Employers are spending more on the treatment of heart disease than any other chronic disease and there is mounting evidence that the wrong treatments are being utilized.
Conventional medicine insists that cholesterol is the primary factor in determining our risk of heart disease, and that statin drugs are the No. 1 defense against this risk. However, what if there is insufficient scientific evidence to support this proposition? And what if this approach is actually causing serious health problems, simply because of the stubbornness of the medical community and the profits being made by the pharmaceutical and hospital sectors?
- Recent Scientific Findings
- The Massachusetts Institute of Technology did a search of the medical literature and found no studies that have ever proved that statin drugs improve all-cause mortality rates. Statins do lower cholesterol, but this alone did not prolong life. In fact, MIT found that statins actually contribute to the deterioration of the quality of life by destroying muscles, damaging the liver, harming the kidneys and even endangering heart function, which can lead to heart disease and death.
- A similar study on Lipitor reported in Business Week Magazine (Jan. 28, 2008) found that the drug’s efficacy was one percent. In other words, 100 people needed to take the drug in order for one person to live longer.
- The MRFIT study (Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial) studied 180,000 men over a 13-year period and found that men with cholesterol of 330 had less hemorrhagic stroke than men with cholesterol levels less than 180. In other words, the higher cholesterol levels were better.
- The Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Yale University reported that old people with low cholesterol died twice as often from a heart attack as did people with high cholesterol.
- Uffe Raonskir, M.D. searched the Medline database and found 11 studies of old people that clearly showed that high cholesterol is not a factor for coronary heart disease. He also found seven other studies that found high cholesterol did not predict higher all-cause mortality.
We know that 90 percent of all cardiovascular disease occurs in people over the age of 60, and that nearly all studies have found that high cholesterol is not a risk factor for women. Therefore, it is safe to say that high cholesterol is only a risk factor for less than 5 percent of those who die from a heart attack.
- The Framingham Heart Study found that the more saturated fat and cholesterol people eat, the lower their cholesterol levels were. These same people had lower weight and exercised more than those who ate less saturated fat and cholesterol. This seems to point to the obvious fact that there are multiple factors contributing to heart disease and cholesterol is not really that significant.
- In a new documentary film entitled “29 Billion Reasons to Lie About Cholesterol,” Justin Smith reveals some interesting research regarding cholesterol. Between 1994 and 2006, the percentage of men aged 65-74 with high cholesterol decreased from 87% to 54%. Despite this, the rate of coronary heart disease remained the same.
- In the November issue of the New England Journal of Medicine a study that compared statin drugs Zetia and Uytorin to vitamin B3 (better known as niacin) was released. The patients who took niacin had less plaque in their arteries and higher levels of HDL cholesterol. The Zetia and Uytorin patients also had more heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular problems. Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, indicated this is the third study with these results and questions the continued use of these drugs.
- What Actually Causes Heart Disease?
The emerging theory regarding the cause of heart disease points to the irritation of endothelial lining of our arteries. This could be due to the presence of free radicals, such as chemicals, tobacco, oxidizing sugar and other toxins. It could also be due to the lack of sufficient nutrients (e.g., vitamins C, B, D and E, omega 3 fats and magnesium) needed by the arteries to stay healthy.
A contributing factor could be infectious agents, such as bacteria and other microbes, which take advantage of the weakened endothelial lining to find a place to breed and prosper.
And finally, there are at least 12 signs that something undesirable is happening in the arteries. These measurable risk factors include:
|1. Low blood EPA/DHA||7. Hypertension|
|2. Elevated C-reactive protein||8. Excess fibrinogen|
|3. Nitric oxide deficient||9. Excess triglycerides|
|4. Excess cholesterol||10. Low vitamin K|
|5. Excess homocysteine||11. Low HDL|
|6. Low free testosterone||12. Excess LDL|
Cholesterol is simply at the scene of the crime, having been sent there by the liver to repair damage and fill the lesions caused by the free radicals, infections and other toxins. One of the better markers of damage occurring in the arteries is C-reactive protein, which is a marker for the level of inflammation in the body. As the body tries to repair the damage being done, it uses its typical inflammation response to do so.
- The Benefits of Cholesterol
Not only does cholesterol rush to the scene of arterial damage to help in the repair process, it performs many other important functions:
- Cholesterol in our skin is converted to vitamin D3 by sunlight.
- We need cholesterol to make sex hormones.
- We need it for neurotransmitter function in the brain (low cholesterol is now associated with memory loss, amnesia and pre-Alzheimer’s).
- Cholesterol (also known as lipoproteins) participates in our immune system by binding and inactivating bacteria, viruses and other toxic products. This is particularly important in children whose antibody immune system needs years to develop and mature.D. The Dangers of Statin Drugs
- The medical literature is replete with studies about the dangerous side effects of statin drugs. Given the fact that there is virtually no evidence that statins prolong life for most people, perhaps we should pay closer attention to the downside of this class of drugs.
- Perhaps the value of cholesterol to our health and longevity is the reason why up to 75 percent of all cholesterol in our bodies is made by our livers and is not due to the foods we eat which are high in cholesterol.
- Statins inhibit the production of Co-enzyme Q10, a nutrient crucial to the heart, brain, liver, kidneys pancreas and all cells of the body.
- Statins increase insulin levels, resulting in higher glucose and inflammation levels. This significantly increases the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
- Other problems associated with statin drug use include:
|High blood pressure||Cognitive loss|
|Thyroid dysfunction||Sexual dysfunction|
|Parkinson disease||Pancreatic dysfunction|
|Alzheimer’s disease||Muscle problems|
|Hepatic dysfunction||Frequent fevers|
Most of these health problems have some connection to the depletion of co-enzyme Q10, which is crucial to the functioning of mitochondria in our cells (the energy producers), as well as the antioxidant effects of CoQ10 inside the cell.
- The Best Strategies to Avoid Heart Disease
The health and medical literature has become fairly consistent regarding the best strategies for avoiding heart disease. A basic summary of these findings follows.
- Eat a diet of whole, unprocessed (preferably organic) foods, with an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, omega 3 oils, brown rice, deep-water fish and organic foul. Avoid red meat, dairy, sugar and alcohol, if possible. This will not be easy; a study in the American Heart Association Journal (Jan.13, 2012) found that less than one percent of people met all seven components of a healthy cardiovascular diet.
- Include a number of proven nutritional supplements in your daily routine including:
|* Vitamin C||* Fish oil|
|* Vitamin E||* Magnesium|
|* Vitamin B||* Resveratrol|
|* Vitamin D||* Co-enzyme Q10|
- Try to get regular exercise in the aerobic, weight resistance and flexibility categories.
- Avoid toxins and electromagnetic radiation.
- Avoid smoking and drinking in excess (more than 2 drinks is toxic for most people).
- Avoid stress, if possible, and manage what you can’t avoid with deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
- Get plenty of sleep (7-9 hours each night).
- Promote strong social relationships.
- Get regular blood tests and health exams for risk factors like high blood pressure
- As we age our bodies begin to make fewer digestive enzymes, stomach acid, probiotics and antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase and glutathione. In most cases people benefit from supplementing these items in order to slow the aging process.
The medical and pharmaceutical communities are reluctant to admit their mistakes and adopt even scientifically proven changes. Angioplasty and bypass surgeries are now being questioned in two new studies, and Dr. Dean Ornish testified before the US Senate that as many as 95 percent of angioplasty operations are not only unnecessary, but potentially harmful. In the final analysis, it is probably safe to say that everyone needs to take more personal responsibility for their health. We can no longer put our blind trust and faith in a medical community that has not paid proper attention to the scientific evidence that contradicts the way they are addressing many topics, including cholesterol and heart disease.
About the Author
Charles Bens is an internationally recognized author, speaker and consultant specializing in the fields of organizational improvement and workplace wellness. His creative publications and presentations have garnered praise in the form of Man of the Year recognition in the U.S. and Canada, commendation from the President of the United States and speaking engagements worldwide, including a United Nations Habitat Conference. He is one of the top-rated speakers for Vistage, the largest CEO organization in the world.
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