artichoke-leaf-extract

Artichoke leaf extract capsules

Did you know that better heart health and lower cardiovascular risk can be had with two natural products that you can buy right over the counter? Well it’s true! Artichoke extract and pantethine are what we are talking about, and it can help you cut your risk of heart disease without dangerous side effects.

Interested? Well then read on…

Millions of people use the popular statin drugs to lower cholesterol but heart disease still continues to be the number one killer of Americans. Statins lower LDL cholesterol and inflammation while raising hdl but they have serious side effects that can dramatically lower the quality of life and put you at risk for serious health complications. One area where statins fall short is raising HDL levels. They don’t elevate HDL enough to significantly improve your HDL LDL ratio.

Statins can also raise your risk for rhabdomyolysis: (muscle breakdown), kidney damage, and even diabetes. This is due to it’s interference in the biochemical pathways which bio-synthesize both cholesterol and coenzyme Q10, which your body needs to help create energy from the foods you eat in order to power the cells of the heart.

Thus statins not only commonly cause muscle pain and weakness, but can also ironically increase the risk for cardiomyopathy which is muscle damage to the heart!

While there are certain people for whom the risk of statins is justified by their effectiveness, the vast majority of people would likely be better off with natural alternatives, and there are two good ones we have access to, pantethine and artichoke extract. These two supplements or “nutraceuticals” as they are sometimes called, can lower LDL AND raise HDL safely and naturally without the risks of serious side effects.

Enter Artichoke Extract…

An extract from artichoke leaves can raise your levels of HDL, while pantethine which is an analog of vitamin b-5 can lower LDL without causing deficiency of coenzyme q10 (as statins do). The use of these two compounds together has been shown to reduce by up to 11% the risk of heart disease. Pretty powerful stuff for two natural substances!

Artichokes which are actually considered to be in the “thistle’ family contain powerful substances called flavonoids that can lower LDL levels and increase HDL. The flavonoids act as antioxidants, preventing the oxidation of LDL particles in your arteries. In addition artichoke extract can increase your levels of bile acids, which help remove cholesterol from the body.

The clinical results with artichoke extract were based upon an intake of 1,800 mg/day of dry artichoke leaf extract for 6 weeks. This resulted in an 18.5% reduction in total cholesterol, with an improvement in the HDL/LDL ratio. It was also shown to cause an average of over 36% increase in endothelial function (the layer of cells that line the arteries) which also helps to prevent heart disease.

Next Up – Pantethine…

Pantethine lowers LDL levels without reducing coenzyme q10. It does this by inceasing the breakdown rate of serum cholesterol and reducing the rate of cholesterol synthesis. Pantethineis an energy molecule that helps increase fat burning in the body.

It also improves the ratio of HDL to total cholesterol which has a protective effect on your artery walls, reducing plaque formation and lesions in the aorta and coronary arteries.

A four month study was undertaken where the dosage of pantethine was 600mg/day for the first eight weeks and then a higher dose of 900 mg/day for the second eight weeks. This resulted in a modest decrease of LDL with a slight increase in coenzyme q10, unlike statin drugs.

When you consider that every reduction of 1% in LDL levels equals a 1% reduction in heart disease risk, pantethine significantly reduces the risk of heart attack by 11%. This is a very significant result and more reason to include pantethine in your supplement regimen.

In Summary…

All of us are at risk for heart disease as we age, and the primary issue in that risk is elevations in inflammatory LDL particles and low HDL levels. Many of the
patients put on statin drugs stop taking them because of the severity of the side effects, leaving them vulnerable to risk of heart disease once more. However the
combination of pantethine and artichoke extract can help lower LDL and raise protective HDL without the side effects that characterize statin use.

People who are at low risk may be able to achieve effective protection just by using these natural compounds rather than statins drugs. For people who have
extremely high LDL and/or very low HDL, a combination of low dose statins AND natural compounds like pantethine and artichoke extract may be the ideal
combination to avoid side effects AND effectively decrease the risk of heart disease.

As always, any therapy whether drug based OR natural that is intended to protect against heart disease should be managed by your doctor, possibly with the help of
a nutritionist or other wellness professional who is well versed in natural healing therapies, nutrients, and nutraceuticals.

Medical References:

Atherosclerosis. 1984 Jan;50(1):73-83.
Controlled evaluation of pantethine, a natural hypolipidemic compound, in patients with different forms of hyperlipoproteinemia.
Gaddi A, Descovich GC, Noseda G, Fragiacomo C, Colombo L, Craveri A, Montanari G, Sirtori CR.

Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2015 Aug 27. [Epub ahead of print]
Pharmacological Studies of Artichoke Leaf Extract and Their Health Benefits.
Salem MB1, Affes H, Ksouda K, Dhouibi R, Sahnoun Z, Hammami S, Zeghal KM.
Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Feb;64(1):7-15. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2012.700920. Epub 2012 Jun 29.
Beneficial effects of artichoke leaf extract supplementation on increasing HDL-cholesterol in subjects with primary mild hypercholesterolaemia: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
Rondanelli M1, Giacosa A, Opizzi A, Faliva MA, Sala P, Perna S, Riva A, Morazzoni P, Bombardelli E.

fasting blood sugar testThe fasting blood sugar test will actually tell you more about your risk of heart disease than your cholesterol profile. Are you surprised?

Don’t be! While this is not a “cholesterol test,” it IS an important marker for heart disease risk!

Sugar is intimately involved with inflammation, and as we know, it is inflammation that is the real culprit in heart disease, cholesterol is just along for the ride!

According to Dr. Mark Houston associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, for every additional point above 75 on your fasting blood sugar reading, your risk of heart disease goes up!

This is due to the fact that high blood sugar levels in your blood are an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The impact of elevated blood glucose levels

Sugar is a killer, a serial killer, where your health is concerned. Medical science is just now starting to figure out how damaging sugar can be in your system when the levels are high.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • High blood sugar causes increased insulin (which is a pro-inflammatory hormone)
  • Elevated sugar levels make your blood more acidic and it tends to clot more readily
  • Sugar causes stiffening of arteries and blood vessels
  • Sugar decreases the oxygen carrying capacity of your blood
  • Nitric oxide is vital for heart health and high sugar levels lower it
  • High sugar levels also cause glycation which is a hardening of tissues in your heart and arteries

For all the reasons above, it’s important to know what your blood sugar levels are, so that if they are high, you can make the necessary changes that will bring the level down and reduce your risk of heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure.

How is the test performed?

A fasting blood sugar test, which is also called a fasting plasma glucose, or FPG test, measures your blood glucose level after you have fasted for at least 8 hours.

It’s a very accurate test, and does not vary by age or how physically active you are. It tends to be a physician favorite because it’s easy to do, cheap, and you get the results relatively fast.

The test is done first thing in the morning (so you can get the results by the afternoon), after at least an 8 hour period with no food, and nothing to drink but water.

A nurse or physician assistant will draw your blood and send the sample to the lab. When the results come back your doctor will discuss with you what the results mean, in terms of your risk for both heart disease and diabetes.

Levels for these tests are expressed in “millgrams per deciliter” (a deciliter is one 10th of a liter). Thus a reading of 100mg/dl is read as 100 milligrams per deciliter.

The threshold for normal fasting sugar levels should be below 100mg/dl, but some experts, most notably Dr. Mark Houston, feel the safe level is 70 -75 mg/dl!

What do the scores mean?

Doctors use what are called “reference ranges” to determine exactly what these tests indicate. All of this is of course relative to the results taken of sample populations to determine what is statistically healthy and what is not.

There are cut off points beyond which a clinical diagnosis is made, and these would appear to be splitting hairs so to speak, but of course the line must be drawn somewhere.  Whatever the result, you will have a much better idea of where you stand, and what you have to do to protect your health in the long term.

If your blood sugar measures between 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl, the doctor will probably order a follow-up test to eliminate error. This test result indicates “pre-diabetes” and your doctor may want to discuss steps you can take to bring your sugar levels down and prevent diabetes.

If you score 126mg/dl or above, the doctor will want to test you again to eliminate the chance of some anomaly that might have caused an inaccurate reading. If a follow-up test scores the same result, this will confirm that you are diabetic!

Of course it may seem silly to say that if your result on this test is 125mg/dl you don’t have diabetes and at 126 mg/dl you ARE diabetic, but they had to make a cut off point somewhere.

What is important is that if you are in the range 100-125 you need to make changes to your nutrition and exercise habits to get your blood sugar down to healthy levels.

Insulin is a factor too!

When your blood sugar levels spike, your body produces insulin to lower the sugar level. So if your fasting blood sugar test indicates higher than normal blood sugar levels, you can be sure your insulin levels are high as well.

Insulin is a very pro-inflammatory hormone that causes a lot of problems in your body when it is chronically elevated. This is another reason why you would want to get your sugar levels down to what is considered healthy.

Insulin causes inflammation and damage to the endothelial lining of your arteries, which is how the process of atherosclerosis begins. Thus your sugar levels have a direct bearing on the development of heart disease.

Connection with heart disease

If your blood glucose levels are chronically elevated, a process called glycation comes into play, which causes tissues like the heart and blood vessels to lose elasticity and become stiff.

This stiffening process, along with the damage from inflammation, makes you susceptible to heart attacks, high blood pressure and strokes.

To make it really simple and clear, elevated blood sugar=heart disease! This connection is far more important than cholesterol which does not directly cause heart disease. High blood glucose levels are also a factor in many other chronic diseases as well.

The fasting blood sugar test, by measuring how high your blood sugar is on average gives you a clear indication that your risk for heart disease is elevated, which in turn gives you a chance to lower your risk and avoid heart disease, by bringing your blood sugar levels down.

pantethine-capsulesGood cholesterol levels can be achieved easily and naturally using pantethine, which is what I call a heart healthy nutritional supplement.

It is a derivative of vitamin b5 and it’s made up of two molecules of pantothenic acid linked together by what’s called a cysteamine bridge.

It is an intermediate step in the synthesis of  Coenzyme A, which in turn is involved in various enzymatic reactions including the production and oxidation of fatty acids.

pantethine molecule

Pantethine is what’s called the “active” (more biologically available) form of the vitamin b5, but unlike the more well known form calcium pantothenate, it is less stable and will degrade if not refrigerated.

The theory is that since it’s closer biochemically to coenzyme A, it is more beneficial than pantothenic acid. It’s involved in the activation of coenzyme A and helps transport fatty acids across the cell membrane into the mitochondria to be used to make ATP, (a key component in health).

However as you will see it’s benefits go far beyond improving your cholesterol hdl ratio!

How does it work and what does it do?

Biochemistry details aside, the bottom line for the average person is “what does it do?” Dr. Stephen Sinatra has stated that in every type of heart disease, what we find is an energy starved heart! The role of pantethine in cellular energy production is a big part of it’s beneficial effect on heart health.

The heart is a very energy intense organ, and the ability for the cells of the heart to produce  energy in the form of ATP affects every aspect of your heart function, from contraction to the electrical signaling that keeps your heart beating strongly and evenly.

Pantethine is right in the middle of all of this because it is a key player in the production of ATP in the mitochondria of your cells. In plain English, it boosts energy not only to your heart, but all the organs and systems of your body!

It  has been shown (in animal experiments) to lower LDL cholesterol and raise hdl cholesterol, improving the cholesterol hdl ratio, as well as decreasing triglycerides. The ability of pantethine to promote good cholesterol levels is highly beneficial to heart health.

In addition is increases levels of apolipoprotein A1, which is the component of HDL responsible for transporting cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver. Pantethine also functions as an anti stress nutrient, due to the fact that it supports the health of your adrenal glands and protects the health of your hormonal system particularly when you are under stress.

Pantethione also protects your brain in several ways. It promotes the synthesis of Coenzyme A (CoA) which in turn is used in the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is critical for healthy brain function, and a lack of this neurotransmitter can lead to Alzheimer’s Disease.

It’s positive effect on the synthesis of CoA improves the efficiency of your heart and in turn improves blood flow to the brain. Pantethine has also been shown to be beneficial for the immune system, detoxification, arthritis, and wound healing. It is used also to treat acne, and also for gout and CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome).

So the evidence is that pantethine…

  • Improves hdl cholesterol levels
  • Improves ldl cholesterol level
  • Protects the brain by boosting acetylcholine
  • Improves heart function and blood flow
  • Can be used to treat acne
  • Is helpful in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Improves detoxification
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Combats arthritis
  • Can be used to treat gout

How is it taken (form and dosage)

Pantethine as a nutritional supplement is taken orally in capsule form. Clinical research protocols have used as little as 300mg per day with statistically significant result. Levels of 600mg to 900mg have been used in research and yielded very significant reductions in LDL levels for subjects with elevated cholesterol levels. In general though there is little information to use as a guide for precise dosage levels.

Remember that where dosages are concerned, more is not necessarily better. The best course of action would be to use this supplement under the guidance of a complementary physician who can do follow up blood work and determine the correct dosage based on that.

This supplement should work at a relatively low dose, even as low as 5mg to 50mg per day. Start with the lowest dosage and work upwards until you find what works for you.

There are home cholesterol tests that you could use to establish a baseline reference and follow up test would tell you if the pantethine was having an effect. You would have to be careful to account for all the variables in your diet and activity level, and even at that it would not be a “scientifically accurate” result, but enough for you to determine whether pantethine was actually promoting good cholesterol levels.

Side effects

Large amounts of this supplement could potentially block absorption of other b vitamins. It could also cause fatigue, numbness in your hands and feet, or headaches. It’s effect on peristalsis could cause more frequent bowel movements or diarrhea.

The toxicity of this supplement is extremely low, and it has been termed “well tolerated” which is medical jargon for having few side effects. It is not likely that toxicity would be a problem at the dosages that would have benefit.

Brands to look for

Brands I like are:  Jarrow Formulas, Life Extension, and Pure Encapsulations. You really can’t go wrong with these companies when it comes to the quality of the supplements they sell. To be sure there are other good brands, but these are the ones I know of to be top notch.

To Sum Up

This is a supplement that can be helpful in many conditions due to it’s vital role in cellular energy production. Think of it less as something “medicinal” and more as a substance your body needs to create energy that powers all of your biochemical reactions.

Pantethine can be a powerful addition to your nutritional arsenal when it comes to promoting good cholesterol levels, combating heart disease and protecting your brain function. This article should be a starting point for your investigation and use of this fascinating supplement!

soy lecithing granules

Lecithin as a food to lower cholesterol is another natural strategy to improve your lipid (fat) profile without the use of toxic drugs, such as statins.

Lecithin is a compound found in soybeans, eggs,  sunflower, and other sources, which has the ability to help lower cholesterol levels.

Remember that when we talk about lowering cholesterol, we are really referring to optimizing your cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is often elevated by other things going on in the body. Things like insulin resistance, vitamin-d deficiency, and stress can all raise cholesterol levels.

When levels are high often this indicates that there are problems with the body that can be serious if they are not taken care of. High cholesterol levels are like the “canary in the coal mine” so to speak. If they are elevated we need to make sure we know why, and correct it.

Lecithin (also called phosphatidylcholine) is a “phospholipid compound” that supplies the b-vitamin choline, which is vital to the health of your brain and nervous system. This natural compound (lecithin) can help promote healthy cholesterol levels, but there are some things you need to know before you add it to your diet!

As a food to lower cholesterol, soy lecithin (from soybeans) may not be the best way to go, as soy contains phyto-estrogens and can cause a number of problems especially for men.  Sunflower lecithin on the other hand does not pose those problems and so would be a much better way to go, if you are using it to improve your cholesterol profile.

The following foods are sources of lecithin:

  • Animal sources:  eggs, meat, dairy
  • Vegan sources:   nuts, seeds, soy, sunflower

Eggs contain the highest amounts for any animal based food, and if you are a vegetarian, you would likely have to supplement with lecithin granules, preferably made from sunflower plants, instead of soybeans.

These lecithin granules have a pleasant nutty flavor and can be added to either liquid or solid food depending on your taste and preferences. They are one of the few things that are good for you that actually taste good!

This food does act as an emulsifier (mixes water and oil) and can be used in blending protein drinks or vegetable smoothies such as you might make in the Nutribullet! Dr. Peter D’Adamo has a recipe for something he calls the “Membrane Fluidizer Cocktail,” or “Membrosia Cocktail.”

The recipe goes something like this:

Use guava, grapefruit, or watermelon juice as a base
add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of high-quality flaxseed oil
plus 1 tablespoon of good-quality lecithin granules
shake well until the consistency is uniform
and..enjoy!

Buying and storing lecithin

Make sure that the lecithin granules that you buy in the store are kept under refrigeration, because they oxidize (turn rancid) very easily when they are exposed to light or heat. Always check the expiration dates and pick the freshest bottle. When you get home store your lecithin in the refrigerator at all times!

Lecithin to lower cholesterol……does it work?

I have been unable to find any evidence that lecithin acts as an emulsifier and “flushes” the cholesterol out of your arteries as some people claim. It just doesn’t appear to work in this way. However choline is necessary for optimal health and promoting healthy cholesterol levels.

As a food to lower cholesterol, lecithin provides your body with a good source of choline and for this reason it likely has a positive effect on cholesterol levels. The benefits of lecithin from food sources and supplementation is really enhancing the function of your brain and nervous system.

Since the nervous system is involved in regulating cholesterol metabolism, any thing you do to make it function better will result in an improvement in your cholesterol profile.

Supplementary lecithin comes in either granules or gel caps, which are rather large and may be hard to swallow. When I use lecithin I prefer the granules, and I try to use sunflower lecithin rather than soy lecithin for the reasons I mentioned above.

Do not put lecithin into anything hot, as heat degrades lecithin (it’s poly unsaturated). Follow the dosage recommendations on the label. Since lecithin is a concentrated source of choline, you don’t need a lot.

Remember that lecithin, as a food to lower cholesterol does work but not for the reasons you have likely been told. It provides choline to your body which is essential to the health of your nervous system and thus your body’s ability to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

medical references:

J Nutr. 1990 Jul;120(7):659-67.
Evidence that polyunsaturated lecithin induces a reduction in plasma cholesterol
level and favorable changes in lipoprotein composition in hypercholesterolemic
rats.
Jimenez MA1, Scarino ML, Vignolini F, Mengheri E.

J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 May;103(5):577-81.
Fat-free foods supplemented with soy stanol-lecithin powder reduce cholesterol
absorption and LDL cholesterol.
Spilburg CA1, Goldberg AC, McGill JB, Stenson WF, Racette SB, Bateman J,
McPherson TB, Ostlund RE Jr.

Atherosclerosis. 1998 Sep;140(1):147-53.
Soy lecithin reduces plasma lipoprotein cholesterol and early atherogenesis in
hypercholesterolemic monkeys and hamsters: beyond linoleate.
Wilson TA1, Meservey CM, Nicolosi RJ.

HDL cholesterol level is the most important factor in your cholesterol profile. The cholesterol hdl ratio is used to determine your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Low hdl means greater risk, and I will explain the reasons why.

hdl cholesterol levelThe effect of cholesterol on your heart health has been distorted by bad information over the years. This is because pharmaceutical companies want to sell statin drugs, so they influenced doctors to set up guidelines that call for proscribing these drugs for lowering cholesterol levels.

The drugs do not lower cholesterol naturally, they do it by interfering with your body’s natural production of lipids, which is unhealthy and dangerous. What makes cholesterol a problem in your arteries is inflammation and free radicals which oxidize the cholesterol and turn it into hard plaques. Hdl cholesterol prevents this process, and protects you against heart disease.

How to raise increase good cholesterol

We know that HDL cholesterol functions as an antioxidant in the body. This means that it will help prevent LDL cholesterol from turning into dangerous plaques inside your arteries. This is why the cholesterol HDL ratio can predict your risk of heart disease. The higher the HDL cholesterol levels, the lower your risk.

So just how do we increase good cholesterol? We do it by diet, exercise, and using certain nutritional supplements that help boost HDL  levels.

Let’s start with diet! Below are some foods that can help increase good cholesterol:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines
  • Raw nuts and seeds like walnuts, pecans, almonds, and flaxseeds
  • Whole eggs (yes that’s right…they must be WHOLE eggs)
  • Onions
  • Fresh raw low glycemic vegetables – especially dark leafy greens
  • Oat bran
  • Alcohol – 1 or 2 drinks per day maximum

These foods work in a natural way by giving your body the raw materials such as essential fatty acids it needs to raise  HDL!

Nutritional Supplements

Nutritional supplements can also help you increase good cholesterol

  • Fish oil
  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5)
  • niacin – (vitamin B-3)
  • Gugulipid
  • Coenzyme Q-10
  • Carnitine
  • Vitamin-C
  • Vitamin-D
  • Magnesium
  • Polycosanol
  • Vitamin E-complex
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid
  • N-Acetyl-Cysteine
  • CLA – conjugated linoleic acid

All of these supplements help increase HDL levels, however niacin (B-3) and calcium pantothenate (B-5) are the most effective, so you should focus on them first, and add others if needed.

Exercise to raise your HDL cholesterol level

The best form of exercise is some kind of internal training. This might be circuit weight training, kettlebells, bodyweight exercises, ect. The main principle is the workouts should be brief, intense, and make your heart and lungs work hard.

Naturally, if you are older, or not on good health, you should get clearance from your doctor before engaging in strenuous exercise. You should also work into an exercise program gradually so that your body gets used to it. Never jump right into an intense exercise program. Take time to build up your exercise capacity so that you don’t overdo it.

The PACE program by Dr. Al Sears is an excellent exercise system for this!

Just what are good HDL cholesterol levels?

Remember that the cholesterol HDL ratio is very important. That determines your risk of heart attack. The table below reflects the Amercian Heart Association guidelines:

American Heart Association Guidelines

Desirable Borderline Risk
High Risk
HDL
60 or higher
40 to 59
40 or less (men)
HDL
60 or higher
50 to 59
50 or less (women)

Action steps to raise for your HDL cholesterol level:

  • Get your cholesterol HDL ratio tested so you know what they are to start
  • Work in 3 15 minute sessions of circuit or interval training per week
  • Avoid refined foods if possible – stick to raw fruits and vegetables
  • Get plenty of healthy fats in your daily diet
  • Supplement with niacin (B-3) and calcium pantothenate (B-5) to raise HDL

Your HDL cholesterol level is one of the best predictive markers for heart disease that we know of. HDL cholesterol protects you against heart disease, stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Make it a point to get your HDL cholesterol levels checked, get them into the healthy range and keep them there. Your heart will thank you!

The MTHFR gene is a hidden culprit in heart disease and explains much in the reasons why cholesterol numbers don’t tell you what your real risk for heart disease is. Understanding how this gene defect affects your good cholesterol levels and how to treat it is essential to protecting yourself from heart attacks.

MTHFR geneWhat is the MTHFR Gene?

This gene is responsible for operating what are called “methylation pathways” that involve your body’s ability to convert certain substances into their reduced or active form. If this gene is defective in your body, these vitally important methylation processes cannot be completed properly, and certain substances (vitamins and amino acids) can’t be absorbed by your body and you develop deficiencies.

Some of these substances are:

  • vitamin b-12
  • folic acid
  • cystiene

In the case of b-12 and folic acid, these substances are converted to their active forms of methylfolate and methylcobalamin. These active forms are what your body can actually use, and so if you can’t convert them properly, you end up with a deficiency.

Cystiene is converted to the toxic amino acid homocysteine and then to methionine. If your methylation pathways are not working properly due to the MTHFR gene defect, then you end up with an accumulation of homocystiene which is highly inflammatory and causes damage to your arteries.

How is Your Good Cholesterol Level Affected?

HDL-C also called the “good cholesterol,” can be effectively lowered by a certain type of MTHFR gene defect called: C677T polymorphism.  Since HDL is protective and lowers your risk of heart disease, this gene defect can raise your risk by lowering your good cholesterol level.

There are several variants of this gene defect, and they affect cardiovascular risk in different ways, but it’s important to be aware of their impact so that you can protect yourself. Remember that 50% of heart attacks occur in people who have what’s considered normal cholesterol levels.

The affect of the MTHFR gene is seen by many researchers as the missing piece of the puzzle in trying to determine why this is so. With this information you can go about protecting yourself by applying this new knowledge and lowering your risk not only for heart disease, but also for other chronic diseases that are caused by inflammation.

What Other Problems Can This Lead To?

A defect in the MTHFR gene can also result in increase risk for the following diseases:

  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Polyneuropathy

How Do You Know if You Have it?

This is a very important question, because once you detect this, then you can guard against it’s effects. The most simple test you can do is to eat asparagus and note if your urine has a strong odor in the hours following your meal.

If this odor is present when you urinate, (you can’t miss it), then you can be sure that you do in fact have a defect (called a polymorphism) in the way your MTHFR gene operates. There are also lab tests that your doctor can do to detect this problem.
It may be necessary to have formal lab tests done so that this problem can be medically verified. It’s also important because your doctor has to order it for your insurance to cover it. The best and most responsible advice I can give you is to go through your doctor and get tested for this.

Fortunately there are ways to treat this problem, that will work and help to protect your health, but of course the first step is to determine whether you have it or not, and your doctor can order the tests to confirm it.

What Can I Do?

A defect in the MTHFR gene results in failure to operate certain methylation pathways and convert amino acids properly. However, forms of critical b-vitamins, vitamin B-12, and Folic acid, in their “active” forms, which means they do not have to be converted or methylated, CAN be absorbed by your body and help ensure these critical chemical reactions happen as they are supposed to.

Thus instead of taking folic acid, you would take “methyl-folate.” Instead of taking vitamin B-12 (cyanocobalamin) you would take “methylcobalamin.”

There are other substances that can help. They are called “methyl donors” because they donate or provide what’s called a “methyl group” to help the chemical reaction complete properly. There are foods that contain “methyl donors,” such as garlic, onions, avocadoes, ect.

There are also nutritional supplements such as trimethylglycine, and SAMe, as well as special formulations that contain combinations of these methyl donors to help provide what your body needs to do these conversions properly.

None of these substances are drugs, nor are they prohibitively expensive. However, most mainstream doctors do not know about them, nor about defects in the MTHFR gene, and so you may have to search for a physician that is up on the latest genetic research, that can help you safely manage this problem.

The website I recommend is:

http://mthfr.net/

which is a website run by Dr. Benjamin Lynch. There is a wealth of information on this website regarding methylation issues and the MTHFR gene. If you have this gene defect, I would highly recommend that you visit this website and educate yourself.

You can also click on this video:

to learn more about this topic, and start arming yourself with powerful information that will allow you to protect yourself against heart disease, cancer, strokes, Alzheimers, and other effects of methylation problems.

My reasons for delving into this topic is that it fills in the missing information that cholesterol numbers leave out. The effects of this gene defect on your good cholesterol level is probably one of the main reasons for the increased risk of heart disease.

Defects in the MTHFR gene are one of the most significant drivers of chronic disease, and by knowing if you carry this defect, you can takes very strong steps to protect your health and to live better and longer.

references:

Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2012 Oct 8;11:123. doi: 10.1186/1475-2840-11-123.
Several genetic polymorphisms interact with overweight/obesity to influence serum lipid levels.

J Atheroscler Thromb. 2009;16(6):815-20. Epub 2010 Jan 9.
Association of C677T polymorphism in MTHFR gene, high homocysteine and low HDL cholesterol plasma values in heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia.

J Hum Genet. 2001;46(9):506-10.
An association of 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene polymorphism and common carotid atherosclerosis.

 

Raise good cholesterol with Coenzyme Q10, and lower inflammatory LDL particles at the same time.  Sure sounds like a win-win situation for heart health, and recent research strongly supports this important role for Co Q10!

coenzyme q10 moleculeLets take a look at this new nutritional weapon against heart disease, and the other health benefits of Coenzyme Q10.

What’s Coenzyme Q10?

Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 as it is also referred to, was discovered by Professor Fredrick L. Crane and his research team at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Enzyme Institute in 1957.

The reduced form of CoQ10 was called ubiquinone and was identified as a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger, and as we will see…it also has the ability to raise good cholesterol and lower inflammatory LDL.

This fat soluble antioxidant is found in the membrane structure of the mitochondria and is a key player in the electron transport chain which functions as an energy creating mechanism in your cells. The end product of these reactions is the creation of ATP, the primary source of energy for your body.

Because of it’s vital role in cellular energy production CoQ10 is found in highest amounts in the organs and tissue that have the highest energy demands.  Your body can synthesize CoQ10 but you also need to acquire it from your diet and possibly from supplementation as well.

How Do You Get Coenzyme Q10?

You can get CoQ10 in tablet form or as a soft-gel. The softgel form is superior because it’s easier for your body to absorb. The usual dose when used to benefit the heart is from 50 to 150 milligrams. The most effective form is the “reduced” form which is called “ubiquinol.”

Food sources of CoQ10 tend to be from animal sources, such as organ meats like liver, heart, as well as muscle. Again this is because those types of organs and tissues have a high demand for energy, and CoQ10 is a vital component of energy production in both animals and humans.

Here are the top foods sources:

  • Pork heart
  • Pork liver
  • Beef heart
  • Beef liver
  • Chicken liver
  • Chicken heart
  • Sardine
  • Mackerel

If you are a vegan there ARE  vegetable sources of Coenzyme Q10, the best are whole grains, peanuts, wheat germ, broccoli, and spinach. Keep in mind though that these sources are a lot lower in CoQ10 than animal proteins, so if you are trying to make up for a deficiency in Coenzyme Q10 you may need to use a supplement like ubiquinol if you are eating a vegan diet.

Health Benefits of Coenzyme Q10

There are many health benefits of Coenzyme Q10 from protecting yourself from heart disease, to blood sugar control and better energy.  Here is a short list of medical conditions where Coenzyme Q10 can be beneficial:

  • Malignant Melanoma
  • Diabetes
  • Endothelial Dysfunction
  • Heart Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Senile Dementia
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

CoQ10 is both an antioxidant and a bio-energetic nutrient, which means it both protects cells against oxidative stress (which robs the cells of energy) and also has a vital role in making the ATP molecule that supplies energy that cells need to maintain and repair themselves.

Coenzyme Q10 and Cholesterol

CoQ10 has beneficial effects on cholesterol profiles because of it’s role as a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger.  It’s been established that heart disease results from inflammation and free radical damage to the heart and the arteries through which blood flows.

By fighting oxidative stress and the free radicals it produces, CoQ10 can help prevent the damage to the endothelium and the process of atherosclerosis that causes coronary artery disease. The effect of CoQ10 on cholesterol is that it will raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower LDL.

Even though we have learned recently that cholesterol does not CAUSE heart disease, it is a FACTOR in atherosclerosis that damages arteries. Coenzyme Q10 has been shown to alter the ratio of HDL to LDL that helps protect against coronary artery disease.

Cardiologists like Dr. Stephen Sinatra have been using Coenzyme Q10 to treat heart disease for many years, and now his colleagues are beginning to embrace this nutrient and add it to their treatment protocols, because of it’s ability to raise good cholesterol and lower inflammatory LDL particles.

Coenzyme Q10 and Statins

Statins, the drugs most often given to people to lower cholesterol have some very serious side effects. Some prominent cardiologists have come out against widespread statin use because the benefits of these drugs are far outweighed by the dangers to health that these drugs pose.

Statins deplete Coenzyme Q10, leaving the body vulnerable to a number of damaging processes that are rooted in oxidative stress and free radical damage. It is for this reason that a number of cardiologists recommend that in cases where statins are used the patient MUST be given Coenzyme Q10 in supplement form to protect against this statin caused deficiency.

The Case for Co Q10

Cardiologists are starting to use it, and in fact it has been used for many years in Japan to treat heart disease. Incidentally the Japanese are the longest lived population in the world, so it seems they know a thing or two about the health benefits of Coenzyme Q10.

The ability to raise good cholesterol with Coenzyme Q10 is the real value of this nutrient in helping to treat and prevent heart disease. Given the fact that heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, Coenzyme Q10 may prove to be one of the most effective strategies to keep your cardiovascular system healthy and extend your life.

The PLAC test is a cutting edge medical screening test that identifies arterial The PLAC Testplaque that is in danger of rupturing. This test, used in conjunction with other cholesterol screening tests can pinpoint your risk of a sudden heart attack with a much greater degree of certainty.

The test actually measures levels of an enzyme in your blood known as lipoprotein phospholipase A2. This enzyme is responsible for a process that can cause damage to your endothelial layer and set the stage for atherosclerotic plaques which can rupture and trigger a heart attack.

When your levels of Lp-PLA2 are elevated, it indicates that you have plaque that can rupture and create a blood clot that results in a heart attack or stroke.

The most current information we have tells us that using cholesterol levels to determine your risk of heart attack is not very accurate. However medical science has identified a process where LDLs (low density lipoproteins) and Lp-PLA2 particles undergo oxidation by free radicals.

These oxidized particles then attack the blood vessel wall causing damage and making the plaque deposits hard and brittle. This oxidized brittle plaque can then break off and cause life threatening problems such as a heart attack or stroke.

Lp-PLA2 is actually created in atherosclerotic plaques and thus can serve as a marker for inflammation in the artery wall. People who have heart disease show high levels of this marker (Lp-PLA2) which not only indicates they have plaque buildup, but also that the plaque is oxidized and can cause severe cardiovascular events.

Autopsies on patients who died suddenly of heart attacks showed ruptured plaques and high levels of Lp-PLA2 in their arteries.

This has also been see in patients who undergo surgery for carotid artery atherosclerosis. They show the same high levels of Lp-PLA2 that indicates a danger of rupturing plaque.

Those people who showed atherosclerosis of the carotid artery but did not show symptoms had much lower levels of Lp_PLA2. It’s clear from this evidence that this is a very significant and useful marker for predicting sudden cardiovascular events.

Studies done at the May Clinic also found that Lp-PLA2 was a specific indicator of dangerous plaques even in the absence of other risk factors. This indicates that it is inflammation and not merely cholesterol levels that create the risk of sudden heart attacks and stokes, so it is inflammation that we should address in our efforts to prevent heart disease.

Advantages of the PLAC test:

  • The test more accurately predicts the risk of sudden heart attack or stroke than other lipid screening tests.
  • The test directly measure lipoprotein phospholipase levels, a very accurate inflammation marker.
  • The PLAC test is the only medical screening approved by the FDA that indicates both heart attack and stroke risk in patients.
  • The test is relatively inexpensive and convenient.
  • The test can also be used to monitor a patients response to treatment and lifestyle changes.
  • The test is covered by Medicare and private insurance companies.
  • The test does not have to be taken in a fasting state.
  • The test can be used in patients that are currently using Pravachol, Benadryl, and Tylenol

Who should get the PLAC test and when?

Experts recommend a formula for determining who should get the test based on other risk factors and their estimate risk of sudden heart attack within a ten year period. This makes no sense to me at all. We have a test that can specifically identify people who are a high risk for a heart attack or stroke, before this actually happens and give them a chance to lower their risk.

I believe the PLAC test should be used as a standard cardiovascular screen test, because it targets the process that is actually dangerous, rather than cholesterol levels which don’t really give an accurate measure of your risk. Once the test has been done, all that’s left is to determine how to go about lowering the risk, by reducing the inflammation in your arteries.

As to who should have it done, it makes sense to me that anyone approaching middle age would be a candidate for it. Autopsies of US soldiers killed during the Korean War showed atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries of young men in their 20’s. Based on this it seems reasonable that the test could even be done on people in their early 20’s as a way of identifying people who may be at risk and giving them plenty of time to make the lifestyle changes needed to protect themselves.

People with metabolic syndrome which consists of the following:

  • obesity
  • abnormal blood lipid profile
  • elevated blood sugar
  • high blood pressure

are prime candidates for the PLAC test, as it is known that metabolic syndrome involves inflammation and thus raises the risk of heart disease.

The test can be done at followup intervals to verify the success of lifestyle changes and other interventions in terms of lowering the patient’s risk. While I claim no medical expertise, common sense suggests that this test be done early and the person then adapt their lifestyle, nutritional and exercise habits to mitigate this risk. That approach makes the most sense.

How to interpret the test results:

Even though the Lp-PLA2 test is much different than cholesterol screening tests, the levels are somewhat similar:

The 3 risk levels are:

Low:   under 200 ng/mL

Borderline:  200 to 235 ng/mL

High:  over 235 ng/mL.

Lp-PLA2 levels over 200 to 220 ng/mL indicate a very high risk of endothelial damage which in turn presents a very high risk of atherosclerosis.

Medical Interventions:

The PLAC test can be used to identify the magnitude of risk and also to determine how well the treatments used to combat it are working. This is why followup tests are important.

Statin drugs are said to provide a 20-30% reduction in Lp-PLA2 levels. The risk to benefit ration of statins is something you will have to discuss with your doctor.

Niacin used in combination with statins is reported to provide an additional 5 to 20% further reduction of the Lp-PLA2 enzyme.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are also reported to lower Lp-PLA2 levels, and medical scientists have speculated that the effectiveness of all cardiovascular drugs may actually depend on their ability to successfully lower Lp-PLA2 levels

Niacin and omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil) also show an ability to reduce levels of Lp-PLA2.

Tumeric spice (also called circumin) has been found to reduce a form of phospholipase in animals, and thus may be of value to humans in reducing Lp-PLA2 levels, but the study results are not in on this yet. My guess is however that turmeric is most probably of value in human as well.

Conclusion:

Since heart disease is the nation’s number one killer, preventing it is vitally important to a long and health life. Medical screening tests such as blood pressure and cholesterol are not enough to accurately predict who is a risk for a heart attack or stroke.

The PLAC test is relatively inexpensive, non invasive, and very accurate in predicting who is at high risk for a sudden cardiac event like a heart attack or stroke. It really represents a cutting edge approach to identifying people at high risk and helping them make the changes that can save their lives.

By – Eve Pierce

Heart disease is a huge concern in the US at present. On average, 600,000 people per year die in this country as a result or to put it more starkly, 1 in 4 per annum; a quarter of the country’s annual deaths.

healthy-heartIt is America’s most significant killer and incidences of the condition are on the rise. But, for many, the facts of heart disease are shrouded in mystery. What exactly causes it? Is there any way it can it be avoided? Are the causes obvious, or are there causes that are lesser known?

And most importantly; what can be done in terms of lifestyle and dietary change, to ensure that the illness is avoided? For those seeking to promote longevity in their lives, it is vital to address these issues, in order to maintain a healthy heart and to live a long and fulfilling life.

What is Heart Disease?

Considering how often the phrase is used in society, it is often one of the most misunderstood medical terms. Heart disease does not simply refer to heart attack (though coronary disease still remains the most common; killing on average, 385,000 people per annum).

It can refer to a whole range of conditions affecting the heart, including heart rhythm problems and infections. Alarmingly, few Americans are aware of the symptoms; which is a contributing factor to the high rate of death among sufferers. Symptoms include:

  •     Shortness of breath.
  •     Pain in the upper body, particularly in the arms, neck, back or upper stomach.
  •     Cold sweats, dizziness or nausea.
  •     Chest pain.

It is a good idea to be aware of the symptoms, but a far better idea is to be aware of the preventative measures that can be taken to ensure that heart disease never occurs.

Causes of Heart Disease

As might be expected, major contributory factors are diet and lifestyle. A major cause of heart disease has been attributed to foods that are high in polyunsaturated oils and processed carbohydrates; foods which are still sadly all too prevalent in the US. In addition to this, food that is high in processed salt content, and trans fats are considered to be large contributors to heart disease.

Exercise (or lack of) is also a considerable factor, as is smoking. However, there are some lesser known and rarer causes; such as spasms of the arteries caused by certain drugs and medications, trauma to the chest and even other diseases, such as Kawasaki disease.

Recent research has also uncovered other interesting suggestions of lesser known causes, such as the link between cardiovascular disease and baldness in males. However, all experts agree that, with appropriate adjustments to lifestyle and eating habits, heart disease can be avoided by a significant proportion of the US population.

How to Avoid Heart Disease and Promote Longevity

When making lifestyle changes, sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. When making plans to change your way of living to avoid heart disease, an excellent place to start is with diet. Avoid fried foods and anything that contains trans fats. Start cutting down on processed table salt, which can cause problems for those people with elevated blood pressure

Avoid adding unnecessary amounts of salt to your cooking and avoid eating heavily salted products, such as potato chips and fries. When considering introducing exercise into your life, aim for little and often, at the start, rather than less frequently but more intensively. When you become more fit, you can increase the intensity of your exercise as appropriate.

Experts recommend taking a brisk walk for ten minutes, three times a day; at least five days of the week. Sometimes, introducing this can be as simple as opting to walk to the local store rather than drive there; or choosing to walk the dog three times a day, rather than once. If you are a smoker, try quitting (smokefree.gov has great tips to get you started) and it is also advised to cut down on alcoholic intake.

Healthy Heart; Happy Head

Focus on developing a positive attitude when changing your lifestyle for the better. For those who are used to viewing exercise as unpleasant and fast food and candy as a ‘treat’, having the willpower to make the changes can be tough. Rather than focusing on what you’re missing, think forwards and visualize where you want to be in the future; fit, healthy and heart disease free.

Carotid ultrasound  is a non-surgical and painless test that is used to determine the amount of blockage of your carotid arteries. This is done by using ultrasound to create an image of the inside of the arteries.

carotid ultrasound
This allows the physician to assess the blood flow though your arteries and detect blockages caused by plaque buildup inside the carotid arteries that could put you at risk for a stroke.

This narrowing of the arteries is called “stenosis,” and is considered to be a big risk factor for strokes. There are two such arteries, one on either side of the neck. These arteries carry blood to the brain, and if this blood flow is interrupted, it can result in a stroke.

An ultrasound imaging of your carotid arteries is one of a number of tests that can be done to determine the extent of blockage or stenosis. There are several types of ultrasounds used. If you need this screening procedure, you should discuss with your doctor which version is appropriate for you.

Types of Carotid Ultrasound

There are two main types of tests that are used to image the carotid arteries.

  • Doppler ultrasound: This test actually creates images of the blow flow though the arteries.
  • Standard ultrasound: This test creates an image of the actual structure of the inside of the arteries.

Why are these tests performed?

The doctor may order a carotid ultrasound because he or she suspects there may be blockages or other types of damage to the artery wall that can prevent blood from getting to the brain, causing what is called an ischemic stroke, which is life threatening.

The problem may be a blood clot, or something called an artery dissection which is a damaging split in the artery wall. This condition can impede blood flow, or seriously weaken the artery wall, possibly leading to a stroke.

Another problem can be a narrowing of the artery because of plaque buildup involving bad cholesterol levels, which is called stenosis. This can be indicated by something called a bruit, which is a sound the doctor hears when using a stethoscope to externally examine your carotid arteries.

These abnormal sounds can indicate stenosis, so the doctor uses the carotid ultrasound to further determine just what is happening inside the arteries. There are other things that might cause the doctor to suspect artery disease such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Advanced age
  • Diabetes
  • Bad cholesterol levels
  • Birth defects that affect the carotid arteries
  • Strokes
  • TIA’s (transient ischemic attacks)
  • Tumors (very rare)

Who would perform the test?

This test is performed by a medical professional called a radiological technician. This is a person trained in both the procedure and preparation for medical imaging scans. The test will sometimes be performed by a doctor called a radiologist. These physicians are experts on performing and analyzing the results of medical imaging scans.

The radiologist will analyze the carotid ultrasound results and give your doctor a diagnosis based on the imaging scans of your carotid arteries.

How carotid ultrasound works

The equipment operated by the radiological technician generates high frequency sound waves that are projected into your body by a hand-held instrument called a transducer. When these sound waves strike your tissue and are reflected back to the transducer, it creates an image of the shape and structure of the tissues being scanned.

The biggest advantage of carotid ultrasound is that it is non-invasive, meaning that no piercing or cutting of the skin surface is necessary, and that the scanning technology uses sound waves which are much safer than other imaging technologies that use ionizing radiation which can damage tissue.

How is this test performed?

This test is usually performed in a hospital or sometimes in an outpatient clinic. It takes about an hour and usually involves the following steps:

1) You dress in a standard patient exam gown sometimes called a Johnny. You can also wear your own clothing as long as the neck area is open and there is no jewelery around your neck.

2) You lie on the exam table, on your back, and the radiological technician applies a gel to your neck that helps the equipment make proper contact with your skin.

3) The tech will then place something called an ultrasound transducer on your skin. This is a hand held instrument that sends the sound waves into your body. As the tech moves it around on your neck it produces an image of your carotid artery and surrounding area. This process is completely painless.

4) When the ultrasound is finished the gel gets wiped off. You will have to wait a few minutes until the tech or radiologist makes sure that the scan is complete, and then they will send you home.

5) Your doctor will then contact you with the results of your scan and the diagnosis he has been given by the radiologist.

The carotid ultrasound is a very valuable test because it allows your doctor to see exactly how much plaque buildup there is in your carotid arteries and then create a treatment protocol based on this precise information. This test could warn you in time to prevent a stroke or other serious medical problem, which makes it one of the most effective tests for prevention there is.