Natural Blood Pressure Management – My Interview with Dr …

http://www.healthquestpodcast.com/ Sun, 26 Jul 2015 16:02:49 -0700

Lower_BP_in_8_weeks In this interview Dr. Stephen Sinatra discusses how to manage blood pressure naturally. As a metabolic cardiologist Dr. Sinatra is well qualified to discuss how you can use lifestyle and nutrition to naturally improve and …

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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.

Citrus BergamotCitrus Bergamot is the latest natural supplement for lowering cholesterol levels and can also lower blood sugar as well. This new food supplement has taken the medical world by storm, even being used in place of statin drugs in some cases.

Truth be known, it’s an interesting compound but has many varied effects. It’s ability to block the synthesis of cholesterol means that it could cause problems in some people who’s cholesterol levels are too low to start with.

It is beneficial in other ways though, so it’s definitely something you need to discuss with an integrative cardiologist, if you are attempting to use it as a means of lowering cholesterol levels.

What is Citrus Bergamot?

Citrus Bergamot is a small sized tree that will blossom during winter. In terms of bitterness, it is less bitter than lemon but more than grapefruit. It is used as an ingredient in Earl Grey Tea. The juice of this plant is not consumed, but is used as a treatment for malaria, and the oil is used for aromatherapy.

A fragrant orange sized yellow green citrus fruit that is grown commercially in the Calabria region of Southern Italy. It is grown also in the southern part of France, as well as the south of Turkey.

The essential oil of Bergamot is a dark greenish-brown in color and is extracted in Cote d’Ivorie. It is grown in Antalya Turkey for use in marmalade.

Unlike other citrus fruits, Bergamot has very large amounts of polyphenols. Two of those compounds Melitidin, and Brutieridin, block the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver in much the same way statin drugs do.

It also has a similar effect to grapefruit in that it can affect the way your body metabolizes various pharmaceutical drugs.

How does it work?

Bergemot reduces the amount of triglycerides and cholesterol you would ordinarily absorb through meals. It also reduces the biosynthesis of cholesterol in the body. It also helps glucose get into cells which is beneficial for diabetics.

It blocks the HMG CoA Reductase Enzyme, which is what statin drugs do. It contains substances called polyphenolic flavanoids that suppress cholesterol production in much the same way that statins do, but it works in a different way that does not seem to deplete coenzyme Q10.

There are three main modes of action:

  • Blocks the HMG CoA Reductase Enzyme
  • Works on insulin receptors to improve shuttling of glucose into cells
  • Blocks cholesterol absorption in the intestine similar to plant sterols

What are some of the benefits of Citrus Bergamot?

  • It promotes fat burning and improves blood sugar control. This helps combat obesity and promotes weight loss.
  • It combats arterial stiffness due to it’s effect on sugar metabolism, and the benefits of the flavinoids it contains.
  • Can reduces LDL and triglycerides and increase HDL cholesterol
  • Helps in lowering blood pressure
  • Bergamot shows anti-tumor action and may be effective in combating neuroblastoma and other metastic cancers
  • It demonstrates anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that improve endothelial function

How is Bergamot taken?

When used for it’s cholesterol lowering effect, it would be taken in capsule form at appropriate doses, and this is where things get tricky. The medical profession knows a lot about drugs and the dosages that should be given, but not very much about vitamins, nutraceuticals, and herbs.

Citrus Bergamot capsulesDosage recommendations for this supplement are anecdotal and not the result of carefully controlled trials and years of clinical case studies and experience. Great care should be taken with this supplement, as it does mimic the effects of statin drugs, and thus could have some of the same side effects.

Given this fact, I think it’s wise to seek the advice of a complementary physician, who has knowledge of alternative treatments.

In research conducted at the Scripps Integrated Medicine Conference in San Diego California, in January 2012, they used 1,000 milligrams per day and got an average reduction in total cholesterol levels of 29%, a 36% reduction in LDL, and increase HDL cholesterol by 40%!

Reductions in triglycerides of 30%, and blood glucose of 20% on average were also noted. From this result the researches concluded that Citrus Bergamot extract at a dosage of 1,000 milligrams per day was an effective substitute for statin drugs for lowering LDL cholesterol, and also treating metabolic syndrome.

In Summary:

Citrus Bergamot is an interesting compound with some powerful effects on cholesterol metabolism, blood sugar control, and metabolic syndrome. It has demonstrated anti-tumor effects as well. However due to it’s statin like mode of action, I would very strongly suggest that you use it ONLY under the direction of a doctor who is knowledgeable about alternative medicine.

The doctor can help you determine if it’s right for you, and if so, how to arrive at a safe and effective dosage.

Research references:

Fitoterapia. 2011 Apr;82(3):309-16. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2010.10.014. Epub 2010 Nov 4.
Hypolipemic and hypoglycaemic activity of bergamot polyphenols: from animal models to human studies.

Fitoterapia. 2010 Sep;81(6):453-61. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2010.01.013. Epub 2010 Jan 20.
Neuropharmacology of the essential oil of bergamot.

Int J Cardiol. 2013 Dec 10;170(2):140-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2013.08.125. Epub 2013 Sep 8.
Bergamot polyphenolic fraction enhances rosuvastatin-induced effect on LDL-cholesterol, LOX-1 expression and protein kinase B phosphorylation in patients with hyperlipidemia.

Fitoterapia. 2014 Jun;95:83-92. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2014.02.009. Epub 2014 Mar 2.
Effect of Citrus bergamia juice on human neuroblastoma cells in vitro and in metastatic xenograft models.

PLoS One. 2013 Apr 16;8(4):e61484. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061484. Print 2013.
Mechanisms underlying the anti-tumoral effects of Citrus Bergamia juice.

niacin taken to lower cholesterolNiacin for cholesterol has for years been the choice of natural supplements that lower cholesterol.  Niacin (vitamin b-3) can improve cholesterol profiles when used in high doses such as 1,000 to 3,000 milligrams per day.

The use of niacin to lower cholesterol has a lot of sound scientific research behind it. It is considered to be the most effective way to lower cholesterol naturally that is currently available.

This is far above the MRD (minimum daily requirement for vitamin b-3, so when it’s being used to lower cholesterol levels, we call that a “therapeutic dose.” These dosages will cause a reaction call a “niacin flush,” which if you are not used to it may be a little disturbing.

This flushing can be controlled by gradual increases in the dosage so that the body has time to adjust and does not react as strongly.

When using niacin for cholesterol, your skin will turn red and you will feel itchy. This is due to what’s called vasodilation. Niacin (also referred to as nicotinic acid) will lower cholesterol levels, reduce triglycerides, and improve the cholesterol hdl ratio, by boosting hdl levels.

Recent studies have shown that a lower dose (1.5 grams/day) of niacin is effective in lowering ldl levels and also boosting hdl levels. This dosage is better tolerated by the majority of people and is thought to be relatively safe for the liver.

Non-flush – niacin for cholesterol

There is a form of niacin that will not trigger as much flushing as regular niacin. The information on this form is contradictory, but some research indicates that it can be effective at both lowering ldl and raising hdl. It’s called extended release niacin.

People DO still get some flushing from this form, but much less. The issue of people not taking the regular form of niacin to lower cholesterol is because of the unpleasant flush, is not a problem with extended release niacin. Because it is so much milder, it may be more effective simply because people will not avoid taking it. This is called “patient compliance” in medical terms.

Together with using extended release niacin, other strategies to lessen the flush reaction are taking it with meals or snacks, and avoiding alcohol when taking it.

Niacin to lower cholesterol – dosage and side effects

Taking niacin for cholesterol, inhibits the breakdown of hdl in the body, which obviously results in higher hdl levels and a better cholesterol hdl ratio. Higher hdl levels alone lower the risk of heart disease, but niacin helps in another way, by lowering ldl levels as well.

Niacin taken at (1-3 grams/day) prevent the breakdown of fats which the liver uses to make lipoproteins. This lowers levels of both ldl and triglycerides, a very beneficial result. Lower triglyceride levels result in lower levels of ldl cholesterol which also lowers risk of heart attacks.

Side effects beyond the flushing reaction are rare but can include alterations in blood pressure, gastrointestinal distress, and liver damage. Although vitamins that lower cholesterol are safer than drugs, you really should seek expert medical advice when using niacin for cholesterol, both from the standpoint of safety and effectiveness.

You also need medical advice to avoid potential bad reactions from taking niacin for cholesterol with any drugs that you are on. Again the advice of a doctor is needed, because they are familiar with side effects and adverse reactions from combining drugs and nutrients.

Natural supplement or prescription

Odd as it might seem there ARE prescription forms of niacin. I have no information which suggests they work any better than what you can get over the counter, and in fact, they may have more side effects depending on how they were formulated.

If you are advised to take a prescription form of niacin for cholesterol, research the side effects very carefully as they are likely to be greater than what you would get with a natural supplement. You want to lower cholesterol naturally and safely!

Remember also that as effective as niacin is, you have to do all of the other things which protect you from heart disease, like eating a healthy diet, getting the right exercise, and reducing your stress. These strategies work together to keep your heart healthy.

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.

Green Tea and Cholesterol have been the subject of many research studies that indicate that it a highly beneficial substance for its ability to lower cholesterol naturally, and also provide antioxidant protection to your entire body!

cup of green teaThis age old herbal wonder has been used as a folk remedy for many different conditions in Asia, and has now become popular all over the world as a health sustaining drink.

Drinking tea can be a very healthy habit to get into IF you are drinking the right kind of tea.

What are the benefits for managing cholesterol levels?

Studies have shown that green tea and cholesterol have an inverse relationship, that is higher consumption of green tea results in lower cholesterol levels. Keep in mind that high chlesterol levels are often the body’s way of compensating for deficiencies (like vitamin-d for example), so when a substance seems to lower cholesterol levels it may indicate the body needs that substance to be healthy.

Here is a short list of benefits:

  •     Lower triglycerides
  •     Lower LDL cholesterol
  •     Raise HDL Cholesterol
  •     Boost antioxidant activity
  •     Lower inflammation
  •     Boosts levels of the super antioxidant SOD
  •     Lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer

Lower triglycerides

Green tea can lower triglycerides which in turn will lower LDL cholesterol. This effect on blood fats has been well documented. In addition the antioxidant benefits prevent LDL particles from oxidizing and this is very important for avoiding the artery damage that causes heart attacks.

Lower LDL cholesterol

LDL or “low density lipoproteins” are a big risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Green tea effectively lowers the levels of LDL in your body, removing a serious risk factor for the causation of arterial plaque, heart attacks, and strokes.

Raise HDL cholesterol

By raising HDL levels, green tea further protects arteries from damage caused by oxidized LDL. HDL itself is an antioxidants, and it has been shown that when several antioxidants combine in the body, they have a synergistic effect when combined.

Lower blood pressure

Green tea has a positive effect on blood pressure by promoting function of your arterial lining, which is what regulates blood pressure. This is preferable to the use of prescription drugs which can have serious side effects.

Research done in Japan on over 1,300 Japanese men indicated that green tea and cholesterol were inversely related, the more tea they consumed the more they were able to lower cholesterol naturally.  It can be part of a more natural approach to cholesterol mangement that avoids the serious side effects of using statins. This alone makes the tea worth serious consideration.

Those men who drank 9 cups per day or more had levels of cholesterol that were significantly lower than those drinking 0-2 cups per day. Tea drinking in Japan is a popular custom, and the Japanese are the longest living people in the world on average. While it’s true that the Japanese and Chinese do many healthy things diet and exercise wise, tea drinking is among the healthiest of them all.

Form and dosage

One to ten cups per day will provide benefits for your cardiovascular system, or you may find it more convenient to use in supplement form, consuming one (350-500mg) capsule per day of 95% extract of green tea.

Green tea and cholesterol will continue to be the subject of ongoing research, and it’s likely that this research will uncover even more benefits from using this age old herbal substance. One thing is for sure, and that is that you will get multiple health benefits by enjoying this age old Asian remedy!

The benefits of policosanol are it’s ability to lower cholesterol naturally.  It is effective in lowering LDL cholesterol and can also help raise HDL cholesterol. Since there are few policosanol side effects, it is considered to be very safe as well as effective.

benefits of policosanolThere is growing interest in this nutraceutical among holistically oriented practitioners and patients because some experts feel it can replace statin drugs which have severe side effects.

What is It and How Does It Work?

Policosanol is one of a number of natural cholesterol lowering supplements. It is extracted from sugar cane. It is made up of octacosanol which is a “long chain fatty alcohol” and several other long chain fatty alcohols. It works by preventing the synthesis of cholesterol, but in a way that is different from statin drugs.

It doesn’t block the HMG-CoA enzyme the way “statin” cholesterol-lowering drugs do, but the precise way that it works is not understood. It does not seem to have the negative effects on energy metabolism that statins do. The standard recommended dosage for policosanol is 5-20 mg/day.

Benefits of Policosanol

The main benefit of this supplement is it’s ability to lower cholesterol naturally. Other benefits are:

  •     Helps prevent the formation of artery lesions
  •     Inhibits the formation of blood clots
  •     Reduces levels of a blood vessel-constricting eicosanoid called Thromboxane
  •     Stops cell overgrowth which can cause narrowing of your arteries
  •     Is effective in lowering LDL cholesterol
  •     Can raise HDL cholesterol
  •     Enhances the effect of exercise
  •     Inhibits the oxidation of LDL cholesterol which decreases inflammation

Effects on Exercise

It has been shown in studies to increase stamina and oxygen uptake during exercise. It is apparently used in muscle tissue as an energy substrate and positively enhances energy production. It’s initially stored in the liver but eventually finds it’s way into muscle tissue, enhancing metabolic activity.

Studies were done in Japan with 10 mg per day , which increased endurance, oxygen uptake and aerobic capacity, as measured on treadmill ECG testing. It also reduced ischemia, improved reflexes, and increased muscle strength.

Additional Benefits of Policosanol

In postmenopausal women and people over 60 who are at increased risk for heart disease, it decreased LDL cholesterol by 25% and lowered total cholesterol by 17%. This was achieved at a dosage of 10 milligrams per day.

At the 20 milligram per day dosage level, it gave people with intermittent claudication (muscle pain, cramps, and fatigue while walking) relief, and allowed them to walk greater distances with less pain. This shows that policosanol has therapeutic value that goes beyond beneficial effects on cholesterol.

Policosanol Side Effects

Along with the benefits of policosanol there are a few side effects that were reported in clinical trials.

The main side effect reported was weight loss, and the other side effect was abdominal pain, however this effect was also reported in the people who were not taking it, so it is not clear that it had anything to do with policosanol being taken.

Policosanol is very safe. Rats given dosages that were 1724 times what a human dose would be, showed no signs of toxicity. There was also no carcinogenic (cancer) activity associated with it. All tolled the side effects of are for all intents and purposes 100% positive, with no proven negative effects at all!

Drug Interactions

Although policosanol is not a drug, people may be concerned about it causing problems for them if they are on medications. However, there is no evidence that it causes any problems when used with drugs that are being taken.

There is evidence that it can enhance the effects of propranol (a blood pressure lowering drug), so caution should be taken with this combination.

There haven’t been any studies done combining it with specific drugs or types of drugs, however there was NO reported adverse effects when using policosanol along with the following:

  • Anti-coagulents (blood thinners)
  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium antagonists
  • Diuertics
  • Vasodilators
  • Thyroid hormones
  • NSAIDs
  • Antidepressants
  • Digoxin
  • Ulcer drugs
  • Meprobamate
  • Anti-anxiety drugs
  • Neuroleptics

Does Not Inhibit Sexual Function

One of the best things that can be said about policosanol is that it does not inhibit sexual function like statin drugs can, even at high dosages used in animal experiments. Studies with male rats showed that it increased sexual activity, but the mechanism that caused this wasn’t clear. Thus when it’s used in normal amounts there is NO negative effect on a person’s sex life!

Safe, Effective, and Natural

There are many natural alternatives to statin drugs out there for optimizing your cholesterol profile.  Research these carefully and coordinate your efforts with an integrative cardiologist who understands how to use nutritional approaches to promote heart health.

Benefits of policosanol are that it is one of the safest and most effective cholesterol lowering supplements available and it compares very favorably with “statin” drugs while at the same time having none of the side effects or toxicity.