Understanding Heart Disease – How To Avoid and Reverse

 Everyone should be aware by now the importance of cholesterol and the detrimental effects of LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol accumulates along the artery walls, forming plaque and narrowing arteries. HDL cholesterol actually comes along and cleans up the artery. The higher your HDL cholesterol, the better. Here’s what you don’t know:

Not Bad

LDL cholesterol is not really ‘bad’. The body makes Native LDL cholesterol, it is essential for healthy cells and many different hormones that our bodies need. We could not live without it.

Bad

The problem, and why you’ve heard so many bad things about LDL cholesterol, is only when free radicals change or oxidized native LDL cholesterol. It is this modified LDL cholesterol that is truly ‘bad’.

Antioxidants To The Rescue

Antioxidants, molecules capable of slowing or preventing the oxidation of other molecules, and their supporting nutrients are the trump card in the war against our number- one killer: heart disease.

Oxidized LDL cholesterol isn’t the only instigator behind inflammation of the blood vessels- which is the culprit behind heart disease. Other main causes of inflammation include homocysteine, and the free radicals that cigarette smoking, hypertension, fatty foods, and diabetes cause.

Inflammation’s Role In Heart Disease

The inflammation that takes place in our arteries is quite similar to the inflammatory reactions found elsewhere in our bodies.

There is a thin lining of the artery called endothelium. When it is functioning well it releases an important product called nitrous oxide. The endothelium is an extremely sensitive lining that is vulnerable to even the slightest irritation. Oxidized LDL cholesterol, homocysteine, and excessive free radicals not only irritate the endothelium they also injure and damage the endothelium. The area just under the endothelium is called subendothelial space. When Native LDL cholesterol is able to pass into the endothelial space, it becomes oxidized.

The Defense

Our body has a defense system designed to protect this endothelium of the artery, called Inflammatory Response. When there is an irritation to the endothelium, our body sends white blood cells, monocytes, in an attempt to eliminate the harmful oxidized LDL cholesterol. The monocytes starts gobbling up the oxidized LDL cholesterol in an attempt to minimize the irritation to the endothelium. If Inflammatory Response is successful, the problem is over and the lining of the artery will be repaired.

The Damage Done By The Defense

When we’re healthy the monocytes zoom around, picking up the Native LDL cholesterol and dropping off other Native LDL cholesterol. This is known as a natural feedback mechanism. Monocytes can carry only so many Native LDL cholesterol particles at one time. When Native LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized, the cholesterol particles pose a threat to the body and the monocytes handle these differently. Monocytes pick up the oxidized LDL cells but they don’t let any out. Because the monocytes don’t drop off anymore they get crammed so full of oxidized LDL cholesterol that they (the monocytes) become a foam cell (a cell that looks like a ball of fat).

This foam cell then attaches itself to the lining of the artery and eventually forms the initial defect of hardening of the arteries, which is called a fatty streak (atheroma or plaque). The fatty streak is the initial step in the process called atherosclerosis. Once the fatty streak attaches itself to the endothelium it becomes inflamed. The inflammation attracts more monocytes and in turn changes Native LDL cholesterol to Oxidized LDL cholesterol. This leads to Chronic Inflammatory Response in the endothelium.

The Vicious Cycle

Chronic Inflammatory Response is the underlying cause of heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, and aneurysms. These are altogether classified as cardiovascular disease. When inflammation of the arteries persists, the simple fatty streak begins to change. Not only does the inflammation attract more white cells, the monocytes then stuff themselves with more oxidative LDL cholesterol. This leads to much thicker plaque, and the process of hardening of the arteries is now well under way. The chronic inflammation also causes the muscle layer of the artery to thicken by a process called proliferation, the building up of more and thicker muscle cells. As a result, the artery begins to narrow. Not only is there a buildup of plaque, but there is also a thickening of the artery.

The Hardening

Arteries can keep narrowing to the point that they become occluded (shut off). Patients have dye injected into arteries to find out whether they have narrowing of one or all of their coronary arteries. These patients have usually had symptoms of chest pain or what doctors call unstable angina. The doctor then either opens vessels via angioplasty (ballooning of the artery) or bypass these blockages with surgery.

The Big One

During an inflammatory response the appropriate release of nitrous oxide is blocked from the endothelium, causing the endothelium to function poorly. This in turn causes platelets (a sticky substance) to adhere to the plaque and the artery around the plaque goes into spasm. In half of the heart attacks that happen the plaque ruptures and a clot is formed around the ruptured plaque. In this situation an acute and abrupt total closure of this artery happens, which blocks blood flow to that part of the heart. In the other heart attacks, oxidative stress causes the breakdown of these plaques, which eventually leads to their rupture.

The Good News

The good news is that antioxidants and their supporting nutrients can eliminate or at least significantly reduce all the causes of inflammation in the arteries.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is the most important antioxidant when it comes to hindering the process of hardening of the arteries. The main reason is because vitamin E is fat soluble, making it the most potent antioxidant within a cell wall. Vitamin E actually incorporates itself within the LDL cholesterol. The higher the vitamin E levels within the cell membrane of the native LDL cholesterol, the more resistant the LDL cholesterol is to becoming modified or oxidized. Wherever the native LDL cholesterol goes, vitamin E travels right along with it. Remember, LDL cholesterol does not become oxidized within the artery itself but only when it travels through the thin lining and into the subendothelial space. In the subendothelial space the surrounding cells offer significantly less antioxidant protection. If the vitamin E content of the native LDL cholesterol is high, it is protected from becoming oxidized even if it passes into the subendothelial space. Because the monocyte white cells pick up and drop off native LDL cholesterol, buildup doesn’t occur. Keeping the native LDL cholesterol from being modified would prevent the entire inflammation process from the start.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is the best antioxidant within the plasma or fluid of the blood primarily because it is water-soluble. Vitamin C supplementation preserves and protects the function of the endothelium – and endothelial dysfunction is at the core of this inflammatory process. Maintaining the integrity of this thin lining of the artery is of the utmost concern. Vitamin C is also effective in protecting the LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized within the plasma and the subendothelial space. Vitamin C also regenerates vitamin E and intracellular glutathione so they can be used again and again.

Glutathione

Glutathione is the most potent intracellular antioxidant and is present in every cell. Glutathione is a key antioxidant because it is contained in all the cells that surround the subendothelial space. When you take the nutrients needed for the cell to make more glutathione (selenium, vitamin B2, niacin, and N-acetyl-L-cysteine), you are improving the body’s overall antioxidant defense system.

Bioflavanoids

Thousands of bioflavanoids exist within fruits and vegetables. Here is a rule of thumb: The more varied the color of your fruits and vegetables, the greater variety of bioflavanoids you will get. These extremely potent antioxidants also have anti-allergen and anti-inflammatory properties. Red wine and grape juice have a product called polyphenols, which decreases the formation of oxidized LDL cholesterol. They also help protect the integrity of the endothelium. Grape-seed extract is the best bioflavanoid antioxidant in helping prevent chronic inflammatory disease.

Herbal Supplements

Nature has provided us with life-saving herbs when it comes to heart disease. It cannot be stressed enough to consult your doctor before taking these herbs. If you are already diagnosed with heart disease and especially if you are on medication for your heart disease work with both your doctor and a qualified herbalist. Do not attempt this on your own- your life depends on it.

Hawthorn Berries

Hawthorn berries dilate the blood vessels to allow more blood to flow through which is helpful for those whose arteries are already narrowing. The plaque itself can be cleared long term, if given enough time and taken regularly. Hawthorn is an antioxidant and contains bioflavanoids.

Lime Blossom (Linden)

Lime Blossom produces excellent results, as it has the unique ability to clear any cholesterol deposits in vessels and guard against any further buildup. It has a specific anti-atheroma action. In long term use it will guard against the deposition of cholesterol, also helping the body in the removal of any that has already built up. Lime Blossom is an antioxidant and contains bioflavanoids.

Garlic, Yarrow, and Mistletoe

Garlic has a similar effect as Lime Blossom. Garlic is is an antioxidant, contains bioflavanoids and is a methyl donor. Yarrow and Mistletoe are most effective in the treatment of raised blood pressure, which often accompanies blocked arteries. Yarrow and Mistletoe are also antioxidant’s and contain bioflavanoids.

A Tea To Clean Up Your Arteries

It is not advised to start this tea without your doctor’s approval. These herbs have the same effect as some drugs. If you already have heart disease, you’re more than likely on one of the medication’s that will not mix (That’s putting it lightly.) with these herbs. Check with your doctor, if you’re doctor is not sure then take matter into your hands and find out.

3 parts Lime Blossom

2 parts Hawthorn Berries

2 parts Yarrow

1 part mistletoe

The actual approach for this mixture is dependent on the individual and the progression of the disease. The word ‘parts’ in this recipe is just the measurement. You can decide which measurement size (teaspoon, cup, etc.) to use depending on how much tea you’d like to make. Since this tea is a long term tea I would recommend making a big dry ingredient batch and store in a cool dry place.

This tea should be drunk three times a day. Pour a cup of hot water over the leaves. Cover and let steep 10-15 minutes.

Change And Time

All of the vitamins and supplements mentioned above work together either to eliminate or to decrease the inflammation in the arteries. The synergistic (everything working together) effect of supplementing all these nutrients together is key. It is important to understand that even natural products will not help if diet, exercise, stress levels, as well as smoking and other bad habits are not addressed. You will have to take that important step. The vitamins and supplements will help you prevent this attack in the first place and they will also reverse it. It won’t happen over night and is a slow process but it is a thorough process that is cleaning up what took years to do in the first place.

Homocysteine’s Role In Heart Disease

Homocysteine is an intermediate by-product that we produce when our bodies metabolize an essential amino acid called methionine. Methionine is found in large quantities in our meats, eggs, milk, cheese, white flour, canned foods, and highly processed foods. Our bodies need methionine to survive. Our bodies normally convert homocysteine into either cysteine or back into methionine again.

Cysteine and methionine are benign products and are not harmful in any way. But here’s the catch: the enzymes needed to break down homocysteine into cysteine or methionine need folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6 to do their job. If we are deficient in these nutrients, the levels of homocysteine in the blood begin to rise. Adding additional major risk factors ( hypertension, elevated cholesterol, or smoking), the risk of vascular disease increases dramatically.

High homocysteine levels in the blood plasma are directed related to an increased risk of carotid artery stenosis (the narrowing of the two main arteries supplying blood to the brain).

Unlike cholesterol, which the body needs, homocysteine provides no health benefit. The higher the level of homocysteine, the greater the risk of cardiovascular disease. The lower the level of homocysteine, the better. There is no threshold below which homocysteine becomes okay. You want your homocysteine level to be as low as possible. Do not be pacified by your doctor (they’re waiting for proof), who might tell you that having a homocysteine level of 10 or 11 falls well within the normal range and not to worry. You want your homocysteine level down to at least 9 if you have no sign of heart disease; and below 7 if you already have evidence of heart disease or have other risk factors of heart disease.

There are two factors in the problem of high homocysteine levels. One is the amount of methionine in our diet that the body has to metabolize and break down. This requires us to become careful with the amount of meat, eggs, white flour, canned foods, dairy products, and highly processed foods we consume. (Interestingly, these are the same foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat. There are also the hardest foods for our bodies to digest.) Obviously, we need to replace these foods with more fruits and vegetables as well as vegetable protein. The other factor is providing enough folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 so that the system of enzymes can work efficiently to break down homocysteine. Some people do not respond well to only adding these supplements. For these people, it’s an indication that they have an overall problem with methylation, the biochemical process used by the body to reduce homocysteine to benign or non-harmful products in the body.

Methylation deficiency is responsible for elevated homocysteine levels and is also one of the key underlying problems in some of our major chronic degenerative diseases, especially some cancers, and Alzheimer’s. Elevated homocysteine levels indicate a vitamin B deficiency and also serves as an indicator for decreased levels of ‘methyl’ donors. Methyl donors are not only necessary to decrease homocysteine levels but they also produce important nutrients needed by the brain. If your homocysteine levels don’t come down significantly after 6 – 8 weeks of vitamin B supplements, add a methyl donor to the daily supplemental B vitamins. Garlic is a natural methyl donor and costs pennies. When looking for a garlic supplement make sure it has the true oils of garlic extracted from whole fresh organic bulbs. An even less expensive way is to slice an organic garlic clove and swallow the pill sized slices just like you where taking a supplement pill. Other methyl donors (sold over the counter) are TMG, DMG, SAM-e, and DMAE. The least expensive methyl donor of these is TMG (betaine or trimethylglycine). Again, consult your doctor before you start- there could be interactions with some medications.

Why Isn’t This Common Knowledge

To understand why you’ve never heard of these before is to understand the system we call health care. Cardiovascular surgeons and cardiologists spend their time putting out fires. They typically treat people who are at the end of the inflammatory process, with their entire focus on saving a life. Not much time left to teach patients about the lifestyle changes necessary to slow down or even reverse this devastating disease. Doctors also take all kinds of classes to become doctors and not one of those classes are a required nutrition class (unless it’s for a specific field, maybe). The outcome of natural medicine depends on the patients lifestyle changes (nutritional changes are of the up most importance). Doctor’s can only advise and not force you to make the necessary changes that will have a positive outcome. There’s also the controversial problem of natural products. Natural products can’t be patented. Therefore there is no money in natural products. Pharmaceutical companies do their best to promote the latest and greatest in drugs and spin negative on natural medicine. There is a lot of money being thrown around to keep you confused. Doctors, unfortunately, (and they don’t like it either) are told about the latest and greatest in medicine by pharmaceutical companies and when it comes to natural medicine – we are left without anyone to help. You are really on your own to find good quality information about your natural health and true preventative health care. And although doctor’s won’t come out and recommend natural products to you, they do know that natural medicine works- they may even have patients who are successfully already taking this route. It is up to you to tell the doctor you want to go this route – they’ll be happy to help. It is, after all, your decision.

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Comments
3 Responses to “Understanding Heart Disease – How To Avoid and Reverse”
  1. susan allport says:

    Thought you’d be interested in this short omega-3 video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIgNpsbvcVM

  2. Judith says:

    I enoy all of your Blog. I am most interested in house plants that are healthy.
    however, all helpful hints are taken in too. Osteoporosis is a scary thing to have. I would appreciate anything pertaining to that medical problem. Keep up the good work you are doing. it is a great service to everyone.

  3. Thank you. And what a coincidence… I am currently working on a post for osteoporosis. Look for it soon!

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