by Mitchell A. Fleisher, M.D., D.Ht., D.A.B.F.M., Dc.A.B.C.T.
Heart and blood vessel problems, collectively known as cardiovascular diseases, are the major cause of disability and death in the vast majority of people in the U.S. and Europe. They are due to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and the resulting lack of adequate blood supply to the cells, tissues and organs that need oxygen and nutrients and the removal of metabolic wastes in order to survive and thrive.
Cholesterol has been implicated as the main culprit in hardening of the arteries by the conventional, allopathic medical establishment and by the multinational pharmaceutical corporations (‘big pharma’) that produces the toxic, anti-cholesterol drugs which doctors often prescribe. However, there’s a big problem with this approach, namely, that cholesterol is NOT the underlying cause of hardening of the arteries!
In fact, cholesterol is not the bad guy that big pharma has made it out to be in their aggressive, deceptive, advertising campaigns, but is an essential nutrient required for health. Every cell in the body uses cholesterol in its cell membrane, the living container of the cell contents, as a structural support of the cell. Without cholesterol, our cells would simply collapse and die.
Moreover, cholesterol is used by the adrenal glands, on top of the kidneys, to manufacture the corticosteroid hormones, such as cortisone, estrogens, progesterone, testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), etc. These natural steroid hormones are critical for regulating the immune defense system, sugar metabolism, mineral and water balance and our ability to effectively respond to stress. Whenever we’re exposed to stress, in the form of environmental toxins, infections, lack of adequate water and food, overwork, negative emotions, etc., the corticosteroid hormones kick in to help protect our bodies from injury and restore homeostasis (dynamic metabolic balance).
Interestingly, our liver produces more cholesterol in a day than we tend to eat in our food, i.e., about 300 mg daily. In fact, careful research shows that dietary cholesterol has little impact on actual cholesterol blood levels. Under stress, the adrenal glands send signals to the liver to make more cholesterol, so that they can, in turn, manufacture more natural steroid hormones to deal with the stress. The toxic, anti-cholesterol drugs prevent the liver from making more cholesterol when it is needed in stress conditions, thereby leading to poor stress management by the body and a whole host of other health problems.
So, you might ask, what does cause hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)? Solid science shows that it is ‘oxidative stress’ or the toxic effect of excessive, highly reactive, free radical molecules in the body. These free radicals act like “pac men” chewing up our cells, tissues and organs, chemically burning and seriously injuring them, ultimately resulting in chronic disease and death.
Free radicals are like the ‘hot sparks flying off a campfire’ and are produced by the metabolic ‘burning of food as fuel’ in our cells for energy, as well as during all sorts of necessary biochemical reactions in the body, e.g., the inflammatory process against infections and cancer cells, etc. Under normal conditions, our innate, anti-oxidant system controls the free radical ‘sparks’ and prevents unwanted ‘forest fires’ in our body, i.e., free radical-induced oxidative stress resulting in disease. However, poor dietary habits, the industrial production of devitalized, nutrient-poor food, pollution of our air, water and foods, as well as conventional drugs, overwhelm the free radical control system in our body and wreak havoc on our health and well-being.
Cholesterol is carried in the blood by special carrier molecules called lipoprotein particles, i.e., HDL (high density lipoprotein), LDL (low density lipoprotein), IDL (intermediate density lipoprotein) and VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) cholesterol. HDL is called the ‘good’ cholesterol because it vacuums up cholesterol and takes it away for processing. LDL is called the ‘bad’ cholesterol because it carries the most cholesterol and too much LDL is thought to be ‘atherogenic’ or, in other words, promotes hardening of the arteries. In fact, LDL cholesterol in its natural state is perfectly safe and essential to cholesterol transport to the cells that need it. It is only when LDL is attacked by free radicals that it becomes ‘burnt,’ oxidized and dangerous.
To summarize the complex process of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) as simply as possible: 1) excess free radicals in the bloodstream ‘burn’ and injure the lining of the blood vessels; 2) the body tries to heal the chemical burn wound by first creating a ‘wet scab’ composed of the protein fibrin, a fine, cobweb-like mesh; 3) white blood cells and platelets are chemically attracted to the wound to assist in the healing process; 4) free radicals also injure other components in the bloodstream, including the major cholesterol carrying particles called low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol; 5) the injured, burned or oxidized LDL cholesterol particles are now abnormally sticky and when they float by a free radical-injured area of the blood vessel, they stick to it; 6) white blood cells called macrophages then eat the waxy, oxidized LDL cholesterol particles and form foam cells which die and add to the sticky, oxidized, messy, inflamed scab on the blood vessel wall known as ‘soft plaque’ formation; 7) calcium is then deposited over the scab in an attempt by the body to ‘wall off’ and extinguish the inflammatory process, forming ‘hard plaque’; 8) in the presence of uncontrolled oxidative stress, this process repeats itself and the ‘atheromatous plaque’ grows until it significantly blocks blood flow and/or ruptures causing a sudden blood clot with complete blockage of blood flow, resulting in heart attack (myocardial infarction or death of heart cells), stroke (cerebrovascular accident or injury and death of brain cells) and/or claudication (pain in the lower limbs felt on walking due to blockage of peripheral blood vessels) and possibly gangrene (death and decay of the parts deprived of oxygen and nutrients), esp. of the feet and toes.
Serious problems arise when cholesterol is forced by drugs to be too low, including increased risk of stress-related disorders, inability to cope, suicidal depression, stroke and cancer. In addition, the anti-cholesterol drugs block the production of an extremely important nutrient in our bodies called Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10, Ubiquinone or Ubiquinol). CoQ10 is responsible for helping optimize the creation of energy in our cells by the efficient ‘burning’ of oxygen and food ‘fuel.’ Without sufficient CoQ10, our bodies become excessively tired and sluggish, lack stamina, develop aches and pains and don’t function well at all. Low CoQ10 also results in higher blood pressure, weakened heart pump action, poor mental function, increased oxidative stress resulting in more atherosclerosis and a greater risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer and other chronic diseases. In essence, the toxic, anti-cholesterol drugs create the very problems, and worse, that they are allegedly meant to cure.
Almost unbelievably, drug industry lobbyists are working to underhandedly thwart efforts by enlightened doctors to convince the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) to include a warning on anti-cholesterol drug labels that if you take these drugs, you should also take CoQ10. Just more reasons not to trust anything ‘big pharma’ says.
It is now clear how free radical-induced oxidative stress, and not cholesterol, is the true cause of cardiovascular diseases. Below is a list of diseases caused by free radicals:
- Arteriosclerosis or Atherosclerosis
- Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X (Hypertension, Pre-Diabetes, Hyperlipidemia)
- Cerebrovascular disease or Stroke
- Emphysema (Cross et al 1987)
- Diabetes mellitus (Sato et al 1979)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (Cross et al 1987, Greenwald & Moy 1979, 1980, Halliwell 1981, 1989, Del Maestro et al 1982, Fligiel et al 1984)
- Osteoporosis (Hooper 1989, Stringer et al 1989)
- Cataracts (Niwa & Hansen, 1989, Yagi 1977)
- Crohn’s disease (Niwa & Hansen 1989)
- Behcet’s disease (autoimmune ulcerations)
How then can you help prevent and/or correct health problems due to free radical-induced oxidative stress? By controlling the presence of free radicals in your body, of course! This is the very purpose of anti-oxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, as well as CoQ10, Lipoic acid, carotenoids, bioflavonoids, etc. There is a cornucopia of natural anti-oxidants, provided by Nature in wholesome, unprocessed, organic foods, to help us combat and control free radical-induced oxidative stress. Making sure that you take in an optimal amount of anti-oxidants in your daily diet is one of your best long term ‘health assurance’ policies.
You will need fat soluble anti-oxidants, such as vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols), carotenoids (carotenes and xanthophylls), as well as CoQ10, etc., to help control free radicals that attack fats (lipids) in the body, like those in the blood vessel walls and cell membranes. You will also need water soluble anti-oxidants, such as vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and bioflavonoids, e.g., OPCs in grape seed extract, catechins in green tea extract, anthocyanosides in bilberry extract, etc., to help control free radicals that attack the water soluble molecules, e.g., proteins (both structural, like collagen and elastin, and functional, i.e., the enzymes which make biochemical reactions happen at the speed of life) in your body.
In addition to the anti-oxidants, you will need an adequate intake of the B vitamins, trace and essential minerals, vitamin D and the essential fatty acids, which all work together to prevent and control free radical-induced cardiovascular and other chronic diseases.
Regular aerobic exercise and a balanced diet are also essential to prevent and control cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. At least 30 minutes of exercise daily is a healthy routine, e.g., brisk walking, swimming, use of cross-country skiing machine, Pilates, martial arts, Nia, etc. Always begin and end your exercise routine with 5 to 10 minutes of warm-up and cool-down stretching exercises, so that you help prevent injuring yourself by forcing stiff tissues to move.
A heart healthy diet includes plenty of fresh, organically grown produce, esp. green leafy, red, orange and yellow vegetables, a modest amount of fruit, limiting all starchy and high glycemic fruits and vegetables and severely limiting or avoiding all refined, processed wheat, corn, sugar and pasteurized dairy products and fried fatty foods. This last group is a ‘free radical nightmare’ and contains some of the worst, most damaging free radicals known, called fatty acid oxides or lipoxides, esp. in fried fatty foods, such as found in most fast foods and junk foods. By avoiding this last group, you can drastically cut down on the dangerous free radicals that you eat.
To summarize, an excellent heart and blood vessel protective program:
- Eat plenty of fresh, organically grown vegetables, esp. green leafy, red, orange and yellow vegetables.
- Limit all starchy and high glycemic fruits and vegetables, e.g., white potatoes, bananas, etc., as well as dried fruits, e.g., raisons, apricots, prunes, etc.
- Greatly limit or avoid all refined, processed wheat, corn, sugar and pasteurized dairy products and fried fatty foods.
- Regular aerobic exercise for 30 minutes daily, or as prescribed by your doctor.
- Drink ½ ounce per pound of lean body weight of pure water daily.
- Daily meditation and/or silent prayer for 10 to 20 minutes.
Please see the Heart & Blood Vessel Diseases protocol on the Alternative DrMCare Natural Medical Self-Care Protocol Portal for specific recommendations for the prevention and supportive self-care of cardiovascular diseases.
To Your Very Best Heart health!
Dr. Mitch FleisherBack to Blog