Numerous disorders fall under the broad category of heart and vascular disease. Here, discussion is restricted to arteriosclerosis, angina, and heart attack. For related sub- jects, see High Blood Pressure and Stroke.
Arteries transport blood from the heart and deliver it to other parts of the body. Arteriosclerosis occurs when the inside of the artery wall thickens, leaving a narrower passageway for the blood to travel through. This disorder is often called hardening of the arteries. Arteriosclerosis can affect the coronary arteries—the arteries that lead to the heart—and is usually caused by a buildup of fatty deposits within the arterial walls. This buildup is often the result of a poor diet, one that’s high in bad fats and low in ﬁber. Most people who have arteriosclerosis are not aware of it, as it does not trigger symptoms in the body until later in the disease.
Unfortunately, when arteriosclerosis is left untreated, it just gets worse. Without treatment, the arteries will eventually become so constricted that adequate supplies of oxygenated blood can’t reach the heart muscle. This oxygen deprivation may result in the chest pain known as angina. Angina is often a precursor to a heart attack.
In some ways, people with angina are lucky. Their pain usually leads to a diagno- sis of cardiovascular disease, and they can then take several steps to slow or reverse their condition before it results in a trip to the emergency room or even death. But for many, a heart attack is the ﬁrst outward sign of trouble; 25 percent of people who suf- fer heart attacks have never felt any previous symptoms. A heart attack—or myocar- dial infarction, as it’s called by doctors—is brought on when blood ﬂow to a section of the heart muscle is completely cut off, either because a clot has backed up behind a thickened artery, or because the artery itself has become so narrow that no blood at all can pass through. If you ever suspect that you are having a heart attack, you must receive emergency medical care at once. Instead of having someone drive you to a hospital (unless you are really close), call for an ambulance. Life-saving treatment for heart attacks requires special medical techniques and tools, and the sooner profession- als arrive with their equipment, the greater your chances of survival.
Heart disease is so prevalent now, most people are surprised to hear that it was
actually quite rare until the turn of the twentieth cen- tury. Our modern diet and way of life are at the root of most heart problems, and the best way to prevent or reverse heart disease is to change our habits. Because heart disease is caused by a variety of factors, it is best to include several kinds of therapies in your treatment or prevention plan. Eat well, exercise, manage stress, and identify and treat genetic susceptibilities that are known to bring on cardiovascular disease.
In recent years, researchers have found that chronic inﬂammation in the blood vessels is a central factor in the development of heart disease. This chronic inﬂam- mation leads to arterial wall damage and the resulting plaque formation. Although cholesterol levels have some importance, it appears that this substance is not the “villain” that it was once thought to be. While diet and lifestyle factors are root causes of chronic inﬂam- mation, there are also genetic reasons beyond inherit- ing a disposition to high cholesterol levels. They includes one’s levels of homocysteine and lipopro- tein(a) and other heredity factors. Fortunately, these genetic susceptibilities can be reduced through natu-
One theory regarding the origins of arteriosclero- sis has to do with a substance called homocys- teine. Homocysteine is a toxic substance created in your body at too high a level. It is a by- product of protein metabolism when you ingest foods like meat or dairy products; luckily, most people who eat these foods in moderation are usually able to convert homocysteine into a chemical called methionine, which is harmless.
But a signiﬁcant percentage (approximately 10 to
20 percent) of us are born with genetic ﬂaws that make it impossible for us to neutralize homocys- teine in this manner, and this substance stays around, inﬂaming the blood vessels and con- tributing to arteriosclerosis. A simple blood test will show if you have an elevated level. B vita- mins, such as B12, folic acid, and B6, can bring
it down to normal levels.
ral therapies. Stealth or hidden infections in the body are also suspected of increas- ing the inﬂammatory response. Therefore, it is imperative you are tested for these newer, more predictive markers of heart disease.
Finally, the impact of stress and negative emotions cannot be underrated as a cause of heart disease. This chapter will explore the mental/emotional connection to heart disease, in addition to the physical causes.
SYMPTOMS OF ARTERIOSCLEROSIS
There are usually no overt symptoms until later in the disease. See your doctor if you experience any of the following:
• Leg pain that starts after walking a
short distance and that goes away with rest
SYMPTOMS OF ANGINA
• Mild to severe chest pain. Often, it feels like the heart is being squeezed.
• There is tightness in the chest.
• Pain may feel worse after exercise or a heavy meal and better when resting.
SYMPTOMS OF HEART ATTACK
If you have any of the following symptoms, call 911 immediately. Even if the symp- toms pass, you need emergency medical attention.
• The classical symptoms are crush- ing or tight pain in the chest, which may extend to the arms, the back, the shoulders, the neck, or the jaw.
The pain may be intense and severe, or it could be so mild that you might mistake it for indigestion.
• Women sometimes have heart attack symptoms that are different from the previous ones. The pain
may begin in the stomach or the jaw or with stabbing pains between the breasts. The symptoms in general may be more vague than for men.
• Other possible symptoms include
profuse sweating, a drop in blood
pressure, difﬁculty swallowing, dizziness or faintness, ringing in the ears, or, more rarely, nausea and vomiting.
• Poor diet, especially one that’s high in saturated fat and low in ﬁber and antioxidants
• High blood pressure
• Stress, depression, and anxiety
• Diabetes and syndrome X
• Stealth infections
• Excess of toxic metals
The following tests help assess possible metabolic reasons for cardiovascular disease. We have included the historic markers, as well as a description of the new predictive blood markers, of cardiovascular risk.
Normal range is 165–200 mg/dL. LDL cholesterol
Normal range is below 130 mg/dL. HDL cholesterol
Normal range is 50 mg/dL or higher. Triglycerides
Normal range is less than 150 mg/dL.
C-reactive protein is a marker of inﬂammation in the body, including in the blood vessel walls. It is considered the best predictor of heart disease.
Normal range is less than 32 mg/dL.
Homocysteine—Buildup of this toxic metabolite increases plaque formation in the artery walls. Genetics, low thyroid, B vitamin deﬁciencies, and a high animal protein diet increase the level.
Normal range is less than 10 micro mol/L.
Lipoprotein(a) is a more speciﬁc cholesterol marker and a stronger risk factor than is LDL cholesterol.
Normal range is less than 32 mg/dL.
Fibrinogen plays an important role in blood clotting. Elevated levels increase the risk of stroke and coronary artery disease.
Apolipoprotein B is a type of lipid that binds to LDL cholesterol and acceler- ates plaque formation.
Normal range is 55–125 mg/dL.
Apolipoprotein A-1 is found in HDL cholesterol and provides a protective effect against heart disease.
Normal range is 125–215 mg/dL.
Apolipoprotein B and the apolipoprotein ratio are overall predictors of heart disease risk.
Normal range is 0.30–0.90.
Normal range is between 180 and 300 mg/dL. Glucose—Diabetes predisposes one to early heart disease.
Normal range is between 80 and 110 mg/dL.
Insulin—Elevation of this hormone is seen with syndrome X, a condition characterized by rising blood-sugar and insulin levels. Spiked insulin levels increase arterial inﬂammation, as well as triglyceride, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. They also contribute to weight gain.
Normal range is between 4 and 15 micro mol (fasting). Iron—Excessive iron in the body produces free radicals and oxidative
Normal range is less than 150 mg/dL.
The following therapies are recommended as ongoing support for your heart. They are not treatments for a heart attack. If you suspect that you’re having a heart attack, get emergency medical help immediately.
When most people think of diets to prevent or reverse heart disease, they think of reducing cholesterol and fat. In reality, many other factors must be taken into account, such as an adequate intake of “good” fats, ﬁber, and antioxidants. A heart- healthy diet, in fact, is much like the basic wholesome eating plan this book suggests for almost everyone.
four–year study published in the Journal of the Ameri- can Heart Association found that people fol- lowing the Mediter- ranean diet could reduce their risk of a heart attack by as much as 70 percent.
A whole-foods, plant-based diet (with the addition of ﬁsh) has been shown to sweep away arterial plaque. Your meals should emphasize vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, with soy products, beans, and ﬁsh for protein. People who require a higher– protein diet can add more lean poultry to their menu.
Highly reactive molecules known as free radicals are closely linked to heart dis- ease. Foods that contain antioxidants will help prevent damage caused by free radi- cals, so eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables every day.
Essential fatty acids are “good” fats that actually protect the heart and help the rest of the body function smoothly. Essential fatty acids are found in cold-water ﬁsh like halibut, salmon, and mackerel; raw nuts (excluding peanuts); olive oil; and ﬂaxseeds.
Eat lots of ﬁber. A whole-foods diet will automatically increase your ﬁber intake, but if you need more, include oat bran or ﬂaxseeds with your meals.
Garlic and onions reduce levels of bad cholesterol and lower the blood pressure. They make excellent additions to low-fat meals, like vegetable stir-fries, clear soups, and bean dishes.
The skins of red or purple grapes help clear the arteries of plaque. Have a glass of purple grape juice daily.
Potassium or magnesium are heart-protective minerals. Good sources include green vegetables, whole grains, wheat germ, soybeans, garlic, legumes, bok choy, and pota- toes. Sea salt, listed previously, is another good choice.
Follow the Mediterranean diet: the consumption of plant foods; olive oil; and low to moderate amounts of ﬁsh, poultry, meat, dairy, eggs, and wine. Researchers believe that the consumption of ﬁsh is one of the keys to this heart-healthy diet, which results in a lower incidence of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Food to Avoid
If you have heart disease, you must eliminate or drastically reduce your consumption of harmful fats (saturated fat, trans-fatty acids, or hydrogenated fats). Common sources of saturated fat or cholesterol include meat, poultry, dairy products, butter, eggs, palm oil, and coconut oil. Don’t forget that many foods are made with these ingredients. Sweet baked goods, for instance, are likely to contain eggs and butter, as well as other fats and oils.
Don’t make the mistake of substituting margarine or vegetable shortening for but- ter. These products are made with oils that have been artiﬁcially processed under high heat. This processing creates mutated molecules, called trans-fatty acids, that are most likely even worse for your heart and cholesterol levels than saturated fats are.
People who cut down on fat sometimes end up gorging themselves on non– and low- fat processed foods, especially packaged cookies and other sweets. Avoid this trap. These foods have little or no nutritional content, and they rely on sugar to make up for the presence of fat. Excess sugar is tied to a number of health problems, and when used as a replacement for starch, it reduces the level of good, heart-protecting cholesterol.
Avoid simple sugars. Simple sugars cause elevated levels of cholesterol, triglyc- erides, C-reactive protein, insulin, and other markers that contribute to cardiovascu- lar damage.
Radically reduce your consumption of sodium. Packaged and processed foods are by far the highest source of sodium in the Western diet, so stay away from them. A high sodium intake, combined with a low potassium intake, increases your likelihood of having high blood pressure.
The buildup of heavy metals in the arteries can also cause damage and diminished blood ﬂow. If you have heart disease, consider chelation therapy, either oral or intra- venous, to encourage the excretion of these toxic substances.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Cardiovascular Disease
Super Prescription #1 High-potency multivitamin
Take as directed on the container. It provides a base of the many nutrients and antioxidants that promote cardiovascular health. The formula should
contain 400 IU of natural vitamin E (d’alpha tocopherol).
Super Prescription #2 Garlic (Allium sativum)
Take 300 to 500 mg of aged garlic twice daily. It reduces cholesterol and homocysteine, has a natural blood-thinning effect, and has antioxidant properties.
Super Prescription #3 Coenzyme Q10
Take 100 to 300 mg daily. This nutrient is used by the heart cells to pump efﬁciently and with regular rhythm. Studies show that it low- ers blood pressure and helps improve angina, mitral valve prolapse, and congestive heart failure. It also prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Researchers at UCLA Medical
Center completed a one-year, double-blind, randomized clini- cal study with people taking aged garlic extract. Researchers found that people taking aged garlic extract had signiﬁcantly less coronary plaque formation than did those in the placebo
Super Prescription #4 Fish oil
Take a daily dosage of a ﬁsh oil product containing at least 480 mg of EPA and 360 mg of DHA daily. Fish oil reduces inﬂammation in the arteries, lowers cholesterol/triglycerides, and is a natural blood thinner.
Super Prescription #5 Policosanol
Take 10 to 20 mg each evening. This supplement reduces LDL cho- lesterol and lipoprotein(a), improves HDL cholesterol, and helps angina.
Super Prescription #6 Hawthorn (Crataegus oxycantha)
Take 500 to 900 mg daily. It improves circulation to the heart and reduces blood pressure.
Super Prescription #7 Magnesium
Take 500 mg daily. The heart, to produce energy for contraction and regular rhythm, uses this mineral. It also relaxes the blood vessel walls, for improved circulation and reduced blood pressure.
menting the garlic tended to have lower blood homocysteine and cholesterol levels.
A review published in the Ameri- can Heart Journal found that Policosanol lowered total choles- terol by 17 to 21 percent, as well as raised the good HDL choles- terol by 8 to 15 percent. It also reported that Policosanol was found to be equally as effective
in lowering total or LDL choles- terol as the statin drugs Simvas- tatin or Pravastatin.
Antioxidant formula contains a wide spectrum of antioxidants that prevent the oxida- tive damage of cholesterol. Take as directed on the container.
Ginkgo biloba improves blood ﬂow, has antioxidant beneﬁts, and has blood-thin- ning properties. Select an extract made with 24 percent ginkgo ﬂavone glycosides and take 80 to 120 mg twice a day.
L-carnitine is a nutrient that lowers triglyceride levels and improves heart contrac- tion. Take 500 to 2,000 mg daily.
Vitamin E has well-researched cardioprotective properties as an antioxidant and a blood thinner. Take 400 to 800 IU of a vitamin E-complex containing tocotrienols and tocopherols. If you are on blood-thinning medication, take E-complex under the guidance of a doctor at a lower dosage.
Vitamin C prevents cholesterol oxidation and mildly lowers blood pressure. Take up to 3,000 mg daily.
Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens) extract reduces cholesterol levels and improves cir- culation. Take 500 mg two to three times daily.
Green tea reduces cholesterol oxidation. Take 250 to 500 mg of a standardized extract two to three times daily.
New Risk Markers and Their Supplement Solutions
If testing shows that your levels of these markers are elevated, the following supple- ments can be helpful:
Vitamin C: 1,000 to 3,000 mg daily
Vitamin E: 400 to 800 IU daily
Fish oil: 5,000 mg daily
Gamma linoleic acid (GLA): 250 to 500 mg daily
Bromelain: 500 mg three times daily, between meals
Niacin (ﬂush free): 1,500 mg twice daily Coenzyme Q10: 100 to 300 mg daily Policosanol: 10 to 20 mg daily
Fish oil: 5,000 mg daily
Vitamin B12: 800 to 2,000 mcg daily
Folic acid: 1 to 10 mg daily Vitamin B6: 20 to 100 mg daily Trimethylglycine (TMG): 500 to 1,000 mg daily S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe): 400 mg daily
Fish oil: 5,000 mg daily
Vitamin E: 400 to 800 IU daily
Bromelain: 500 mg three times daily between meals
Garlic (Allium sativum): 350 to 500 mg twice daily
If you have cardiovascular disease, see a licensed homeopath for a constitutional rem- edy. If any of the following remedies seem appropriate for you, try them, but only
on a temporary or emergency basis. After that, see a homeopath for further help.
Homeopathy may help you recover from a heart attack. Once you’ve received emer- gency help and are under a doctor’s care, consult with a naturopathic or homeopathic practitioner.
If you have symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 and follow their instructions. While you are waiting for the ambulance to arrive, you can take a 30C potency every two or three minutes.
Aconitum Napellus is for numbness and pain in the left arm. The person feels very fearful and anxious.
Arnica (Arnica montana) is helpful when you have the sensation that your heart is being squeezed or you feel a bruising pain.
Cactus (Cereus grandiﬂorus) can also ease the pain of angina. Take it if you feel as if a band is tightening around your chest.
• If you have a heart attack, ﬁrst call an ambulance. While you are waiting, you can squeeze the tips of the little ﬁngers. This action may reduce the severity of the attack.
• To stimulate circulation around the heart and the chest, use Heart 3 and 7.
• Governing Vessel 24.5 produces a general sense of calm and well-being.
• Conception Vessel 17 relaxes chest tension caused by nerves or sadness.
• Pericardium 3 eases chest pain and anxiety.
• If your anxiety causes heart palpitations, massage Pericardium 6.
A full-body massage improves circulation, steadies the body’s rhythms, and relieves stress. As such, it is a valuable addition to heart disease treatment.
If tension causes pressure in your chest, a neck massage may calm you down and regulate your pulse. You can easily give yourself a simple neck rub by learning a few techniques.
Chiropractic or osteopathic treatment can be helpful for improved circulation.
To strengthen a weakened heart, massage the chest and lung area.
Working the sigmoid colon will prevent gas from backing up and causing pain in the chest.
Many oils stimulate relaxation. Try several until you ﬁnd a few that you like, then alter- nate them to preserve their effectiveness. Some good oils to start with are lavender and jasmine. A diffuser that releases scent into a room will allow you to beneﬁt from an oil’s relaxing qualities all day long.
Add juniper to a massage oil. It will encourage the breakdown of fatty deposits and other toxins.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Conventional medicine is ﬁnally beginning to accept that stress is a primary factor in heart disease. If you have heart disease, you must take several steps to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Dr. Dean Ornish has produced remarkable results by put- ting his patients on a program of yoga and daily meditation. He’s found that even the most resistant of patients have eventually come to enjoy and look forward to these relaxing sessions.
Consider joining a support group for people with heart disease. Again, Dr. Ornish’s work shows that when people can talk out their worries and frustrations with others who share some of their experiences, stress levels decline dramatically, along with the risk of a heart attack (or a repeat heart attack).
Bach Flower Remedies
Consult the chart on pages 648–650 to ﬁnd the appropriate ﬂower remedy for your particular kind of stress. Following are a few suggestions. Once you’ve selected the remedy that meets your needs, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
Sweet Chestnut is helpful for people suffering from great anguish, whether men- tal or physical, and who feel that hope has run out.
People who use aggression to cover up feelings of insecurity will beneﬁt from Holly.
If you work hard and deny yourself pleasures, try Rock Water.
Perfectionists who are rarely satisﬁed and who tend to blame themselves, even for others’ mistakes, should take Pine.
If you are easily irritated and have little patience for others’ slowness, Impatiens will help.
Aspen is for unexplained sudden fears.
• Quit smoking, and eliminate your exposure to secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke is known to weaken artery walls and is one of the leading causes of heart disease.
• Exercise is a crucial component of heart ﬁtness, but you don’t need to force yourself into a punishing regimen. Just enjoy a brisk thirty-minute walk daily; move quickly enough that you’re breathing hard but not so fast that you can’t carry on a conversation. If you have heart disease, see a doctor before begin- ning any exercise program.
• If you’re a heart-disease patient and have been told to lose weight, the dietary suggestions given here should help you take off the pounds safely. People who are very heavy will ﬁnd additional suggestions under the heading Obesity.
• Women who smoke or who are over thirty-ﬁve should not take oral contracep- tives or synthetic hormone replacements. This is particularly true if they are over thirty-ﬁve and smoke.
• If you suffer from depression, you are at a signiﬁcantly greater risk of develop- ing heart disease. See the Depression section for more information.