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.

A home cholesterol test is one way that you can begin taking more responsibility for your health, and understanding just how your diet and lifestyle affect your cholesterol values. A cholesterol blood test will determine if you have normal cholesterol levels, and if not, the cholesterol test results can be read and further interpreted by your doctor.

Testing in a home environment is just not as accurate as the tests performed in your doctor’s office. Home test kits are just not engineered to replace a full diagnostic lab, but they don’t have to. These tests are meant to help you keep track of your cholesterol values, and make adjustments to your diet and lifestyle when you need to.

Caution: Never substitute a home cholesterol test, or home testing (of any kind) for proper diagnosis and treatment from your doctor. Your physician can measure cholesterol levels much more precisely using lab tests that you can with a home test, so the lab work your doctor orders on your blood samples is the most accurate and best way to establish what your levels really are.

Home tests help you keep track of markers like cholesterol or blood sugar, but they are not meant to be substitutes for a proper medical test or diagnosis!

You need to be tested by your doctor to establish what is called a “baseline,” and once you know what this is, then home testing can tell you whether your levels are going up or down. These measurements are “relative” and their real value is helping you to track how your cholesterol levels are responding to diet and exercise.

Although the home cholesterol test is fairly accurate, it should be calibrated with the cholesterol blood test that you have in your doctor’s office. Take your home test kit with you and test yourself at the same time your doctor draws your blood for the full laboratory test.

That way you can see how the results of the two tests differ, and will be able to get an idea of just how far off the cholesterol test results are between the cholesterol blood test you get in the doctor’s office and the home cholesterol test.

When you buy online, read reviews carefully, do a little research into the product you are buying. Some of these cholesterol testing systems are expensive (over $100.00) dollars, require you to buy a testing unit, and additional test strips for it. This can run well over $100.00 for both.

Obviously you would not use a home cholesterol test as often as you would use a glucose monitor for instance. You are merely trying to track your normal cholesterol levels, and see how they respond to changes you make in your diet and lifestyle.

Here are some brands:

  •     CholesTrak, Home Access Instant Cholesterol Test
  •     Cardio Check (gives you both HDL and LDL level)
  •     Lifestream Personal Cholesterol Monitor (give you both HDL and LDL)

“Cardio Check” seemed to have by far the highest customer satisfaction ratings online.

A home cholesterol test should can run between $10.00 and $150.00 depending on how comprehensive the test is. Some tests only give you total cholesterol, which is not a very useful indicator. It may tell you how your total cholesterol levels is responding to diet or exercise, but it does not indicate real risk factors.

For that you need to know your HDL level, and a test that gives you both LDL and HDL levels will give you the information to assess risk factors more clearly. When you know both your LDL and HDL levels, you can calculate total cholesterol, as well as HDL/LDL ratio which is the best cholesterol values which indicate your heart disease risk.

The home cholesterol test to look for is one that at least gives you both HDL and LDL levels. These should run you about $30-$50 and are available online. Again you will have to check it for accuracy against the cholesterol blood test from your doctor, but if it gives you a somewhat reliable indicator of your cholesterol values, then it’s doing it’s job.

C-Reactive Protein  or CRP,  is what is called an inflammatory marker. It measures levels of a particular protein that indicate increased inflammation in your body. Along with homocysteine, it completes the picture of heart disease risk that begins with your cholesterol profile.

c-reactie proteinWhile optimizing your cholesterol profile is important, medical researchers noticed that half of all heart attack victims had normal cholesterol levels.

They realized that there were risk factors other than just cholesterol. This is where the c-reactive protein test comes in.

The test is a measure of inflammation and infection in your body, both of which are significant risk factors for heart disease that are largely ignored by mainstream medicine. Inflammatory markers like CRP are necessary in order to get an accurate idea of what your heart disease risk really is!

The test is part of that missing piece of the puzzle that explains heart disease risk, beyond just your cholesterol numbers. If your levels are high, then lowering them will definitely lessen your risk of heart disease. When you attempt to lower cholesterol naturally, you will have to pay attention to
CRP as well. The good news is that the same strategies will work for both!

What elevates CRP?

Your levels of c-reactive protein are elevated by increased inflammation in your body. Many things can cause this, so it is important to have the test done when you are feeling well and not suffering from illness or unusual stress, so that you can get an accurate reading of your levels, without
having the level elevated due to some injury, illness, or trauma.

For instance oral bacteria from dental cavities can elevate CRP levels, because those bacteria also cause inflammation. This is why dental health is correlated with heart disease risk. Bacterial infections of any kind will raise inflammation as your immune system attempts to fight off the bacteria.

What are healthy levels of c-reactive protein?

The CRP test measures results in milligrams per liter of blood.

The following guidelines for are recommended by the
American Heart Association (AHA) to determine heart disease risk:

  •     Low risk: CRP is 1 milligram/per liter or less
  •     Moderate risk: CRP is 1 to 3 milligrams/ per liter
  •     High risk: CRP is greater than 3 milligrams/ per liter

Lowering Inflammation

How do you lower inflammation and get the levels on the c-reactive protein test into the healthy range?  Since all these heart disease risk factors respond to the same lifestyle changes, you can address them all by doing a few simple things.

  •     Eating an “anti-inflammatory diet”
  •     Practice good oral hygiene
  •     Getting regular exercise
  •     Grounding
  •     Stress reduction
  •     Proper nutritional supplements

The Bottom Line

All of the various risk factors for heart disease may seem bewildering and overly technical. That is how medical science functions. Every factor must be measured and accounted for. The good part is that when you lower cholesterol naturally, you will be addressing these other factors as well.

However as I mentioned before, all of these factors are related, and they are just various manifestations of inflammation. Lowering inflammation will bring CRP and these other heart disease indicators to a better level. So that should be your goal, to use diet, exercise and nutritional supplementation in lowering inflammation.

C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and cholesterol profile are all necessary tests to precisely and accurately determine what your risk for heart disease really is. Work to lower your inflammatory markers, and you will be much healthier for it!

What are normal triglyceride levels and how do they relate to your cholesterol levels? What are the causes of high triglycerides, and how does lowering triglycerides help your cholesterol profile?  These are important questions, and the answers will put you on a path to better cardiovascular health.

What are triglycerides?

Most fats in your body are in the form of triglycerides. They are fat molecules that are created from the fats you eat and also from sugar you eat that is converted to fat and stored in your body. Their levels correspond directly with the risk of heart disease, and thus you can lower your risk by lowering triglycerides.

Although you can have your levels triglyceride levels tested separately, they are typically tested when you get your cholesterol levels profile checked. This is standard when having blood tests done in conjunction with say an annual physical.

What are Considered Normal Levels?

Normal levels of triglycerides are defined as:

Below 150 mg/dl, (Milligrams per Deciliter )

but some experts feel that optimal levels are closer to 50mg/dl, or below, because above 60mg/dl abnormal particles begin to appear in the blood.

This elevates heart disease risk as these particles help form the plaque that narrows arteries and causes heart attacks. Thus normal triglyceride levels are actually closer to the 60mg/dl mark.  The standard of of below 60mg/dl, will lower cholesterol naturally and drastically reduce your risk of heart disease.

Elevated Triglycerides Are Bad

These fatty molecules collect in your organs (and your arteries) and damage them. They have a negative effect on gene expression and promote heart disease. They also increase the tendency of your blood to clot, which increases your risk of strokes. This is even more of a problem in people with diabetes.

Belly fat is mostly made up of triglyceries, and fat in this area of your body is associated with sharply increased risk of heart disease.  Abdominal fat is big risk factor for heart disease, strokes, senile dementia, and other diseases that involve chronic inflammation.

They can also build up in artery walls and are involved in the development of athleroschlerosis. Thuys they are considered one of the primary causes of both elevated cholesterol levels, and the process of plaque development in your arteries.

Causes of High Triglyceries

The typical causes are:

  • Excess sugar  (in the form of starchy carbohydrates, alcohol, candy, pastries, ect.)
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Lack of exercise or physical activity

All of the above issues are related and making inprovements in one area will help with the others as well. For example, exercise will lower blood sugar which in turn will lower triglycerides. Metabolic syndrome is really a collection of symptoms related to obesity.

The remdy for these issues is a healtheir lifestyle which is outlined in the steps below.

Lowering  Triglycerides

Lowering triglycerides is just as important as optimizing cholesterol.  Several strategies are effective for reaching normal triglyceride levels, and they mirror the things you would do for optimizing cholesterol as well.

They are:

Lowering your sugar intake, including processed carbs and alcohol

  • Exercise – 3 times per week for at least 15 minutes per session
  •  Niacin (vitamin B3) at dosages of 250-500 mg with food
  • Fish oil 4000 mg/day of concentrated fish oil
  •  Eat high fiber foods such as oat bran and raw nuts

Fish oil alone can result in a reduction of triglycerides of 50%, and combined with a low sugar diet and regular exercise it is possible to reach normal triglyceride levels naturally, without using any medications.

There is also new evidence that a class of compounds called tocotrienols can help safely lower both low density lipoproteins and triglycerides. Using natural nutritional and lifestyle approaches should always be your goal, because medications carry dangerous and unwanted side effects which can cause serious health problems and even make some conditions worse!

It’s pretty safe to say that achieving normal triglyceride levels is one of THE most powerfully effective strategies for optimizing your cholesterol profile and protecting yourself from cardiovascular disease!

The VAP cholesterol test is the very latest diagnostic test to determine your risk of heart disease. Standard cholesterol level tests identify only 40% of those at risk for heart disease. In fact, half of all heart attacks are suffered by people with normal levels!

VAP cholesterol testProblems With Traditional Tests

One of the shortcomings of standard tests was that they didn’t measure or identify lipoprotein particles associated with increased inflammation.

Medical science has really caught on to the fact that it’s really the damage that inflammation does to your arteries that causes heart disease.

The old standard for testing was to measure LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol and to use the ratio between LDL and HDL to determine a person’s risk of heart disease. This was fairly accurate for it’s time, but it has been superseded by a new standard for determining your risk.

The old testing protocol produced four measurements:

  • Total cholesterol
  • Triglycerides
  • LDL – Low-density lipoprotein
  • HDL – High-density lipoprotein

Although these four elements do have some value in determining your risk of heart attack, they lack the accuracy of newer test methods in determining risk.

Enter the VAP Cholesterol Test

Medical science has recently developed a newer and more accurate test for heart disease risk called VAP  for (Vertical Auto Profile). This test benefits you in two ways.

  • It is THE most accurate indicator of your risk of heart attack
  • It helps identify various risk factors that you can control to prevent a heart attack

VAP cholesterol test can pinpoint your risk, taking much of the guesswork out of this medical diagnosis. This is very helpful for people who have test results that show normal levels, but who’s true heart attack risk can now be successfully identified.

Not all doctors provide the VAP cholesterol test, but it’s use is increasing as more and more doctors realize their standard testing fails to identify everyone that is at risk.

The VAP test is done the same way as other tests where a nurse or lab technician draws your blood and then sends it to a laboratory which then runs the test and returns the test results to your doctor.

How Does The Test Work?

The test identifies the following:

  • Identifies small dense LDL particles that cause arterial plaque
  • HDL2 and HDL3
  • IDL – Intermediate-density lipoprotein
  • Lipoprotein A
  • (VLDL1, VLDL2, VLDL3) Very low density lipoproteins

These small sub-fractions of cholesterol pose the greatest danger to you. The VAP cholesterol test will identify these particles, their density, and distribution. This information helps your doctor create a customized approach to reducing your risk of a heart attack and strokes.

Standard test results are still valuable as a screening method for heart disease. It is an inexpensive way of determining if you are at increased risk. The addition of the VAP test further clarifies your degree of risk and allows you to make needed lifestyle changes to head off a possible heart attack.

The key is to identify risks early while there is still time to reverse them with diet and exercise rather than drugs such as statins which have toxic side effects. The test really represents an advance in thinking that more accurately gauges how these individual lipoprotein particles affect your overall risk for heart disease.

The VAP cholesterol test will soon become the standard for determining your heart attack risk. This will go a long way toward making heart attacks increasingly rare and survivable! Ask YOUR doctor about the VAP test, and start reducing your risk now!