How To Rebuild An Ageing Heart And Reverse Heart Disease in Older People.
Assess Your Risk For Heart Disease First.
Before looking into the natural healing remedies, the cures that the naturopathic or the alternative medicine has to offer to older people to take care of an ageing heart, it is important to know how to assess one’s risk for heart disease.
There are a number of tests available nowadays which you can take to determine whether you are at risk for heart disease. And anyone above 50 should know some of these tests because 95% of all heart attacks occur in people above age 50.
Let’s start with the listing of all the available tests which a traditional cardiologist might request. But I will not describe each of them because for naturopathic doctors just two are the tests most important to evaluate the state of your cardiovascular system. They will be described following this list:
- 1 CT Scans.
- 2 EKG (electrocardiogram).
- 3 Stress Test.
- 4 Echocardiogram.
- 5 Ankle-Brachial Index.
- 6 Thyroid Levels Check..
- 7 Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening.
- 8 Diabetic Screening.
- 9 Hemoglobin A1C Test.
- 10 Lipid Panel.
- 11 C-Reactive Protein Test (CRP).
- 12 Blood Pressure Screening.
- 13 Ultrasound of the Carotid Arteries.
The Most Important Heart Tests
BUT, for naturopathic doctors the tests most important to evaluate the state of your cardiovascular system are just two: The Homocysteine Levels Test, in the list above, and The C-Reactive Protein Test (CRP).
These tests do not just tell you whether your heart is healthy or diseased, they help you determine quantitatively your overall heart health. They are simple, easy, inexpensive, and let you know what you are doing well and what you need to improve. You can then use them as a scale to track your progress.
The Homocysteine Levels Test
Not part of the list above, a simple blood test but which few traditional doctors have heard of.
Homocysteine is linked to the oxidation process. Oxidation is the process that generates energy, the “slow burn” of metabolism — the process of burning energy to fuel all of your body’s work. But when this burning goes uncontrolled, it can inflame and damage surrounding tissue.
Homocysteine is an amino acid produced naturally by your body during normal metabolism. It is the final common product of oxidation in your body. Homocysteine accumulates in the body during oxidation, therefore its measurement is a measure of the health of the body’s antioxidant systems.
Antioxidants prevent homocysteine from accumulating so homocysteine levels indicate how healthy and successful our antioxidant systems are. If the homocysteine level is high in your blood, it means that the fire of oxidation is overwhelming the antioxidants and damaging the heart and blood vessels.
Homocysteine, besides a measure of antioxidant health, is an actual indicator of cardiovascular inflammation. At low levels, the body can handle homocysteine, but when the levels rise above the normal range, it damages the arteries.
Homocysteine also increases the formation of arterial plaque and makes the platelets in your blood stickier. This increases the risk of forming blood clots, which can cause heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism. A number of studies have demonstrated the link between high homocysteine levels and heart attack and stroke.
For example, the Physicians’ Health Study concluded that people with high homocysteine levels are three times more likely to have a heart attack. One of the major causes of elevated homocysteine levels is a deficiency of B vitamins.
Additional factors that may increase a person’s homocysteine levels include:
- Family history of elevated homocysteine;
- Age (homocysteine levels rise with age);
- Gender (homocysteine levels are higher in men than women);
- Kidney disease (homocysteine levels rise when the kidneys fail to filter homocysteine adequately);
- Use of medication (homocysteine levels rise with the use of certain drugs, such as phenytoin, methotrexate, cyclosporine, levodopa, theophylline, niacin, and cholestyramine);
- Underactive thyroid gland;
- Inflammatory bowel disease;
- High blood pressure;
- Homocystinuria (a genetic condition in which high levels of homocysteine are excreted in the urine).
Luckily keeping homocysteine levels in check and reducing it is quite easy with an adequate consumption of vitamin B2, vitamin B12, and folate (B9). The body uses these B vitamins to detoxify homocysteine and turn it into a harmless amino acid.
Recommended doses are
- 25 mg of B2,
- 25 mg of B6,
- 500 mcg of B12, and
- 800 mcg of folate.
A simple blood test can assess the amount of homocysteine in your body. An optimal measure is less than 8 mmol/l.
The C-reactive protein (CRP) Test
Is a very effective predictor of heart disease. When the body experiences acute inflammation anywhere in the body -including the arteries, the liver releases CRP. Normally, the blood contains no CRP. Therefore, its presence indicates a problem somewhere in the body.
Blood tests for C-reactive protein have been around for 30 years, but they have been used as a marker of end-of-life changes when the body begins shutting down before death. Today, the CRP blood tests are ultrasensitive and indicate signs of chronic minor inflammation. They can be used to detect heart disease.
The British Journal of Urology published a study that examined the CRP levels of almost 400 people. They found that once the CRP levels reached twice the normal level, the study participants were 150% more likely to suffer a heart attack.
Elevated levels of CRP can also predict potential heart attacks years before they occur.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997 followed more than 22,000 men as part of the ongoing Physicians’ Health Study. When the men first enrolled in the study, they were free of heart disease and gave blood samples. Eight years later, 543 of the men experienced a heart attack, stroke, or a blood clot in a major vessel.
Researchers compared the blood samples from these men to those from men in the study who did not have cardiovascular disease.
Men with the highest levels of CRP were twice as likely to have had a stroke and three times as likely to have had a heart attack as the men with normal CRP levels. Keep in mind that these elevated CRP levels were present in the blood six to eight years before the cardiovascular event took place.
Research at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston demonstrated that C-reactive protein is a very strong predictor of future heart attacks — even stronger than cholesterol. In one study, women with the highest levels of CRP were at 4.4 times the risk of heart attack as women with the lowest levels.
Elevated CRP levels can also indicate additional medical problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever, cancer, tuberculosis, or pneumonia.
- Have your CRP levels checked each year as part of your annual physical exam.
- Keep score: When it comes to C-reactive protein levels, lower is better. Healthy people score levels below 1 unit; scores above 4 units indicate signs of heart disease. Scores 20 and above indicate the body approaches death.
- Request these two tests to your doctor, and have these tests completed at the same time as your annual physical exam.
Warning: You may have no obvious signs of heart disease but with these tests you will learn if you have hidden cardiovascular problems even if a standard cardiology evaluation has given you a clean bill of health.
How Aging Influences Your Heart
Aging makes your heart weaker, reducing your strength, stamina, physical performance and making you more vulnerable to heart disease. The signs of a failing heart are:
- Reduced stroke volume: the amount of blood your heart pumps with each beat.
- Increase of the maximum heart rate: the number of times your heart can beat in one minute.
- Reduced blood vessel elasticity: the flexibility of your blood vessels as blood flows through them.
- Reduced cardiac output: the amount of blood your heart can pump in one minute.
And What Can Be Done To Rebuild It
If you ask a conventional doctor what you can do to get protection from heart disease, besides the usual recommendation of conventional medicine (keep lowering your cholesterol, move more, eat less meat, less saturated fats, and stop smoking), you will certainly get their favourite: a prescription for a cholesterol-lowering drug.
Unfortunately this advices have few chances of preventing heart disease, but they will certainly put you on the track to other chronic diseases, including obesity and cancer.
A Moment To Tell The Truth About The Myth Of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is still considered the cause of heart disease by most conventional doctors. Cholesterol can give you useful information about your health and fitness, BUT cholesterol is not a valid predictor of heart disease.
Recently, the University Hospital in Switzerland announced that cholesterol fails to demonstrate a statistically significant connection with coronary artery disease.
More and more researches have shown that more than 70 percent of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels. Still, most doctors continue to retain conventional total cholesterol levels as the best predictor of heart attacks.
According to the well known Framingham Heart Study, where the population of Framingham, a small town close to Boston, was followed for 50 years tracking risk factors for heart disease, researchers reported that
- 80 percent of heart attack patients had similar lipid levels to those who did not have heart attacks, and that
- almost half of the people in the study who had a heart attack had low cholesterol, and that,
- as the study participants grew older, the association between cholesterol and heart disease became weaker. In fact, for men above age 47, cholesterol levels made no difference in cardiovascular mortality.
- high levels of HDL are directly related to lower risk of heart disease,
- increased HDL could reduce coronary disease independent of LDL cholesterol.
Consequently it can be deducted that since 95% of all heart attacks occur in people above age 48, then most people do not have to worry about their cholesterol levels!
The Framingham study shows also that higher levels of HDL are directly related to lower risk of heart disease. In fact, it showed that increased HDL could reduce coronary disease independent of LDL cholesterol.
Other data from the Framingham study also support the finding that when blood cholesterol decreases, the risk of dying actually increases.
According to research from the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Yale, nearly twice as many people with low cholesterol had a heart attack -compared with those with high cholesterol levels.
It is undeniable that blood cholesterol is involved in the accumulation of plaque in the arteries and this buildup narrowing the arteries and restricting blood flow leads to heart attacks and strokes. But it is the plaque buildup that is dangerous, not the presence of cholesterol itself.
It is undeniable also that Pharmaceutical companies are making billions of dollars annually thanks to the myth that cholesterol causes heart disease, therefore they recommend and educate doctors that it is necessary to keep taking drugs to lower cholesterol.
Also a growing number of independent drug trials do not support the connection between cholesterol and heart disease:
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute conducted the Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial to test the effectiveness of cholestyramine, a drug known to lower cholesterol. Seven years later, researchers analyzed the data and found that the cholesterol levels decreased by 8 percent but there were no statistically significant differences in heart attacks rates.
The Story Of Statin Drugs.
The drug companies introduced statin drugs in 1994. Researchers have summarized all drug trials published after 1994 and their studies found that the number of deaths from heart attack was equal in the treatment and control groups. And the total number of deaths was actually greater in the treatment groups.
None of the trials showed any statistically significant decrease in the death rate from coronary disease. What it all boils down to is that these cholesterol lowering drugs lower cholesterol but they do not decrease deaths from heart attack.
Besides only lowering blood cholesterol levels, slightly reduce inflammation and doing almost nothing to lower death rates for cardiovascular disease, unfortunately statin drugs
- interfere with the body’s production of cholesterol,
- block the production of other essential nutrients, including coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and
- cause many other serious problems that we have already seen.
Statin drugs are also very expensive: a typical dose costs about $1,000 to $1,500 per year. They are the most profitable drugs for Big Pharma, in history to date generating over $20 billion a year. These profits buy a lot of propaganda such as lobbyists in Washington, direct-to-consumer advertising, and marketing to doctors including free continuing medical education about how to prescribe the drugs!
Because HDL is the single most important cholesterol factor determining your risk of developing heart disease, instead of worrying about lowering your total cholesterol level or the LDL level just raise your HDL cholesterol.
You are at no greater risk of heart disease if your total cholesterol is 350 than if it’s 150.
How To Boost Your Heart Naturally
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This essential antioxidant is important to maintain a healthy heart but cholesterol-lowering statin drugs slash the levels of CoQ10 in the body by as much as 40 percent. Unfortunately, most doctors don’t know enough about the link between statin drugs and CoQ10 to recommend that their patients take supplements, some even discourage the use of CoQ10 and other nutritional supplements.
More than 100 studies show the cardiac benefits of CoQ10.
CoQ10 is an essential cofactor your body uses to derive energy for the normal function of all your major organs. It is a powerful antioxidant present in every cell in your body, you cannot survive without it.
There are two forms of CoQ10, ubiquinone, and its more powerful reduced form, ubiquinol.
CoQ10 is especially important to the organs, like your heart, brain, kidneys, and liver who consume more energy which CoQ10 can provide. Besides this coenzyme gives the body five more vital benefits:
- Destroys free radicals before they can damage your cell membranes.
- Prevents arteriosclerosis by reducing the accumulation of oxidized fat in your blood vessels.
- Eases heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
- Reduces chest pain and improves exercise tolerance in patients with chronic stable angina.
- Regulates the rhythm of the heart rate.
Effects Of Coenzyme Q10 on Mitochondria The Cells Of Energy
Mitochondria are structures in your cells that manufacture energy at the cellular level. To make energy and work effectively, the mitochondria need plenty of CoQ10, which helps in the chemical reactions required for energy production. Virtually every cell in the body has its own energy-producing Mitochondria
Mitochondria are designed to meet the needs of each individual cell, and most cells contain between 500 and 2,000 mitochondria with the highest concentrations of mitochondria located in the busiest cells of the body including the brain, heart and kidneys.
The mitochondria uses all those nutrients, like glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids, that the body creates from the foods we eat. If the mitochondria break down long enough, producing less energy, this debilitates the heart, and you experience chronic fatigue. This is a systemic energy crisis that compromises the body immune system, leaving it more vulnerable to attack from bacteria, viruses, and additional pathogens.
A number of studies found that people who suffer from ailments associated with aging – including cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, have abnormally low levels of CoQ10 and high levels of mitochondria failure.
Lab measurements of CoQ10 levels have shown that
- Young people (almost always have adequate levels of CoQ10.
- CoQ10 deficiencies in people in their forties and beyond are commonly CoQ10 deficient
- Long-duration endurance exercisers have lower levels of CoQ10.
- People with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or low HDL cholesterols. are also commonly deficiencient in CoQ10
- People avoiding red meat and vegetarians are also extremely low in CoQ10.
So Take CoQ10 To Reverse Heart Disease Naturally
Dr. Karl Folkers -one of the pioneering CoQ10 researchers who discovered its chemical structure, and his colleagues, found CoQ10 deficiency in a majority of people with heart disease. Measuring the levels of CoQ10 in heart tissue biopsies it was found low levels of CoQ10 in 50% to 75% of patients with various types of heart disease.
In a remarkable study conducted between 1985 and 1993, by Dr. Folkers with Dr. Peter Langsjoen, a Texas cardiologist, observing 424 people who received CoQ10 and conventional medicine treatments for heart disease, and assessing their progress according to the New York Heart Association functional scale (which rates the heart disease ratings ranging from I (the least serious) to IV (the most serious), found that: after taking CoQ10,
- 58% of the patients improved one category,
- 28% improved two categories, and
- 1.2% improved three categories. In addition,
- 43% of the patients cut back or eliminated their cardiac medication.
- CoQ10 also helps lower blood pressure.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study in the Journal of Human Hypertension followed two groups of people with hypertension. The group who took CoQ10 after eight weeks showed a significant reduction in blood pressure.
In a study reported by Molecular Aspects of Medicine about patients taking CoQ10 and prescription drugs for high blood pressure, researchers found that more than 50 percent of all patients on blood pressure drugs were able to stop using their medications when they began taking supplemental CoQ10
In a University of Texas study, people with high blood pressure who took oral CoQ10 just for one month all experienced marked improvements in blood pressure and 51 percent of the participants were able to discontinue their blood pressure medication.
While many medications for cardiovascular disease have unpleasant side effects, including fatigue, nausea, and dizziness. CoQ10 offers many of the same health benefits as prescription drugs do without their harmful side effects.
Of the several forms of CoQ10 available ubiquinol, the more powerful, reduced form of CoQ10, is recommend. It’s 8 times more bio-available than the traditional form ubiquinone and more cost effective.
Take 50 mg of ubiquinol a day if you’re in good health just to maintain your heart’s normal function as you age.
A stronger dose of 100 mg to 200 mg of ubiquinol a day in divided doses is recommended if you’re recovering from a heart attack or dealing with a form of heart disease.
Move, But Wisely, To Reverse Heart Disease With Short Duration Exercising.
Avoid long-duration exercise which is a waste of your time, and will actually cause other health problems. This type of exercise makes the heart and lungs more efficient, but it reduces their reserve capacity which is much more important and is crucial for your heart survival to a heart attack.
The reserve capacity is your body’s ability to respond effectively to sudden demands you place on it. For your heart, reserve capacity means the difference between a long healthy life -and sudden death from a heart attack.
When you exercise continuously for more than about 10 minutes, your heart, in the effort to becoming more efficient, downsizes. Long-duration exercise makes the heart, lungs, and muscles smaller so that they can go longer with less energy — but there’s a trade-off.
The cardiovascular system becomes very good at handling a 60-minute jog, but in so doing it will loose the ability to rapidly provide you with big bursts of energy for short periods. This makes you more vulnerable to a heart attack. Your heart needs to count an a large reserve of energy to be able to respond to a sudden increase in cardiac demand as it happens with a heart attack.
The purpose of good exercise has to be just the strengthening of your heart by building reserve capacity.
A specific program for this purpose, called PACE, has been developed through years of working with athletes, trainers and patients by Dr. Sears specifically designed to make your body build the reserve energy your heart might need.
You will do a series of short bursts of exercise, and rest in between. This video explains and shows the concepts of PACE:
Until next time.