Although Valentine’s Day has come and gone, I think any time is a good time to comment on how important it is for all of us to take care of ourselves – for ourselves and for all of those who love and rely on us.
And, if I had had any temptation to put this post off until next February, it would have been cast aside a few weeks ago, when findings from the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research, stated that (while helpful in preventing cardiac events in patients who have already had an event) people at low-risk for heart disease should think twice before taking cholesterol-lowering statins – something that I’ve been telling my patients for years. In fact, I am so passionate about this topic I wrote a whole book on it: The All-Natural Cardio Cure. But, first, back to the study…
Upon reviewing past medical literature, researchers estimated that treating 1,000 people with little or no risk of heart disease with statins for one year would lower the number of deaths from nine to eight. Unfortunately, they also found that many past reports – all funded by pharmaceutical companies – were unsound. Why? Because past studies focused only on benefits – only about half of them mentioned the side effects of the drugs, and those that did downplayed them. And none mentioned that the majority of patients in the studies drop out because of the side effects that occur!
In fact, I predicted in my book (which was published in 2004), that ‘additional studies may begin to call into question the praise that statins have received in the medical community. I’ve remained upset by the mass administration of statins for high cholesterol. Why? Because I haven’t seen a compelling study that shows that statins truly affect the outcomes of those who have little or no cardiac risk factors other than high cholesterol.
Statin treatment is solely focused on lowering cholesterol numbers, but only 50 percent of people who suffer from a cardiac event actually have high cholesterol. This means that half the people who have heart attacks have them for other reasons. It also underscores that other risk factors are as important as – or perhaps even more important than – cholesterol. And, since we cannot live without cholesterol, we need to really think about what we are using to control it. Cholesterol is only dangerous when it becomes oxidized. Our body needs cholesterol to synthesize the naturally-occurring steroids in our body and to help us produce progesterone, testosterone, estrogen – really all of our sex hormones, which, when decreased, lead to muscle aches and pains, depression, anxiety and low libido. Many people who experience these side effects of statin use assume – or are told – that the pain, forgetfulness or other symptoms are a result of “getting older.” And while many of these feelings are often age-related, I can tell you that growing older does not mean you have to feel stiff and achy, edgy and irritable or forgetful and flaky!
Luckily, there are plenty of natural alternatives that reduce cholesterol and inflammation –another potential cardiovascular health inhibitor. These include:
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids – found in fish oil supplements and flaxseed oil
- Curcumin – found in turmeric and available in supplement form; helps lower oxidized LDL (bad cholesterol) levels
- Flavonoids – antioxidants found in blueberries, oranges, onions, tea and cocoa
- Monounsaturated Fatty Acids – found in avocados, dark chocolate and nuts; can reduce total cholesterol levels in the blood and increase the ratio of HDL ("good"cholesterol) to LDL ("bad" cholesterol).
- Resveratrol – found in the skin of red grapes and even red wine; often best to take in supplement form
- Green Tea Extract – an herbal derivative of green tea rich in antioxidants
- Red Yeast Rice – a naturally-occurring Chinese extract that statin drugs have been modeled after
- Plant Sterols – found in vegetables, whole grains and legumes, these plant substances have been proven to lower cholesterol levels
I’ve treated thousands of patients successfully using only natural alternatives to statins.Rather than “popping a pill” and hoping for the best when it comes to side effects, my patientsfollow a cardiovascular health enhancement program I created that I affectionately call DEAR. The program focuses on:
- Diet – An eating plan rich in phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and amino acids, especially “super foods”, and one that takes into account a person’s unique special needs
- Exercise – A sedentary lifestyle is one of the most serious risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease – I work with my patients to develop an activity plan that takes into account their risk factors, interests, budget and time constraints, and includes aerobic exercise, as well as strength training and flexibility work.
- Additional Supplementation – Ensure an adequate supply of all necessary nutrients with supplements, with dosages customized to take into account a person’s age, weight, general medical condition, health history, etc.
- Relaxation – Identifying the stressors in a person’s life, then working to find ways to alleviate them – whether through practical alternatives, meditation, exercise-based meditation, acupuncture, massage or a better connection to others – is critical to overall cardiovascular health.
I like the name DEAR because I believe to achieve true cardiovascular health, you must love and care about yourself. I’m not talking about a selfish mentality here. Rather, I’m talking about the love that is at the heart of all holistic medicine and involves nurturing the body, mind and spirit with healthy food, exercise and supplements and medication, only when necessary, as well as with intellectual, emotional and spiritual forms of stimulation, relaxation and fun!
Show yourself how much you care by committing to making the changes necessary to decrease your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health, naturally. I promise, in doing so, you’ll also be giving the best gift to all of those you hold dear, as well.