29 seconds.
- Eighty million adults have one or more types of cardiovascular disease, making it the single largest killer of Americans.
- Despite new conventional treatments, cardiovascular disease is on the rise.
As a former cardiac surgeon, these statistics are indeed disturbing. I believe that the reason behind these staggering numbers is that conventional medicine, spurred on by the pharmaceutical industry, has only focused its attention on part of the problem – cholesterol. And their answer to this singular problem is typically a statin drug. But statins aren’t good medicine.
Sure, Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor can lower cholesterol and inhibit inflammation, but these drugs deplete your body of the cellular energizer Co-Q10. The use of statins has also been associated with a lupus-like syndrome and a muscular disorder that damages skeletal muscle due to an elevation of CPK (creatine phosphokinase). Taking a statin drug may even increase your risk of cataract.
Fortunately, scientists are finally realizing something I’ve been telling my patients for years—while unhealthy cholesterol levels do play a role in cardiovascular disease, elevated C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation also called simply CRP) and homocysteine levels are even more important risk factors. The good news is that, by following my program for heart health, you can lower these risk factors naturally.
Here’s a good example: A study by Dutch researchers found that brewed coffee increased homocysteine levels by 11 percent within hours of consumption, and seemed to have a particularly strong effect when taken after meals. If you can’t imagine starting the day without your caffeine fix, I recommend trading in the java for a cup of green tea. Not only is green tea packed with antioxidants, research shows that green tea reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol and inhibits CRP. This is just one of the simple ways you can reduce your risk of heart disease without relying on dangerous prescription drugs.
Nutrition is my first line of defense against heart disease, since what you eat can lead to inflammation. Although certain foods like nuts, soy and fish can help protect your heart, they don’t work in isolation. Consequently you need to look at the big picture when it comes to your diet. It’s important to eat a low carbohydrate, nutrient-dense diet designed to reduce the risk factors for cardiovascular disease—CRP, homocysteine, excess insulin, advanced glycation end-products, and yes, high cholesterol. Packed with heart healthy vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, it’s a lifelong eating plan that I strongly urge you to adopt.
Remember, your diet is the single most important step you can take to prevent heart disease.
Exercise is another key component of heart health. Not only will a regular exercise program help you lose weight, increase your strength and make you more flexible, a study by The Cooper Institute in Dallas found that cardiorespiratory fitness, which comes from regular aerobic exercise, was positively linked to lower CRP levels.
While diet and exercise are critical to heart health, if you already suffer from heart disease you can improve and possibly even reverse cardiovascular problems with heart healthy supplements. Here are a few the supplements I use in my practice:
- Co-Q10: While it is a potent anti-inflammatory, Co-Q10’s most important role in heart disease is its ability to lower blood pressure by decreasing oxidative stress and insulin response. Co-Q10 also has a positive effect on lipoproteins and HDL (good) cholesterol. This supplement also decreases chest pain and increases circulation to the brain.
- Folic Acid: One of the most important heart supplements you can take. Folic acid effectively lowers homocysteine levels and decreases inflammation. In fact, studies have shown that folic acid alone can cut homocysteine levels by 50 percent.
- Garlic: This pungent herb lowers blood pressure and improves the elasticity of blood vessel walls. Garlic also reduces AGEs, cholesterol and platlet aggregation, and acts as a natural blood thinner. In addition, garlic has antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, making it a useful whole-body tonic. I advise my patients to either eat two cloves of fresh garlic a day or take an aged garlic supplement.
- Guggul: This mixture of plant substances is a mainstay in Ayurvedic medicine because of its ability to lower cholesterol and treat atherosclerosis. Recent studies have shown that guggul can lower serum cholesterol by more than 17 percent and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. But to see these kinds of results, its important to choose a product that contains at least 7.5 percent guggulsterones.
- Hawthorn: This herb contains large amounts of flavonoids that stabilize capillaries and strengthen weak blood vessels. Hawthorn is also a wonderful heart tonic since it helps treat elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and chest pain. If that weren’t enough, this herb acts as a natural calcium channel blocker and an ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitor.
I want to invite you to take charge of your heart health—whether prevention is the goal or you need to manage existing cardiovascular problems—with the information contained in my book, How to Reverse, Even Cure Heart Disease . . .Without Drugs or Surgery! I’ll give you all of the tools you need to keep your heart strong with diet, exercise and supplements. I’ll also introduce you to highly effective alternatives to stents and bypass surgery. This is critical information for anyone interested in a healthier heart.
American Heart Disease Statistics 2009. The American Heart Association.
Steiner M, et al. “A double-blind crossover study in moderately hypercholesterolemic men that compared the effect of aged garlic extract and placebo administration on blood lipids.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1996;64:866-870.
Tauchert M, et al. “Effectiveness of hawthorn extract LI 132 compared with the ACE inhibitor Captopril: Multicenter double-blind study with 132 patients NYHA stage II.” Munchener medizinische Wochen-schrift. 1994;132:S27–33.