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Healing and Preventing Heart Disease with Nutrition

by Tony Isaacs
Author of Cancer's Natural Enemy

(The Best Years in Life) Doctors tell us that cardiovascular disease cannot be cured, but instead can only be managed, primarily with drugs such as statins. Likewise they would also have us believe that the best way to prevent cardiovascular problems is through the use of statins and daily aspirin, along with avoiding being overweight. In a sense, the doctors are right - cardiovascular disease cannot be cured by mainstream medicine. However, cardiovascular disease can be cured and prevented by whole food nutrition, and what doctors know about the links between diet, weight and heart disease is mostly wrong.

Heart disease is largely caused by improper nutrition and deficiencies in important nutrients and other essential compounds needed for cardiovascular health. Chief among those items are magnesium, coenzymeQ10 (CoQ10), chromium, selenium, silicon, vitamin D3, and vitamin B6. Instead of addressing these deficiencies, statin drugs actually make some of them worse and have actions which are actually detrimental to heart health.

The most common serious side effect of statin drugs is muscle pain and damage - and the heart is the most important and most active muscle in the body as well as one of the largest muscles. Statin drugs' primary method of action is to interfere with the liver function of producing cholesterol. In the process they also interfere with the liver's production of CoQ10 from selenium.  CoQ10 is a primary heart protector. Thus drugs that are supposedly for the heart prevent a vital heart protector and cause damage to muscles, such as the heart itself.  Not surprisingly, liver damage is another serious statin drug side effect.

The fact is that there are no benefits derived from statin drugs which cannot be achieved from whole food chromium and selenium, neither of which have the many side effects associated with statin drugs.  Both chromium and selenium were established as essential minerals for life over half a century ago by the NIH.  Yet the use of statin drugs is almost universal in mainstream medicine while the nutritional approach of whole food nutrition with those two essential mineral nutrients remains little known and rarely used.

A second mainstream approach for heart problems is daily aspirin, a dangerous mainstream marketing myth.  Aspirin is actually dangerous for the heart.  All of the early studies on aspirin and heart benefits used a buffered form of aspirin. The buffering agent used was the heart healthy mineral magnesium and often the buffered aspirin studied contained more magnesium than actual aspirin. In the intervening years no heart benefits have been found in studies on aspirin alone. Nevertheless, the aspirin heart protection myth continues to this day.

The Essential Roles of Magnesium and Vitamins D, B6 and C for Heart Health

Magnesium helps prevent heart attacks, regulates high blood pressure and helps ease heart arrhythmia, in addition to having a great many other vital health benefits. Thanks to today's SAD diet and mineral depleted soils, it is estimated that anywhere from 80 to 95 percent of us are deficient in magnesium.

It was also noted over a half century ago that the mineral silicon played a vital role in heart health since it was abundant in healthy hearts and deficient in diseased hearts and heart vessels. Silicon is responsible for both the strength and elasticity of cardiovascular tissue.  It also is a semiconductor that is involved in nervous system message transmissions and is likely important for the heart's electrical functions.

In the 1960s, the only known consequence of vitamin D deficiency in adults was osteomalacia, a form of bone softening. Administration of 200 IU per day of vitamin D was just enough to prevent osteomalacia. More recent vitamin D research, however, has uncovered the fact that exposure to just 10–20 minutes of sunlight yielded the blood-level equivalent of 10,000 units of vitamin D taken orally. Why would the naturally-intended source of vitamin D yield levels far beyond that specified by the RDA?

Abundant evidence now points to the numerous cardioprotective functions of vitamin D. Restoring vitamin D to normal levels has been found to help reduce inflammation, normalize blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity—all factors that reduce heart disease risk.

Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to diminish contractile function of heart muscle cells, contribute to endothelial dysfunction, distort heart muscle structure, and increase smooth muscle growth leading to atherosclerotic plaque formation. Low levels of serum vitamin D have been linked with congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart is unable to keep up with the body’s demands for blood and oxygen.  A recent analysis showed that individuals with low serum levels of vitamin D had higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, and elevated triglycerides.

Almost fifty years ago Dr. Harry McCully, Harvard graduate, researcher and professor, found that the amino acid homocysteine was elevated in people who had heart disease as a result of a deficiency in Vitamin B6.  It took decades before his findings received wide attention and even now this key nutritional fact is widely ignored by mainstream medicine.

One doctor who did take note of McCully's information was MD John Ellis, who began incorporating it into his medical practice and research more than 40 years ago.  Ellis, who went on to literally wrote the book on Vitamin B6 (Vitamin B6, The Doctor's Report), proved in clinical research that patients with heart problems on high dose Vitamin B6 had far fewer heart episodes and lived significantly longer.

Dr. Matthias Rath found that atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes are not diseases but rather are the direct result of long-term vitamin deficiency.  Rath determined that heart disease is an early form of sailor's scurvy, which is caused by weakening of the arterial walls due to a deficiency in Vitamin C.

Rath points out that while the arteries, veins and capillaries in our body are a pipeline that is 60,000 miles long, the pipeline fails in 90% of the cases at one specific spot that is but a mere billionth of that total: the coronary arteries.. If high cholesterol were the problem, it would cause clogs everywhere, not just at one spot.  Rath also asked why we get arteriosclerosis, but not venosclerosis since the cholesterol and the infection theory would inevitably lead to clogging of veins and capillaries.

The solution to the puzzle of cardiovascular disease, Rath maintains, must therefore lie in the explanation of coronary artery plaques which form in the presence of weakened and damaged arteries.  Just as it does in sailor’s scurvy, so does vitamin C induce the natural repair of the blood vessel wall in cardiovascular disease leading to a halt in progression and even to natural regression of vascular lesions.


The Overlooked Importance of Iodine

In 1933, Dr. Kenneth Turner of Harvard Medical School conducted a series of experiments where he fed groups of rabbits a terrible diet of unhealthy fats that caused flagrant atherosclerosis in the aorta.  All of the 21 rabbits in the control group developed extensive atherosclerosis and their total cholesterol averaged 520 mg/dl.

However, in a group of 12 rabbits which were fed the horrible diet and potassium iodine, the group had total cholesterol averages of only 183 mg/dl and

The Misunderstood Link between Weight and Heart Disease

Mainstream medical science maintains that obesity is the cause of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and practically anything else that ails you.  However, what has puzzled many researchers is why there are people who somehow stay metabolically fit and have no high blood pressure, high blood sugar or high cholesterol.

Researchers need look no further for the answer to that puzzle than the Framington Heart studies which have been ongoing for over 50 years. It is those studies that have brought widespread understanding of how a traditional Mediterranean diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and olive oil are able to prevent heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

The kicker is that traditional peoples on such a diet are also often quite overweight and make many Americans with heart disease and other problems look skinny by comparison.  The obvious reason for the difference is that if you are overweight because you like to eat healthy foods then obesity is not likely to result in disease because it provides plenty of nutrients to support the extra weight.  On the other hand, if you are overweight due to eating excessive unhealthy foods such as found in the typical SAD diet, the link between weight and cardiovascular health is obvious.  The key is nutrient density, or in other words “you are what you eat”. 

The Lack of Essential Heart Nutrition in our Foods

The lack of natural nutrition found in our foods today is likely a leading contributor to heart disease.  As health author Greg Ciola noted in his article "Whole Food Nutrition to the Rescue", our bodies are intended to be nourished by food and not from ground up rocks, petroleum by-products and coal-tar derivatives which make up more than 95 percent of all supplements.

Studies have shown that the Vitamin D fortification common in our foods actually results in hardening of the arteries and heart disease, whereas natural vitamin D obtained naturally via sunlight or fish oil is vital to heart health.  One example is milk.  It is not the fat in milk that makes it unhealthy, it is the pasteurization and homogenization processes which destroy all of the Vitamin D and B6 in milk.  Then 4 times as much counterfeit vitamin D is added as the original genuine vitamin D.

Another example is bleached white flower. A hundred years ago we consumed only a tiny amount of such flour.  Today that single item makes up 20 percent of the average American diet.  Bleaching flour removes over 90 percent of the silicon, selenium and chromium and more than 75 percent of vitamin B6.

Most of the processed foods on our grocers’ shelves have had vital nutrients processed out and often harmful additives processed in to enhance shelf life, taste, color and texture.  Often those process foods are then “fortified” with fake vitamins - the ground up rocks, petroleum by-products and coal tar derivatives.

The Best Food Sources for Heart Healthy Nutrition

Fortunately, there are several good food sources of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients vital for our hearts.  Some of the best are:

Foods rich in the antioxidants that fight free radical include fruits, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, alfalfa sprouts, and whole-grain products. Studies have shown that those who ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day had a 39-percent lower risk of stroke than those who did not.

Grapes, eggplant, and red cabbage all contain anthocyanidins which help lower the risk of heart attack and stroke by dilating blood vessels and keeping the blood flowing freely.  Anthocyanidins are found in blue and purple fruits and vegetables.

Raw nuts (except peanuts), olive oil, pink salmon, trout, tuna, Atlantic herring, and mackerel contain essential fatty acids important for cardiovascular health.

Garlic and onions contain compounds that help to reduce serum cholesterol levels.

Some Other Important Dietary Recommendations

Avoid grilled and barbecued foods. Research has shown that people who favor meat cooked over smoldering charcoal are increasing their risk of cardiomyopathy. Carcinogens that form during the browning process contribute to inflammation of the arteries and deterioration of the heart muscle.

Avoid stimulants such as coffee and black tea that contain caffeine. Caffeine increases stress hormones, putting coffee drinkers at greater risk of heart disease.

Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. One study found that men who drank at least five glasses of water every day had a 51-percent lower risk of heart disease than those who did not. For women, the risk of heart disease was 35 percent lower.


The Need for (Whole Food) Supplementation and the Best Heart Supplements

Garlic inhibits bad cholesterol (LDL) production and raises the good kind (HDL). Trials have also demonstrated garlic’s promise in normalizing blood pressure, preventing blood platelet aggregation, and improving circulation.

Hawthorn, a favorite of famed Herbalist John Christopher, improves oxygen and blood supply and is rich in flavonoids that protect small capillary vessels from free-radical damage.  Hawthorn has been used effectively to angina, arrhythmia, arteriosclerosis, blood clots, and hypertension. Best results are normally seen after a few months, but hawthorn is safe for long-term use.

Cacao is a natural source of theobromine, long considered a heart tonic and mild stimulant, cacao also contains epicatechin, a flavonol that improves the function of the blood vessels.

Motherwort has been traditionally used to treat a racing heart caused by nervous tension and may, with long-term use, reduce the formation of clotting factors, lower total cholesterol and triglycerides, and strengthen the heart muscle.

Pycnogenol has been found to be more effective than buffered aspirin in reducing buildup of platelets in the arteries, a major risk factor in heart disease.

Ginger reduces cholesterol and blood pressure and also prevents blood clots.  Similar to garlic, ginger interferes with the long sequence of events necessary for blood clots to form, helping prevent clots that can lodge in narrowed coronary arteries and set off a heart attack.

Artichoke leaf extract reduces blood cholesterol and protects the liver. This herb has antioxidant activity and may inhibit the oxidation of cholesterol, a factor in atherosclerosis.

Cat's claw contains a variety of valuable phytochemicals that inhibit the processes involved in the formation of blood clots. It increases circulation and inhibits inappropriate clotting. Thus, it may help to prevent stroke and reduce the risk of heart attack.

Turmeric lowers blood cholesterol levels by stimulating the production of bile. It also prevents the formation of dangerous blood clots that can lead to heart attack.

Ginkgo has been shown in numerous studies to cause dilation and increase the blood flow in the arteries, capillaries and veins. In addition, Gingko reduces blood clotting by reducing platelet aggregation and it works with other antioxidants to protect our vascular walls from free-radical damage.

Most linked to the health of our eyes, Bilberry actually delivers those results because it improves our microcirculatory health (the miniscule capillaries in our eyes and several other organs). It also aids in the strengthening of vascular walls, and stimulates the formation of new capillaries.

Arjuna, an important Ayurvedic herb, is a coronary vasodilator. It protects the heart, strengthens circulation, and helps to maintain the tone and health of the heart muscle. It is also useful in stopping bleeding and to promote healing after a heart attack.

Fo-ti (ho shou wu, Polygonum multiflorum), combats the symptoms of heart disease, helping to reduce blood pressure and blood-cholesterol levels.

Alfalfa leaves and sprouts help reduce the blood cholesterol levels and plaque deposits on artery walls.

Citrin, an extract from the plant Garcinia cambogia, inhibits the synthesis of fatty acids in the liver. It helps to prevent the accumulation of potentially dangerous fats in the body.

Guggul is an ayurvedic herb is derived from a type of myrrh tree. It has been shown to lower blood-fat levels while raising levels of HDL, the so called "good cholesterol."  Note: Do not use this herb if you have a thyroid disorder.

Cordyceps is a Chinese herb which can slow the heart rate, increase blood supply to the arteries and heart, and lower blood pressure.

Alpha-lipoic acid works with other antioxidants in the body to increase their effectiveness against oxidative stress and helps to keep arteries clear by preventing the LDL ("bad") cholesterol from being incorporated into the artery walls. Since it is both fat and water soluble, it can work inside and outside of the body cells.

Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple.  Bromelain helps 'thin" the blood and helps clear away debris from artery walls. One study has shown that bromelain can relieve the pain of angina, which is associated with coronary heart disease.

L-Carnitine is a non-protein amino acid that is found in the heart and skeletal muscle.  Carnitine has been shown to lower triglyceride and total cholesterol levels, while at the same time improving HDL levels.

Lecithin is an antioxidant found in eggs, corn and soybeans, lecithin helps prevent the conversion of LDL into its more dangerous, artery- damaging form. Lecithin may also lower the total cholesterol.  Note:  use only fermented soy products such as tempeh and miso.

Taurine helps to stabilize the heart beat and correct cardiac arrhythmias. An important antioxidant and immune regulator, it is necessary for white blood cell activation and neurological function. The sublingual form is recommended.

Essential Fatty Acids - Essential fatty acids help to prevent unnecessary blood clotting, reduce inflammation, and regulate blood pressure. They are found in black currant seed oil, borage oil, evening primrose oil, fish oil, and flaxseed oil.

Activated charcoal lowers LDL cholesterol and helps raise HDL cholesterol.

Pectin is a fiber found in grapefruit, apples and other fruits and vegetables which helps lower LDL cholesterol and sweeps away fatty plaque deposits from the artery walls.

Other herbs that are beneficial for cardiovascular disorders include barberry, black cohosh, butcher's broom, dandelion, rosemary, chamomile and valerian root. Additional herbs that are heart friendly include kelp, kola, motherwort, myrrh, psyllium (Metamucil), passion flower, red pepper, saffron, skullcap, and tarragon.

Caution: Do not use barberry or black cohosh during pregnancy. Do not use ginseng if you have high blood pressure. Also avoid the herbs ephedra (ma huang) and licorice, as they cause a rise in blood pressure.

Nature provides us with many important vitamins, minerals, foods, herbs and supplemental items which can help prevent and heal heart disease. However, one should make sure to eat healthy nutrient dense foods and obtain their vitamins, minerals and herbs from whole food derived sources as much as possible to get all the benefits nature has to offer. Furthermore, it should go without saying that we should also do our part to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity.  Otherwise, all the foods and supplements in the world may be to little avail.

See also:

A dozen top nutrients for a healthier heart

Reduce and Avoid Dangerous High Blood Pressure Naturally

Cayenne Pepper - The King of Herbs

How to stop heart attacks and irregular heart beats in their tracks

Prominent heart doctor exposes the myths about cholesterol, statins and low fat diets

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