How to Reduce Heart Disease
By K. Shane Neifert, D.C.
The obvious things to help would include exercise and eating well. Yet as I gave a lecture at a local healthfood store one evening a gentleman became angry as I reached a point near the end he stated “I’ve eaten as you’ve stated I still had a quadruple bypass”. Well, his animosity gave me a clue that maybe emotions had something to do with that heart trouble. A few years ago I heard of a senior medical resident and future author Michael Creighton who knew he would not practice yet was to finish out his last few months on rotation. He decided to go to the floor where the cardiac patients were roomed and ask a a simple question, “Why did you have your heart attack?” At first he didn’t know what to expect as a response from the patients. He was surprised at the responses he received. Not only were the patients not giving him answers like “Clogged arteries, too much cholesterol, or genetic weakness” he did hear things like “My wife wants a divorce and it is tearing me apart”, “I hate my job and its killing me”, “My daughter just got pregnant and I’m upset with her choices”. Most of the answers came quickly and easily to them and they were usually emotional based. Now emotions do play a role in my opinion in affecting our heart and overall health. Yet there are outside factors which do play a major role to encouraging heart disease. Lets look at a few.
There are several inconsistencies in the standard recommendations for heart disease prevention. As mentioned in my last article on vegetable oil, the polyunsaturated oils that have been recommended for decades have proven in many studies to increase heart disease when and where ever it is introduced. Cholesterol has become big business, 20 BILLION a year. The research done is suspect due to the funds coming from drug companies which have a motive to sell more cholesterol lowering medication at an average cost of $2,000+ a year per patient. Any studies that rock the cholesterol boat are hard pressed to get published in major journals that rely on drug company money to survive (330 million a year spent to advertise to doctors). It is well known that most research is biased toward the grantor of funds for the research. The old adage about follow the money seems appropriate. The hard facts don’t support cholesterol as anything more than a mild risk factor for middle age men. The truth is that individuals have more serious risk of complications (liver failure and cancer) from the drug than elevated cholesterol. Most of the cholesterol is manufactured in the liver and performs needed functions in the bodies cellular structure. This is an essential part of our makeup. Elevated cholesterol is an sign that the body is under stress and is gearing up more production for a reason that should be resolved. Just like a headache is not a sign of an aspirin deficiency, elevated cholesterol is a symptom of a problem elsewhere. Taking drugs to lower your symptoms and avoiding the underlying cause is both reckless and foolish.
So if its not cholesterol, what is the big factor? I don’t believe that there is one factor alone. Yet a major contributor as shown in studies is the amino acid homocystiene. This is a part of the amino acid group found in meat. Normally moderate amounts of the amino acid homocystiene are balanced and offset by the B complex vitamins found in fresh whole grains and fresh vegetables (especially dark green leafy ones). When our diet consists of preprocessed foods the fragile B complex vitamins are lost in the heating and preparing of the food. Another source of problems for the heart is excess iron. Iron is an oxidizer which reacts quickly to create more free radicals in the system and has been shown recently to damage arteries in a Japonese study. We normally think too litle iron is a problem, yet excess is equally hazardous. A tribe of Bantu’s in South Africa ate primarily out of iron cookware which leached up to 200 mg of iron into their daily food intake. Their heart disease rates where substancially higher until they converted to steel cookware and then their rates dropped by 50%. The over consumption of meat (source of iron and homocystiene), smoking, and too much stress that elevates blood pressure and presto you have a wonderful recipe for atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction (heart trouble).
The risk factor for elevated homocystiene in the blood is on average more than 14 times that for cholesterol, 2.3 times that of high blood pressure, 8.8 times that of cigarette smoking in patients who have early onset of atherosclerosis. Studies in 1991 published this information yet most of us haven’t heard much about it yet. There must not be much money to be made from informing the public yet. The drug companies though spend millions telling you to get your cholesterol checked to you can be sure to get on their lowering medication as soon as possible. It is interesting to note that as heart disease climbed steadily from 1920 (introduction of modern diet into our general population) at 10+ deaths per 100,000, the trend reversed direction in 1970. When vitamin sales went up in 1970 to 1990 from 300 million to 1.2 billion heart disease fell from 300+ deaths per 100,000 to 200 during the same twenty year span. Maybe more B complex made a difference? Interesting coincidence isn’t it?
To reduce your risk of heart disease eat more whole fresh grains and organic fresh vegetables. Reduce your stress levels and meat consumption ( three portions a week maximum). Eliminate vegetable oil intake all together. Avoid smoking for a number of reasons including heart related problems. Insure a good food based source of B complex is in your diet. Enjoy your job, relationships, and get plenty of exercise. And donate blood several times a year if you are not a menstrating female (reducing iron levels in body). A wonderful review may be found in Bruce Fife’s book “Saturated Fat May Save Your Life” chapters 7 and 12 and detailed information in K. S. McCully’s work “Homocystiene Revolution” and in the article “The Cholesterol Myth” Atlantic Monthly Sept ’89