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Healthy Heart

Good Heart - Bad Heart

How's your heart ? By the time you finish reading this article, a few dozen people will die from a heart attack or a stroke. These two conditions kill close to 2 million people every year - that's over 4,000 people every single day! 

Both heart attack and stroke are caused by atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, a relentless process that begins fairly early in life and becomes a little worse with every passing day. 

A recent study of almost 3,000 people between the ages of 15 and 34 who have died as a result of car accidents showed that 100% of them already had atherosclerosis of the aorta, the main artery of the body, and 54% had pretty significant blockage of the heart arteries. 

And if these young people, in the prime of their life, had significant hardening of the arteries, what do you think happens by the time a person reaches the age of 50 or 60? It gets worse, of course. No wonder this process continues to be the #1 killer of men and women in the US and other industrialized countries.

The current model of heart disease blames the obstruction of certain specific arteries for all the effects of cardiovascular disease. Accordingly, the treatment is directed towards "unblocking" these arteries, either with an angioplasty or a bypass surgery. 

But, according to John C. LaRosa, MD, the chancellor (dean) of the Tulane University Medical Center in New Orleans, this approach is faulty at best, if not outright dangerous. 

"A new model for the development of atherosclerosis is emerging. This development process, called atherogenesis, is now thought to begin with metabolic dysfunction of the endothelial cells that line the arterial walls. 

Dysfunctional endothelium loses its ability to maintain vascular smooth muscle relaxation and instead promotes vasospasm, inflammation, platelet aggregation and diminished clot lysis (breakdown).

Endothelial dysfunction appears to occur diffusely in affected vessels. Accordingly, local anatomical interventions, such as bypass surgery or angioplasty, can be expected to have only limited success in the treatment of patients with atherosclerotic disease. More definitive treatments must be directed at the risk factors initiating or enhancing atherogenesis."

In other words, hardening of the arteries happens not just in one or two key locations, but throughout the arterial network. The dysfunction of endothelium (lining of the arteries) happens in all the blood vessels. 

Therefore, the current emphasis on surgical correction completely misses the target. Tens of thousands of angioplasties and bypass surgeries are performed yearly, but do they reduce the death rate from heart disease? You don't have to be a scientist to know the answer.

Since we clearly cannot rely on doctors to "save" us from heart disease, we should actively engage in a preventive program of cardiovascular protection by addressing the risk factors. These factors include sedentary life style, being male, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high homocysteine level and elevated cholesterol, especially the LDL or "bad" type.

Our heart and the vascular system is a truly amazing feat of engineering. Consider the heart - an organ about the size of a fist that works non-stop 24 hours a day for as long as you live. It beats 70-80 times a minute, about 4,500 times an hour and over 110,000 times a day!

The heart pumps blood through a network of arteries that is estimated to be between 40,000 to 60,000 miles long. With each heartbeat, the organs of the body receive fresh blood loaded with oxygen and nutrients. 

The cells of the body are so dependent on this uninterrupted supply that they have no mechanisms for dealing with a sudden cessation of blood flow. This is especially true about the cells with high level of metabolism, such as those found in the brain and in the heart itself. These cells can not survive for longer than 5-6 minutes without a constant supply of oxygen. When brain cells die, it is called a stroke. The same process in the heart is known as a heart attack.

To avoid this undesirable outcome, we must address two important issues:

  1. The health of the heart muscle 

  2. The integrity of the blood vessels, especially the arteries.

Even more specifically, we have to:

  • provide energy for non-stop pumping action

  • maintain normal heart rhythm

  • repair muscular damage within the heart

  • control risk factor for hardening of the arteries

  • promote continuous blood flow

  • reduce the risk of blood clots


 Protecting heart health

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is an astonishing nutrient. It is essential for energy production in all body cells, especially in the heart. It prevents oxidation of LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Reduced levels of CoQ10 promote atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant and protects tissue damage from harmful free radicals. 

In clinical studies, CoQ10 was beneficial for high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, angina and even cancer. It improves the overall heart function, its "pumping action" and blood flow to the heart muscle. Therefore, it is a "must" for patients with high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries or those who simply want to maintain normal heart function. 
Our cells can produce small quantities of CoQ10, however the levels invariably decrease with age, which makes supplementation an absolute necessity. This is particularly true for patients who take cholesterol lowering "statin" drugs (Zocor, Mevacor, Lipitor, etc) which interfere with the synthesis of CoQ10 and can lead to a complete depletion of this vital nutrient.

Hawthorn

Hawthorn, also known as Crataegus oxycantha, has a number of impressive cardio-protective and healing properties. Its effects are so well documented that the German equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed it to be sold as pharmaceutical! When German doctors prescribe Cardplant, Oxacant, Crataegol and Esbericard, they are actually recommending Hawthorn berry extract.

Hawthorn is a rich source of bioflavonoids and anthocyanidins. This amazing herb dilates coronary (heart) arteries and improves blood flow to the heart. It improves heart muscle strength, resulting in better pumping action. It supports normal heart rhythm and prevents arrhythmias. It has a mild diuretic effect. Hawthorn reduces the production of certain prostaglandins that promote blood clotting. It prevents the spasms of coronary arteries and has actually been shown to decrease the size of atherosclerotic plaques in some animal studies.

Carnitine

Carnitine is an amino acid that improves energy production in all the cells of the body and especially in the heart. It works by stimulating the breakdown of fats. Supplementation of Carnitine increases the strength of the heart muscle and improves its ability to pump blood.

Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid found in high concentration in the muscle tissue, heart and brain. It supports normal heart rhythm and has antiarrhythmic properties. It improves heart muscle strength and its pumping action. Taurine also reduces "stickiness" of platelets, preventing formation of blood clots. 

Supplementation of Taurine improves the health of the heart, muscles and the brain. It can also be beneficial in patients with high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.

 

Protecting arterial health

Homocysteine

An elevated level of this amino acid has been identified as a major risk factor for hardening of the arteries and heart attacks. Some experts feel that it is even more significant than elevated cholesterol levels. Numerous studies have shown that people with an elevated homocysteine level increase their risk of heart attacks 3 to 13 times!

Homocysteine is a byproduct of the metabolism of another amino acid, methionine. The enzymes that reduce homocysteine levels depend on certain B vitamins for optimal function. These B vitamins are B6, B12 and folic acid. 

Many studies have demonstrated that decreased level of these nutrients is associated with a rise in homocysteine. On the other hand, their supplementation leads to a drop in homocysteine in almost all patients. Taking additional B6, B12 and folic acid is a very simple, effective, and inexpensive way to restore and maintain homocysteine at safe levels and protect yourself from deadly complications.

Cholesterol

An elevated level of total cholesterol, especially the LDL or "bad" cholesterol is a well known risk factor for hardening of the arteries, heart attacks and strokes. Oxidized LDL cholesterol promotes the formation of dangerous free radicals that damage the lining of the arteries and lead to creation of plaques and eventual blockage.

Vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10 and Hawthorne can substantially reduce the oxidation of LDL and prevent its damaging effect on the arteries. 

These nutrients work especially well with the Super Cholesterol Formula(, which is indicated for those whose total cholesterol is above 200.

Prevention of blood clots

In addition to reducing homocysteine levels, vitamin B6 inhibits platelet aggregation and helps prevent blood clotting, which is a major immediate cause of heart attacks and strokes. Taurine and vitamin E also have positive effect on the "sticky" platelets, making them less likely to form a clot. Hawthorn reduces the activity of clot-stimulating prostaglandins.

Maintenance of blood flow

Arginine is an amino acid with many cardiovascular benefits. It stimulates the production of nitrous oxide (NO), also known as endothelial derived relaxing factor or EDRF. Some experts have likened the effect of arginine to "Teflon-coating" of the arteries, protecting them from cholesterol deposits.

It produces significant dilation of the arteries, improving the flow of blood. It also helps restore normal function of the endothelial cells, making them more likely to repel fat and cholesterol.

Arginine has been reported to have effects on immunity, fertility, wound healing and production of growth hormone.
Cayenne pepper has long been regarded by naturopathic doctors as a powerful heart and circulation tonic. It inhibits platelet aggregation and improves blood flow, sometimes with immediate results. Some herbalists recommend using it as the first aid in cases of a suspected heart attack. 

Cayenne is a potent vasodilator, similar in its effects to some medications, but without all the side effects. It has been reported to reverse plaque formation on the arterial walls. 

Cayenne is also used for indigestion, gas, physical or mental exhaustion and lowered vitality, particularly in the elderly.

Magnesium is by far the most important mineral for cardiovascular health. It has relaxes the arteries and prevents spasms. It may reduce angina, cardiovascular spasms and cardiac arrhythmias. Epidemiological studies have noted a correlation between low magnesium levels and cardiovascular-related deaths. 

Many hospitals now use intravenous magnesium preparations for patients suffering acute myocardial infarction or severe angina.  Magnesium also improves high-density to low-density lipoprotein ratios as well as reduce platelet aggregation. 

Bioflavonoids are naturally occurring substances found in most plants. They have numerous effects in the body, from allergy relief to the stability of the connective tissues. Bioflavonoids increase the strength of the arterial wall, improving their ability to dilate (become wider) and allowing increased blood flow. They also inhibit platelet aggregation thus preventing the formation of blood clots.

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