© 2014 Dr. Sharon Norling
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What do rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal disease, toxins, brain chemistry, hormones and low vitamin D have in common with heart disease? All of them can cause heart disease! This may be why you may know people who have had a heart attack, stroke or heart disease without having the usual risk factors.
We all know the importance of diet, exercise and stress reduction. You know pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed. What else do you need to know and what are the other effective options?
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is one of the major progressive, lifelong diseases affecting the lives of one out of two men and one out of three women. The diagnosis and occurrence of cardiac events happen around age 55 in men and 65 in women.
The disease begins silently in adolescence and slowly progresses in middle age. With childhood obesity and the sedentary lifestyle of the younger generation, children must have their cholesterol, lipids and blood pressure checked. Prevention needs to begin with children. Abnormal lipid profiles are the highest risk factor for CVD—higher than smoking.
Cardiovascular Risk Factors Relative Risk
Elevated ApoB/Apo A1 (abnormal lipids) 3.25
Psychological factors 2.67
Abdominal obesity 1.12
Although heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., you have more influence in preventing it than you think. Cholesterol levels (good-HDL and bad-LDL), essential fatty acid deficiencies/imbalances, high carbohydrate intake, stress, neurotransmitters, hormones, vitamin D, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), even tea and chocolate all play important roles in your heart health.
Preventing heart disease requires much more than screening for high cholesterol. Fifty percent of all people who experience a heart attack have normal cholesterol.
Cardiovascular disease has many causes. An integrative functional medicine approach entails healing the whole person: mind, body, emotions, and spirit. We need to personalize the treatment using predictive, proactive and preventive research.
Almost all cardiac risk factors are dependent on lifestyle and environment. Almost all CVD is directly related to inflammation which is the direct result of obesity, poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyle and stress. A recent survey of physicians and cardiologists found these factors are poorly addressed.
Cholesterol is not the problem—inflammation that creates plaque causes atherosclerosis and heart disease. Diabetics have a higher risk of heart disease because increased blood sugar increases insulin levels. Insulin promotes inflammation which promotes CVD, strokes and death.
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory condition, have a 59 percent increased risk of dying from a heart attack compared with the general population and a 52 percent increased risk of death due to strokes.
While statins have been shown to decrease the risk of death from heart disease, this may be due to their anti-inflammatory properties rather than lowered cholesterol. Using EPA from fish oil, GLA from evening primrose oil, the short chain fatty acid butyrate and phosphatidylcholine can accomplish the same anti-inflammatory effect naturally.
Food allergies, gluten sensitivity, celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome are all inflammatory diseases; therefore they increase the risk of cardiac disease(Obesity Review, 2011). Gastrointestinal infections increase the risk of heart disease(Gastoenterology Report, 2009).If you have risks for heart disease or have CVD, have your stool tested by a specialty lab using DNA for accuracy.
According to Menke of Tulane University, lead exposure, even as low as 2 mcg/dl is associated with a 55 percent increase in CVD, an 89 percent increase in heart disease, and a 151 percent increase in strokes! Approximately 39 percent of the U.S. population has serum levels in that range.
Dr. Mark Houston, a cardiologist and associate clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical School presents the role of mercury toxicity in hypertension, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Clinical problems associated with mercury toxicity include heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmias, atherosclerosis and kidney problems.
Plastics are everywhere and in everything. Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in cans, plastic containers and plastic bottles. Never put plastic containers in the microwave or dishwasher. The heat dissolves the plastic which results in our eating plastic-laden meals. Researchers have linked BPA to increased risk of CVD, diabetes and liver problems.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and chlorinated pesticides are also associated with increased risk of diabetes and cardiac problems.
Toxins can cause CVD and increased mortality. Specialized testing can determine your toxic load. Yet, in spite of this, pharmaceutical companies and physicians focus on cholesterol like it was the only game in town! Does your cardiologist test for lead or mercury? If you don’t test how will you find the answers?
Toxicity can be minimized. Toxins can be removed by IV therapies, detoxifying foods and supplements. Selenium and fish omega-3 fatty acids antagonize mercury toxicity. Lifestyle changes can reverse CVD.
English physician William Harvey wrote in 1628, “Every affection of the mind that is attended either with pain or pleasure, hope or fear, is the cause of an agitation whose influence extends to the heart.” The relationship between stress, heart disease and sudden death has been recognized since antiquity.
One way a man can decrease the risk of a heart attack is to have sex with his wife instead of his girlfriend. Science shows that men who cheat on their wives have an increased risk of sudden death from cardiac arrest during sex (Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2012).
Autopsy reports of nearly 6,000 cases of sudden death found up to 93 percent of those who died during sex were thought to be engaging in extra-marital sex(Circulation, 2012). A guilty conscience, stress from keeping the affair a secret, and the stress of wining, dining and satisfying a woman who is likely to be younger than the man’s wife could all contribute to the link due to extra stress (Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2012).
Neurotransmitters (brain chemistry)
Stress imbalances your neurotransmitters and vice versa. Research frequently shows obesity, hypertension, anxiety, metabolic syndrome and insulin-resistance are associated with high levels of nor-epinephrine, low epinephrine and low cortisol.
Nor-epinephrine is an excitatory neurotransmitter creating stress, anxiety, pain, anger and high blood pressure. Elevations in epinephrine create stress and insomnia and increase blood sugar and insulin resistance. High cortisol can increase your waistline and anxiety, which increases your risk for CVD.
Low epinephrine impacts lipids. Low cortisol, which can cause adrenal fatigue, can contribute to increased triglycerides and low levels of HDL-C, the good cholesterol. Your brain and your heart are connected—but we already knew that.
Get the right neurotransmitter test and use natural supplements without side effects whenever possible to achieve healthy brain balance and a healthy heart.
All hormones affect heart health. Here are two.
Low testosterone in men increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pain, diabetes and arthritis. Normal levels can decrease cholesterol, increase bone and muscle mass, increase libido and decrease inflammation.
Testosterone decreases angina (chest) pain.Normal testosterone levels in both men and women result in more energy, a better sense of well-being and less pain.
Low thyroid can increase cholesterol and hypertension. Treating low thyroid can lower cholesterol. Always have your thyroid tests check your free T3, free T4 and TSH and thyroid antibodies.
The right hormonal balance can help prevent heart disease.
Low Vitamin D
If your levels of vitamin D are too low, a new study suggests you may be at a significantly increased risk for stroke, heart disease and death. Researchers followed 27,686 people, aged 50 and older, with no history of cardiovascular disease. The participants were divided into three groups based on their vitamin D levels.
After one year of follow-up, the researchers found those with very low levels of vitamin D were 77 percent more likely to die, 45 percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease, 78 percent more likely to have a stroke and twice as likely to develop heart failure compared to people with normal vitamin D levels (American Heart Association, 2010). The recommended level for vitamin D is 50-70 ng/dl.
For your healthy heart, be happy and be tested. A good lifestyle is a must and so are specialty tests for inflammation, gastrointestinal disease, toxins, brain chemistry, hormones and vitamin D3 levels. CVD is much more than a cholesterol issue. Find the answers before they cause heart disease. Find the answers to correct your heart disease.
Written by: Dr. Sharon Norling, MBA