Valentine's Day Special Heart-Healthy Issue
This Week In HealthBeat
- February is American
Heart Month: Let's Love Our Hearts!
- Heart-Healthy Protocol
Rejuvenates Youthful Function
- Inflamed Over
- The "Forgotten" Heart
- Creating Love That
Lasts a Lifetime
- Laughter is Good
Medicine: "Expensive Urine"
February is American Heart
Month: Let's Love Our Hearts!
disease still outpaces cancer as the nation's #1 killer. Since 1963, the US
Government has proclaimed February as "American Heart Month." You might spend
time remembering those "near and dear to your heart" on Valentine's Day, but do
you ever think about your own amazing ticker (other than just worry about
Contrary to what many people believe, a weak and failing
heart is not an inevitable part of aging. With proper care, the
human heart is good for 100+ years of service. This issue of HealthBeat News is
devoted to heart-loving strategies. Maybe you'll decide it's time to stop
worrying about your heart and make some heart-healthy lifestyle changes instead.
Happy Valentine's Day to you and your amazing heart!
Heart-Healthy Protocol Rejuvenates Youthful Function
Do you recall a time when you
were younger and had absolutely no worries about your
heart? After all, it's not nearly so common for a
person in their 20's or 30's to suffer from heart disease, and you probably knew
that. Your life wasn't focused around living close to a hospital, curtailing
physical activity because of fear, or even thinking at all about your heart,
which just ticked along perfectly from day to day, week to week, and year to
Would you like to return to that liberated, confident feeling, knowing that your
heart is healthy and immune to problems, and enjoying the physical and emotional
freedom that dependable heart function brings? Why not give yourself the
Valentine's Day gift of heart-confidence by following these simple,
proven, protective measures that can lower your risk
of heart disease to that of a 20-year-old?
Your heart is a very forgiving organ and can be rejuvenated. Here's how:
1.) Stop smoking. Smoking is one of the single biggest causes of heart
disease. If you
need a good reason to quit, dramatically lowering your risk
of heart disease might be the
impetus you need.
2.) Eat a heart-healthy diet. High carbohydrate
diets lead to overweight and high blood sugar levels, and
very often, to diabetes. As you continue to read this list, you'll see
that these factors are each independent risk
factors for heart disease. A VLC diet (very low carbohydrate diet), high
in Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids, is the
fastest, surest way to lower insulin and blood sugar
levels, lose weight, decrease inflammation and slash heart disease risk at least
four-fold. Diets higher in "good fats"
(NOT low-fat diets!) and low in carbs have
proven to be the heart-healthiest.
3.) Get optimal doses of heart-healthy nutrients.
Certain nutrients are essential to healthy heart function and
are often missing in the Standard American Diet
(S.A.D.). Nutrients needed by the heart include:
- B complex vitamins,
needed for normal nerve function and homocysteine
- magnesium, the
relaxing, anti-arrhythmic mineral that is absolutely necessary for
normal heart function.
Unfortunately, magnesium is one of the most common nutrient
deficiencies in the SAD diet.
- antioxidant nutrients
(especially vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene).
Studies have shown that people with
higher blood levels of antioxidants have a lower incidence
of heart disease. Among people who have a heart
attack, higher levels of antioxidants decrease free radical
formation and reduce heart damage.
- chromium helps stabilize
and lower blood sugar levels, thereby lowering sugar-associated heart disease
- Omega-3 fatty acids (fish
oils) are so well-known to decrease inflammation and heart arrhythmias that
the FDA now allows label claims for fish oil. We now also have an over-the-top
expensive prescription fish oil for heart patients (many of whom would have
less stress on their hearts if they bought fish oil for $20 instead of $200!).
- soluble fiber helps keep blood fats,
including cholesterol, at a happy level, although high cholesterol is not
the big heart disease risk factor
it has been portrayed as.
physical activity. If you don't use it, you lose it. Make
your heart work harder than
getting up from your easy chair and going to the refrigerator
once in a while. This doesn't
mean you need to train for a marathon. As
little as ten minutes of brisk walking per day, especially if this is more than
you currently do, will improve heart function.
5.) Lower body-wide inflammation (see
"Inflamed Over Cholesterol,"
inflammation, as measured by an hs-CRP test ("highly
sensitive C-Reactive Protein",
a simple blood test), is a more sensitive measure of heart disease risk than
or other elevated blood fats. This type of inflammation, which is
often so minor that you may not feel it but which
irritates the blood vessel lining and sets the atherosclerotic process in
motion, can be corrected by simple diet changes,
nutritional supplements and anti-inflammatory herbs. Decreasing inflammation
also lowers your risk of cancer, arthritis,
Alzheimer's and other "age related" diseases.
6.) Lower your blood pressure
naturally. There's a lot
of evidence that higher blood pressures (especially
systolic B.P.'s consistently over 140) are associated with higher risk of
heart disease. Interestingly (at least to this physician!), there are a number
long-range studies which show NO BENEFIT to lowering B.P. with drugs.
"normal" blood pressures who were only "normal" because of medications are still
significantly higher risk of heart disease. As naturopathic as this conclusion
sounds, these studies point to the fact that lowering
blood pressure naturally, by correcting the cause
of the elevation, is life-saving where chemical
control is not.
7.) Curb depression, anxiety and stress. The
emotional factor doesn't get much "press" or discussion in the
cardiologists office, but there are numerous studies showing
that negative emotional states increase subtle inflammation. Possibly because
depression and stress (or more accurately described as
our reaction to stress) increase inflammation, these emotional states are
associated with higher risk of heart disease and poorer prognosis in people with
already-existing heart disease or who are recovering
from heart surgery. If you suffer from depression, be sure to get help. One
common source of stress is marriage and close personal
relationship difficulties. Be sure to read Jean's
article below, "Creating Love That Lasts," for some
timely tips on building strong relationships.
And remember that depression isn't caused by a Prozac deficiency!
8.) Lower high blood sugar levels. High blood
sugar levels, high insulin levels or outright
type II diabetes are major risk factors
for heart disease. The pitiful part of this connection is that type II diabetes
is completely curable through diet alone,
usually in under three months. Sadly, I find that many
diabetics would rather live with the risk (and worry
about their risks), rather than make a few
healthy diet changes that would erase this major danger.
9.) Achieve and maintain a normal weight.
Overweight increases subtle inflammation, which as you should know by now (if
you've been paying attention!) is an important risk factor for
not only heart disease but also
cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer's and more. When an overweight person loses
weight, their hs-CRP (inflammatory marker) also comes down, corresponding to a
lower heart disease risk. Of course, the low-carb, high
Omega-3 fat diet that lowers blood sugar and corrects diabetes also leads
to weight loss, making it easy to correct several problems at
once through diet changes alone.
These same measures that dramatically lower your risk of heart disease also
increase natural immunity, slash your risk of cancer, diabetes, arthritis,
depression, Alzheimer's and senile dementia and a host of other
diseases that we fall prey to with age. Even at advanced age or stages of
disease, much improvement and protection is possible (in other words, you can
reclaim a lot of healthy ground), by turning a few habits around in a healthier
Obviously, a full in-depth examination of each of these factors far is too large
for a single newsletter. If you'd like to know more about exactly how to
implement these heart-healthy changes, please watch for our upcoming White
Paper, "The Medical Insider's Guide to a Strong, Healthy Heart."
Inflamed Over Cholesterol
by Dr. Doug Nichols
With cholesterol-lowering statin drugs being some of the
all-time biggest sellers, it's easy to get the idea that conventional medicine
has a grudge against this amazing molecule. But as we have long recognized in
holistic medicine, cholesterol is a friendly thing. It
comprises 80% of the material in our body's cell walls, so we can't live without
it. The body obviously thinks cholesterol is pretty important, too, because the
liver manufactures cholesterol even if we don't eat any (in fact, especially
if we don't eat any).
Scientific studies have shown that high cholesterol is not the smoking gun for
heart disease risk that it's been claimed to be. Over 50% of people who have
heart attacks have never had a cholesterol level above 200 (the "normal" upper
limit). Clearly, then, other risk factors besides cholesterol play a role in the
formation of atherosclerosis and heart disease. The
biggest of these known risk factors appears to be
An eight-year study following nearly 28,000
women demonstrated that those with high levels of
inflammation, shown by the inflammatory marker hs-CRP (highly sensitive
C-Reactive Protein), were twice as likely to die from
heart attack or stroke as those with high cholesterol levels.
Half of the heart attacks and strokes occurred in women with "safe"
levels of LDL (the so-called “bad” cholesterol). Some
researchers believe that testing inflammatory markers may predict cardiovascular
risk 15 to 25 years in the future.
The real question should probably be,
if someone is experiencing high cholesterol, what is
the underlying reason that the body is producing
higher levels? Is inflammation the main culprit, and
if it is, what is the underlying cause of the
inflammation? Ah ha! This looks
to me like a question all doctors should be
C-Reactive Protein: The "Forgotten"
Heart Risk Factor
Highly sensitive C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP)
is a protein found in the blood that indicates
inflammation. A growing body of evidence shows that low-level inflammation is a
far bigger risk factor (or at least a marker) for heart disease than cholesterol
or any other blood fat.
The level of inflammation
measured by hs-CRP is so small that it doesn't cause pain like typical
inflammation (Ordinarily, inflammation makes itself known by pain, swelling, or
redness of an area). Older C-RP tests are used to monitor certain autoimmune
diseases, but these tests
aren't sensitive enough to detect small elevations
of inflammation that lead to heart disease and stroke. As you can see
from the chart below, hs-CRP is more predictive of heart attack and stroke than
any other blood risk factor commonly evaluated. Because of this, it may be more
useful to look at hs-CRP (also called cardiac CRP) than cholesterol or any other
Heart Disease Risk Factors "By the
Amount of increased risk
If hs-CRP is an important marker for heart disease risk, how come it isn't a
standard medical test and how come we don't treat for it? Six years ago in
HealthBeat, I predicted that hs-CRP would become a standard part of our cardiac
risk evaluation. In many facilities, this has become the norm. Remember,
however, that Big Pharma doesn't have a safe anti-inflammatory drug yet. (Can
you say "Vioxx" and "over 50,000 deaths"?). Once Big Pharma has a new
anti-inflammatory drug approved, and assuming it isn't found to be lethal a year
or two after FDA approval, I predict that you'll see a big "push" for hs-CRP
testing. It is often Big Pharma that drives new disease diagnoses and related
medical testing, but only after they have a drug to sell for same.
Until then, I wouldn't wait to have this inexpensive
blood test included in your annual chemistry screen, even if you have to pay the
$20-$30 dollars out of pocket. If your level is high, there are plenty of safe
ways to lower inflammation.
Creating Love That
Lasts a Lifetime
by Jean McKenzie
Valentine's Day is just around the
corner and stores are brimming with all kinds of truffles and trinkets and cards
and confections, but even the most heartfelt
Valentine's Day gift will not create a lasting
relationship. It's the sweet little things done on a daily basis that help
nurture lasting, loving
Most people enjoy the special attention associated
with a well thought out display of affection. A
fabulous dinner and your favorite box of chocolates on
Valentine's Day, a surprise party on your birthday,
a bouquet of flowers and a lovely card on your
anniversary can all make you feel special.
Sweet as they are, none of these things will make up
for a lack of affection in your day to day life.
It is easy to take your close personal relationship
for granted and forget to do the small things that
show your partner you care. However, if you start now
to make a daily effort to show your partner love and
appreciation, the extra
effort you put in on the "special" days will mean a whole lot more.
Here are 5 simple ways to
rekindle the romance in your relationship:
1. Use post it notes to strategically place exclamations of your love
in places where your partner is sure to find them. My favorite is
placing a note on the bathroom mirror for my husband to find when he
gets up in the morning. We have a secret code word we use that makes it kind of fun.
2. Make an effort to greet your spouse with a kiss when you reunite at
the end of the day. It's so easy to get caught up in what you are
doing, whatever you have to do next, or the daily frustrations that you
can't wait to tell your partner. Don't forget to let your spouse know
that you love them and missed them. Kiss first, vent later.
3. Pick up something special for your spouse. You don't have to wait
for a special occasion to buy chocolate, flowers, or whatever it is
that will let your mate know you were thinking of them. My husband
knows what my favorite chocolate bar is and he makes sure he picks one
up for me every once and a while, for no special reason.
4. Give your partner a compliment. Don't assume that
your wife knows you think she has the most beautiful
eyes just because you told her once before. Remember
to remind your husband that you think his big muscular
arms are sexy. Nothing says “I love you” like a heart-felt compliment.
5. Find something you can do to make your spouse's life easier. Is
there some little chore that your spouse always ends up doing? Does
your wife always clean up
the dinner dishes? Does your husband always
take out the garbage? Since you're on your way out the
door, perhaps you could take the garbage out even if that's not your usual job,
or put dishes in the dishwasher even if that not your usual role.
Surprising your partner occasionally and doing a task for them
that they usually do shows that you appreciate what
they do and don't take their efforts for granted.
There are dozens of little things you can do to
show your love for your partner; I've merely
listed a few to get you started thinking. Be creative
and put a conscious effort into showing your special someone
that you love and care about them every day of the
year, not just on special occasions. In fact, I challenge you to come up
with as many imaginative ways to show your love as possible.
If you come up with
something especially unique, please write and tell me
about it. Your idea might just be the inspiration for
my next article!
Don't get me wrong, I think it's great to give something special on
Valentine's Day. But when you make the effort
to do sweet little things on a daily basis, your
Valentine's Day gift will mean a lot more to your partner,
and help create a love that lasts.
Laughter is Good Medicine
Have you ever had a doctor tell you
that taking vitamin supplements did nothing more than produce "expensive urine"?
If so (or even if not!), you'll chuckle at this week's cartoon. Check out
"Expensive Urine" here >>>
Heart-Healthy Protocol Rejuvenates Youthful
1.) Smoking cessation normalizes coronary endothelial vasomotor response
assessed with 15O-water and PET in healthy young smokers. J Nucl Med. 2006
Dec;47(12):1914-20. Summary: some negative cardiac effects of smoking, such as
inflammation of blood vessels and abnormal contraction of blood vessels, returns
to near-normal after one month of non-smoking in otherwise healthy individuals.
2.) Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease: Cost-effectiveness comparison.
Int J Technol Assess Health Care. 2007 Winter;23(1):71-9. Summary: Quitting
smoking is the most cost-effective heart disease prevention measure; statin
drugs are the least cost effective measure.
3.) Cardiovascular risks associated with smoking: a review for clinicians. Eur J
Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2006 Aug;13(4):507-14. Summary: Smoking results in
sudden death, myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease, worsened outcomes
after angioplasty or bypass surgery, cerebrovascular disease, aortic aneurysm,
vascular disease, increased risk of complications of hypertension and impotence.
4.) Smoking and cardiovascular disease. Am J Med. 1992 Jul 15;93(1A):8S-12S.
Summary: Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of cardiovascular
morbidity and mortality. Smoking has been associated with a two-to fourfold
increased risk of coronary heart disease, a greater than 70% excess rate of
death from coronary heart disease, and an elevated risk of sudden death. Smoking
cessation results in a dramatic
reduction in the risk of mortality from both coronary heart disease and stroke.
5.) Effects of moderate-fat (from monounsaturated fat) and low-fat weight-loss
diets on the serum lipid profile in overweight and obese men and women. American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 79, No. 2, 204-212, February 2004. Summary:
a moderate fat diet was more beneficial in lowering heart disease risk than a
6.) Preventive nutrition: disease-specific dietary interventions for older
adults.Geriatrics. 1992 Nov;47(11):39-40, 45-9. Conclusion: Fats, cholesterol,
soluble fiber, and the trace elements copper and chromium affect the morbidity
and mortality of CHD. Decreasing sodium and increasing potassium intake improves
hypertension. Calcium and magnesium may also have a role in controlling
hypertension. A decrease in simple carbohydrates and an increase in soluble
dietary fiber may normalize moderately elevated blood glucose levels.
7.) Antioxidant treatment prevents cardiac protein oxidation after
ischemia-reperfusion and improves myocardial function and coronary perfusion in
senescent hearts. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2006 Dec;57(4):541-52. Summary: In
conclusion, antioxidant treatment fully protects the senescent heart against
ischaemia/reperfusion but not against prolonged ischaemia injury, indicating
that oxidative stress plays a central role in the age-associated vulnerability
8.) Relationship between low cardiorespiratory fitness and mortality in
normal-weight, overweight, and obese men. JAMA. 1999 Oct
27;282(16):1547-53.CONCLUSIONS: In this analysis, low cardiorespiratory fitness
was a strong and independent predictor of CVD and all-cause mortality and of
comparable importance with that of diabetes mellitus and other CVD risk factors.
9.) Inflammatory biomarkers, hormone replacement therapy, and incident coronary
heart disease: prospective analysis from the Women's Health Initiative
observational study.JAMA. 2002 Aug 28;288(8):980-7. Summary: Increased hs-CRP
and IL-6 (another marker of subtle inflammation) independently predict vascular
events among apparently healthy postmenopausal women.
10.) C-Reactive Protein Distribution and Correlates among Men and Women with
Chronic Coronary Heart Disease. Cardiology. 2007 Feb 1;107(4):345-353 [Epub
ahead of print]. Summary: Elevated C-reactive protein is associated with
atherosclerotic disease. BMI (body mass index) is positively associated with
CRP: the higher the BMI, the higher the CRP.
11.) Blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein
cholesterol levels, glucose intolerance, and smoking: Relative importance of
borderline and elevated levels of coronary heart disease risk factors. Ann
Intern Med. 2005 Mar 15;142(6):393-402.
12.) Stroke and coronary heart disease in treated hypertension -- a prospective
cohort study over three decades. J Intern Med. 2005 Jun;257(6):496-502. There
was no relationship observed between achieved systolic or diastolic blood
pressure and the risk of stroke or MI nor was there any relationship between the
change in blood pressure and such cardiovascular complications. CONCLUSION: In
spite of a substantial reduction of their blood pressure, treated hypertensive
middle-aged men had a highly increased risk of stroke, MI and mortality from
coronary heart disease compared with nonhypertensive men of similar age. The
increased risk of cardiovascular complications escalated during the latter
course of the study.
13.) Survival in treated hypertension: follow up study after two decades. BMJ.
1998 Jul 18;317(7152):167-71. Summary: Hypertensive men treated with drugs to
attain normal B.P.'s did NOT have lower risks of heart disease.
14.) Sadness and broken hearts: neurohumoral mechanisms and co-morbidity of
ischemic heart disease and psychological depression. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2006
Nov;57 Suppl 11:5-29.Summary: Inflammation is associated with heart disease and
is also seen in sadness and depression. It appears that sadness and depression
may be risk factors for heart disease.
15.) Biological mechanisms in the relationship between depression and heart
disease. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2002 Dec;26(8):941-62. Summary: Psychological
depression is shown to be associated with several aspects of coronary artery
disease (CAD), including arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, heart failure and
16.)Negative impact of depression on outcomes in patients with coronary artery
disease: mechanisms, treatment considerations, and future directions. J Thromb
Haemost. 2005 May;3(5):897-908. Summary: Depressive symptoms are common in
coronary artery disease (CAD) patients, and are associated with increased
17.) Impact of metabolic syndrome criteria on cardiovascular disease risk in
people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes. Diabetologia. 2006 Jan;49(1):49-55.
Epub 2005 Dec 10.Summary: High blood sugar and type II diabetes can increase
heart disease risk up to FIVE-FOLD. DR. Myatts note: Type II diabetes is
completely curable through diet alone.
18.) Insulin resistance, the metabolic syndrome, and incident cardiovascular
events in the Framingham Offspring Study. Diabetes. 2005 Nov;54(11):3252-7.
Summary: Metabolic syndrome (fancy name for high blood sugar, high insulin
levels) is an independent risk factor for heart disease. DR. Myatts note:
Metabolic syndrome, like Type II diabetes, is completely curable through diet
19.) Glycemic control and coronary heart disease risk in persons with and
without diabetes: the atherosclerosis risk in communities study. Arch Intern
Med. 2005 Sep 12;165(16):1910-6.
20.) Metabolic syndrome and mitochondrial function: Molecular replacement and
antioxidant supplements to prevent membrane peroxidation and restore
mitochondrial function. J Cell Biochem. 2007 Jan 22; [Epub ahead of print].
Summary: Antioxidant therapy restored mitochondrial function in people with
21.) Insulin resistance and endothelial dysfunction: the road map to
cardiovascular diseases. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2006 Nov-Dec;22(6):423-36.
22.) Midlife body mass index and hospitalization and mortality in older age.
JAMA. 2006 Jan 11;295(2):190-8. Conclusion: "For individuals with no
cardiovascular risk factors as well as for those with 1 or more risk factors,
those who are obese in middle age have a higher risk of hospitalization and
mortality from CHD, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes in older age than those
who are normal weight."
Inflamed Over Cholesterol /C-Reactive
Protein: The "Forgotten" Heart-Risk Factor / Heart Disease Risk Factors "By The
23.) C-reactive protein and other markers of inflammation in the
prediction of cardiovascular disease in women. New Engl. J. Med, 342(12):
24.) Comparison of C-reactive protein and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
levels in the prediction of first cardiovascular event. New Engl. J. Med., 347: