An American Epidemic
Atherosclerosis is a narrowing of the arteries caused by an accumulation of fatty deposits on the artery walls. These fatty deposits result in decreased blood flow to the tissues. Additionally, pieces of fat can break loose and block a blood vessel. All arteries may be affected, but the coronary and cerebral vessels are the areas of greatest concern because insufficient blood flow to the heart and brain can quickly become life-threatening.
Atherosclerosis and its complications (coronary heart disease, stroke) are the major cause of death in the United States. Heart attacks alone account for over 20% of all U.S. deaths each year. When death from strokes and atherosclerotic heart disease are added in, the total of atherosclerotic-caused deaths increases to nearly 50% of the U.S. total. This disease costs over 60 billion dollars per year to treat. The suffering caused is incalculable.
Signs and symptoms of atherosclerosis depend on the degree of obstruction and the arteries involved. They may include angina (chest pain), leg cramps (especially when walking), weakness, dizziness, or gradual mental deterioration. Other “minor” symptoms often caused by the decreased blood flow of atherosclerosis include tinnitus (ringing in the ears), impotence, hearing loss, and diminished vision. Often, there are no symptoms prior to an “event” (heart attack, stroke).
The causes of atherosclerosis are largely known: sedentary lifestyle, smoking, dietary imbalances (esp. high trans fat consumption, lack of dietary fiber, lack of dietary antioxidants) and stress. Since these are all controllable risk factors, the individual can do MUCH to prevent and reverse this degenerative process.
It has been known since 1973 that a diagonal earlobe crease is a sign of atherosclerosis. More recent studies have suggested that it is, in fact, one of the most accurate indications of atherosclerosis – more reliable than any other known risk factor, including age, sedentary lifestyle, elevated cholesterol levels, and smoking.
The earlobe has many small blood vessels, known as capillaries. A decrease in blood flow caused by atherosclerosis causes a “collapse” of the vascular bed – and an earlobe crease results. (NOTE: This physical sign does not correlate with atherosclerosis in Orientals, Native Americans, and children with Beckwith’s syndrome.)
While the presence of an earlobe crease does not by itself prove heart disease, it strongly suggests it. If you have an earlobe crease or known atherosclerosis, begin to reverse the condition by following the recommendations here.
DIET AND LIFESTYLE RECOMMENDATIONS
- Eat a nutritious diet high in nutrients and fiber.
- Regular aerobic exercise (with your doctor’s clearance). Exercise improves circulation and heart muscle pumping ability. It also helps the body use excess fats and cholesterol for energy.
- Drink 8 glasses of pure water daily.
- Maintain a normal body weight.
- Do not smoke. Substances in tobacco smoke can cause spasm of the blood vessels
Limit caffeine intake to 2 cups (including decaf and caffeinated sodas) per day. Avoid these entirely if arrhythmia is present.
- Maxi Multi: 3 caps, 3 times per day with meals. This daily “multiple” contains high potency antioxidants. Optimal (not minimal) doses of antioxidant vitamins including C,E, and beta carotene, plus B complex vitamins, magnesium, selenium and bioflavonoids are particularly important for the heart. Take additional B complex vitamins if your multiple does not contain optimal doses. B vitamins, (especially B6, B12, and folic acid) lower homocysteine levels, an independent risk for heart disease that many researchers feel is more important than cholesterol levels.
- Omega 3 fatty acids:
Flax seed meal, 2 teaspoons per day with food
Flax seed capsules: 2-4 caps, 3 times per day (target dose range: 6-12 caps per day)
Flax seed oil: 1 tablespoon per day
Max EPA (Omega-3 rich fish oil): 1-2 caps, 3 times per day with meals (target dose: 3-6 caps per day).
- CoQ10: 50-300mg per day. This powerful antioxidant, produced by the body, diminishes with age. It is especially valuable for all types of heart disease. CHOLESTEROL-LOWERING DRUGS deplete CoQ10. (Amounts will depend on the severity of the disease. Lower doses may be used for health maintenance; higher doses in cases of arrhythmia, angina, and atherosclerosis).
- Garlic: (Garlitrin 4000®): 1 tablet, once per day with a meal. Other brands, take 1 tab, 3 times per day. Target dose: 10,000mg allicin per day.
- L-carnitine: 1 cap (250mg), 3 times per day with meals.
- Bromelain: 1 cap (2400mcu), 3 times per day BETWEEN meals.
DR. MYATT’S COMMENT
Treat all other “heart risk” factors that may be present: High Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure, arrhythmia. Please refer to these sections for more information. See HEART DISEASE for more information.