Healing Heart Disease Naturally

In the last article, Heart Disease and The Cholesterol Myth, I dispelled the myth that high cholesterol is the cause of heart disease. Cholesterol has been assumed to be the culprit because it happens to be elevated in people who have, or are developing, heart disease.  It is guilty by association – a case of being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Heart Disease

High Cholesterol Does Not Cause Heart Disease

Saying that high cholesterol causes heart disease would be like saying that vultures are vicious killers. While you may not think of vultures as beautiful creatures, they are not killers, they are scavengers.  Vultures are present where there are dead animals because they eat the dead animals and serve to clean up nature.

Similarly, cholesterol is not the enemy of your heart, it is the hero of your healing. Cholesterol  serves as part of your body’s repair system.  It repairs injury and damage throughout your body, especially in your arteries. In fact, more people have heart attacks with normal cholesterol levels than with elevated cholesterol levels.(1) Further, in elderly patients, studies have shown a protective effect of elevated cholesterol, demonstrating a higher rate of death in those with lower cholesterol.(2,3)

So, why does your cholesterol elevate? There are many theories and several valid reasons but the short answer – the underlying cause – is inflammation.(4,5) Whenever inflammation occurs in the body, specifically in the arteries, the liver produces more cholesterol to repair the damage or injury in the body, in this case – the arteries.  Further, inflammation creates an acidic environment in your body which then oxidizes that cholesterol build up, leading to more  arterial plaques.

Should You Lower Your Cholesterol?

Cholesterol and Heart Disease

Image courtesy of taoty at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Does it make sense to lower your cholesterol artificially? No. Statin drugs lower cholesterol artificially but they do not lower your risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.

Importantly, while many cardiologists insist that lowering cholesterol is correlated with a reduction in the risk of heart attacks; few can say that there is a reduction in the risk of mortality (death). That has been much harder to show. In other words it has never been conclusively shown that lowering cholesterol saves lives. In fact, several large studies have shown that lowering cholesterol into the range currently recommended is correlated with an increased risk of dying, especially of cancer.”(5)  Ron Rosedale, MD

To reverse heart disease and truly reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, you must find the cause of the elevated cholesterol and eliminate the cause.  Find the source of the inflammation that is damaging the arteries, causing your liver to increase cholesterol production, causing oxidation of cholesterol, and allowing plaque build ups in your arteries.

Elevated cholesterol is not the disease or the cause of heart disease; it is merely another symptom of heart disease. Chasing down another symptom will only perpetuate the problem, causing your body to decline further and further from a state of true health and wellness. Stop covering up the symptoms! Correct the cause and you will begin to experience more vibrant health.  You will then be on your path to achieving optimal wellness!

Common sense would indicate that we should avoid the oxidation (rancidity) of cholesterol and fatty acids and not get rid of important life-giving molecules. Using the same conventional medical thinking that is being used for cholesterol would lead one to believe that doctors should reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by taking out everybody’s brain.”(5)  Ron Rosedale, MD

Inflammation – The Real Cause of Heart Disease

Inflammation has been implicated in many, if not all, disease processes in the body.  Aha! The enemy is inflammation, you may now be thinking! To a certain degree, that is true.

Heart Disease and Inflammation

Inflammation: The Secret Killer

Inflammation was even featured as the cover article of Time Magazine in February 2004“The Secret Killer: The Surprising Link Between Inflammation, Heart Disease, Cancer, Alzheimer’s and Other Diseases. What you can do to fight it.” However, just as we saw in this video from CBS News in the last post, with Dr. Harlan Krumholz indicating the problem but no new solution; this Time magazine article also correctly identified the problem – even bringing much needed attention to the situation – but only offered up the same old medical testing and pharmaceutical drugs as an answer.

If chemically altering the body’s natural processes with pharmaceuticals were the answer, then, after more than a hundred years of drugging our health problems, we should be far healthier than this! Unfortunately, the discovery of this link between inflammation and the disease process  has also led to the overuse of anti-inflammatory medications, which is not the cure. Inflammation is actually the body’s first defense against infection and injury. It is a vital part of your body’s healing process.  It should not be turned off completely by medications.  However, it should be (and can be) brought back into proper balance through healthy lifestyle corrections.

Understanding Inflammation and Heart Disease

When injury or infection occur, your body produces an inflammatory response in order to aid in healing the injury and/or killing the infectious invader.  What happens when you miss-judge the curb of the sidewalk or trip over a hole in the yard?  You may sprain your ankle. This causes an over-stretching, sometimes tearing, of the ligaments that stabilize your ankle joints.  This injury leads to an inflammatory response, indicated outwardly by pain, heat, redness, and swelling.

Inside, your body is busy healing the injured ligaments and cleaning out the debris caused by the injury.  What do you do about this? You apply RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation – and eventually (a few days to a few weeks), your ankle is healed and you are back to normal. Does RICE heal the sprained ankle or the inflammation?  No, your body is intelligently designed to do all the healing. Applying RICE simply aids your body in its own natural healing process. You are a natural born healer.

Your body does not need any help in healing – it just needs no interference! <–Tweet This!

Now, let’s apply this to our what happens in the arteries.  When injury occurs to the lining of our arteries, your body releases chemicals to initiate the process of inflammation just like it does in your injured ankle ligaments. The arteries constrict, blood becomes more prone to clot, white blood cells are called to the area to gobble up damaged cells and debris and cells nearby the injury site begin to multiply.

Ultimately, scar tissue forms. Inside our arteries we call it plaque. The constriction of your arteries and the “thickening” of your blood further predisposes you to high blood pressure and heart attacks if the inflammation continues and healing never occurs.

What if you interfered with that natural healing process in your ankle injury?  What if you did not rest and allow your body to heal but, instead, you kept walking on that injured ankle? Your sprained ankle would remain swollen, taking much longer to heal and, in fact, it may never heal completely.  It may become a chronic injury that bothers you every time you do strenuous activity on your feet or every time the weather changes.  Sound familiar?  Maybe you have an old, chronic knee injury or a bum hip that does the same thing.

The truth is that the standard American lifestyle, the way we live day to day, is interfering with our body’s healing process.  This has caused an epidemic of inflammation in our own bodies, leading to skyrocketing disease rates.  Unfortunately, many people take the easy way out – covering the symptoms of these diseases with dangerous medications, rather than identifying and correcting the cause.

In our fast paced, fast food, no-time-for-exercise, shortcut society, we often experience chronic injury inside our bodies that is unseen and often goes unnoticed. Most people judge their health based simply on how they feel, mistakenly assuming, that if they feel fine, then they are healthy.  However, most diseases produce no tangible symptoms until it is far too late.

For example, Heart Disease, known as a Silent Killer, is the second leading cause of death in our country.  (And yes, I do mean second – there is something killing more Americans than heart disease, which I will discuss at a later time).  In fact, the most common symptom of heart disease is not chest pain, as many would think, nor is it even a benign heart attack.  The most common  symptom of heart disease is sudden death due a fatal heart attack.

In other words, there are thousands of people walking around, assuming that they are healthy, who will experience a life ending heart attack, never even knowing that they had heart disease.  Thus, the name: Silent Killer.  We cannot base our health simply on how we feel!  Feelings are deceptive.

5 Causes of Inflammation & Heart Disease

Heart Disease...Choices...

Choices…
(Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Our modern society is inflammatory by nature. This is why heart disease kills so many people every year.  We must learn to live in this modern society without succumbing to the resulting effects of it. That is what a Wellness Lifestyle is all about. The way we eat, the way that we exercise and even the way that we think can cause inflammation to run out of control in our bodies. Reversing this starts with identifying some common causes of inflammation.

1. Sugar, Grain and Refined Carbohydrates.

When you consume sugar, your body releases insulin, a hormone that helps guide sugar molecules into your cells where it is turned into energy. However, when you consume excess sugar, including grains and refined carbohydrates which your body quickly converts to sugar, your body produces excess insulin in an attempt to deal with this onslaught of sugar.

This leads to insulin resistance (6) causing excess inflammation throughout the body, leading to accelerated aging, elevated cholesterol, hypertension, congestive heart failure, diabetes, osteoporosis, thyroid problems, and many other metabolic syndromes.

White sugar and refined carbohydrates should be completely eliminated from anyone’s diet who desires to conquer disease and achieve wellness. Even healthy, unrefined grains, such as whole wheat and brown rice should be eliminated until the disease process is overcome. Once you are maintaining good health, unrefined grains can be consumed in moderation.

2. Unhealthy Fats

Research shows that trans fatty acids cause increased systemic inflammation(7) by also altering your body’s normal metabolic processes. There is much confusion as well as much hype about fat in our diet. The FACT is that every cell in your body is composed of an outer layer of fat and nerve and brain cells are composed of nearly 100% fat.  Therefore, your body requires fat.

There are even some fats that your body cannot produce on its own and requires them to come from your diet.  These are called essential fatty acids (EFA). It is not about whether or not you consume fat, it is about what kind of fat you consume. Consuming damaged, easily oxidized fats will cause an inflammatory response, continuing systemic inflammation in your body. Examples of unhealthy fats include trans fats, fat in fried foods, vegetable oil, canola oil, fat in commercial meats and dairy products, and overheated healthy fats (such as cooking with olive oil).

3. Acidity

All diseases (from bacterial and viral infections to cancer) thrive in an acidic environment. However, your body is designed to express great health in a slightly alkaline environment. Consuming acidic foods and beverages creates an acidic internal environment in your body leading to increased systemic inflammation and disease risk.

Sugar and refined carbohydrates, as well as, damaged fats, are not only a primary sources of inflammation but also create acidity in the body. Other acidic foods include all conventional meat and dairy products, soda, salt, caffeine, and alcohol. These must be avoided or at least strictly limited if the goal is beating heart disease and achieving wellness.

4. Toxicity

Allowing toxins into your body causes internal injury very similar to an external injury such as a cut on your skin.  For this reason, toxins are major contributors to inflammation and many diseases.

We live in a world of toxicity. Most of us are exposed to more toxins than we ever realized.  Here are some common sources: all artificial sweeteners, chemicals in processed foods, MSG in just about everything, all medications (whether prescription or over the counter), pesticides applied to traditional produce, traditional cleaning chemicals, and typical personal care products (deodorants, shampoos, cosmetics, etc).

And that is toxicity you are exposed to all before you even leave your house in the morning! These toxins must be eliminated. I am not suggesting that you stop using deodorant or cosmetics but there are non-toxic, healthier alternatives.

5. Little or No Exercise (or too much of certain kinds of exercise)

We all know that little to no exercise results in excess weight and eventually obesity.  Excess fat tissue increases inflammation and also serves as extra storage space for toxins in your body.  However, before you decide to go hit the treadmill for an hour, you also need to understand that exercising the wrong way will cause hormonal and metabolic  imbalance, leading to worse inflammation!

4 Components Of An Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle

Once again, it is not about eliminating inflammation. We need inflammation to heal normally.  It is about bringing inflammation back into balance and allowing our body to heal naturally, the way it was designed. The most important thing to focus on in the process of healing inflammation, as well as, any disease process is that it is about LIFESTYLE. There is no quick fix or magic three week diet.  It is about living a life that creates health. However, just as importantly, you do not have to make these lifestyle changes overnight!

Healing Heart Disease Naturally

Anti-Inflammatory Foods Protect Your Heart
(mage courtesy of nirots at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

1. Anti-inflammatory Diet

Most sources of inflammation stem from an acidic and inflammatory diet and reversing this is key to healing inflammation. The first consideration in an anti-inflammatory diet is eliminating the inflammatory foods mentioned above.

The second facet is incorporating as many alkaline foods as possible into your daily diet. This includes all vegetables (the less cooked, the better), low sugar fruits (berries and green apples), most nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds), and healthy fats (coconut milk, coconut oil, avocados, olives, olive oil {not for cooking}, grape seed oil {okay for cooking}, saturated fat in organic grass fed meats, clean fish oil)

2. Metabolic Conditioning Exercise

While low intensity, long duration exercise (such as jogging or going for a run) has some great health benefits such as reducing blood pressure, lowering resting heart rate, and aiding in detoxification, it also comes with some rather negative consequences.(8)  It raises stress hormones like cortisol which stimulates appetite, is catabolic (breaks down muscle), increases fat storing, and slows down or inhibits exercise recovery. It decreases testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH), both necessary to build muscle and burn fat. Additionally, it has been shown to decrease immune function after exercise. Who wants to invest precious time and energy into exercise with results like that?

However, metabolic conditioning exercise produces the opposite, more desirable results.  It is characterized by high intensity, short duration exercises. It results in increases in growth hormone and testosterone and decreases in the stress hormone cortisol. This supercharges your body’s fat burning and muscle building/toning, stops inflammation and reverses metabolic syndromes (diabetes, obesity, syndrome X, heart disease). Best of all, it can be accomplished in as little as 12-15 minutes per day!

3. Eliminate Toxicity

This is not necessarily easy but it is simple.  All of the toxins listed above need to be eliminated. Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet and incorporating exercise will help your body detoxify naturally on a daily basis.

4. Optimized Nervous System

All of this is extremely limited when your nervous system is stressed. Your nervous system is responsible for controlling and coordinating the function of every organ, tissue and cell of your body. Your body’s ability to assimilate the essential nutrients from your diet is dependent upon an optimally functioning nervous system. Your body’s abilities to burn fat and build muscle, to detoxify, to build a healthy heart are all dependent on the proper flow of nerve energy from your brain to those organs and tissues.

To get the best results from you wellness lifestyle, it is essential to incorporate regular chiropractic care to remove interference from your nervous system.  Your first step – and the most important health screening for you – is to have a Chiropractic Physician evaluate your nervous system for any interference.

These Four Components are vital to healing heart disease and achieving wellness. Additionally, there certainly are many nutritional and herbal supplements that can aid you in healing heart disease such as omega-3 supplements like fish oil, CoQ10, magnesium, garlic, and hawthorn herb. However, beginning to incorporate the essentials of these four concepts will serve as the basis for your healing and will take you far along on your journey of wellness!

 

References for this article:

(1)University of California – Los Angeles. “Most Heart Attack Patients’ Cholesterol Levels Did Not indicate Cardiac Risk.” ScienceDaily, 13 Jan. 2009.

(2) Cholesterol and all-cause mortality in Honolulu. The Lancet, Volume 358, Issue 9296, Pages 1903-1904, 1 December 2001.

(3) Schatz IJ, Masaki K, Yano K, Chen R, Rodriguez BL, Curb JD. Cholesterol and all-cause-mortality in elderly people from the Honolulu Heart Program: a cohort study. Lancet 2001; 358: 351-355.

(4) The Benefits of High Cholesterol – Weston A Price Foundation. Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD. 24 June 2004 19:25 – Last Updated 09 June 2009 15:32.

(5) Cholesterol is NOT the Cause of Heart Disease.  Ron Rosedale, MD. May 28, 2005. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2005/05/28/cholesterol-heart.aspx

(6) Insulin and Its Metabolic Effects. Ron Rosedale, MD. July 14, 2001. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2001/07/14/insulin-part-one.aspx

(7) Dietary intake of trans fatty acids and systemic inflammation in women. Mozaffarian D, et. al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Apr; 79(4):606-12

(8) Physiological Consequences of Extreme Aerobic Activity. Brian Sutton MS, MA, PES, CES, NASM-CPT | Nov 15, 2012. http://www.nasm.org/trainer-resources/articles/2012/11/15/physiological-consequences-of-extreme-aerobic-activity

Chiropractic Physician

My mission is to help you Achieve Wellness! I am a Chiropractic physician with a focus on delivering the principles of a wellness lifestyle to people of all ages through whole-person wellness education.