Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a healthcare professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.
The cause of heart attacks – Part II
In part one of this series, I questioned whether or not the ongoing travesty that is heart attack morbidity and mortality in our world today is at least in part due to the fact that the conventional treatment approach is not fully addressing the true cause of this condition.
I also brought up questions about cardiovascular disease that are unanswerable using the theory that elevated LDL particles are in and of themselves the sole or primary cause of this condition. Finally, I discussed a way of viewing the cause of this condition that would allow for answers to these questions and thus provide a more thorough way of addressing it.
Here were my parting thoughts: “If then, we are to be as thorough as possible in our efforts to prevent heart attacks, we should not stop at lowering cholesterol. In fact, that should be a secondary focus, with the primary focus instead being the conditions which allow for it to become a problem.”
Here is what I mean…
One of my mentors, Dr. Mark Houston of the Hypertension Institute in Nashville, Tennessee, always stresses the ideas of infinite insults when discussing the true causality behind cardiovascular disease, with the aim of more thoroughly preventing and treating it.
Infinite insults is a term Dr. Houston uses to describe all the various things that can harm the function of your endothelium, or the inside lining of your blood vessels. Your endothelium is where the rubber meets the road in terms of potential for plaque to form in your arteries or not. A healthy, resilient, and robustly functioning endothelium makes you all but impervious to this process developing, whereas endothelial DYS function is the prerequisite and breeding ground for it.
Certainly, excessive levels of cholesterol carrying molecules like the infamous LDL or ‘bad cholesterol’ can fit into the category of infinite insults, but so can elevated levels of: Oxidative stress, Inflammation, Blood sugar, Homocysteine, Iron, Insulin and more obscure factors such as Lp(a), TMAO, endotoxins, heavy metals, various types of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. Hence the term infinite.
A thorough approach in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease should always include assessment for the presence of these factors.
Of course, once identified, every effort should also be made to try and reduce exposure to these insults. However, due in large part to the all but impossible task of identifying and avoiding them all, if one is to be as successful as possible in preventing or reversing plaque development, an additional concept which must be considered is susceptibility, as it pertains to the vascular endothelium itself.
If we are evaluating for the potential of damage to occur to a structure, the most thorough evaluation would not only include assessment of factors which can harm the structure (in this case the endothelium), but also the structure itself, and how susceptible, or vulnerable to damage it is.
In this case then, what would increase the endothelium’s susceptibility to damage?
Far and away, the factor which has the most impact on this area is nutrition. In other words, superior nutritional status which assesses and accounts for both predisposing genetic factors, as well as specific nutrients crucial to optimal production and function of blood vessel linings, to provide the most bang for the susceptibility buck and exponentially reduce risk even further.
These nutrients include: • Amino acids- Arginine, Lysine, and Proline; • Macrominerals- Potassium, Calcium, and Magnesium; • Vitamins- A, B Complex, E, and especially C; • Trace Minerals- Copper, Zinc, and Manganese; and • Phytonutrients- Nitrates, Flavonoids and other Antioxidants.
For various reasons, nutritional therapy should always endeavor to obtain important nutrients through food whenever possible. In terms of those noted above, it is not surprising that the primary sources of all them can be found in what is popularly termed a ‘whole food, plant-based diet’. It is also of interest to note that a high intake of processed, and animal-based foods will directly, or indirectly provide a steady supply of all noted insulting factors above.
Realizing this, the tremendously successful results seen through the work of pioneers in this field like Dean Ornish, MD, Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, and Nathan Pritikin, all of whom have utilized a whole food plant-based in the prevention and reversal of thousands cardiovascular disease cases, starts to make a lot of sense.
Hopefully by now it is becoming clear that if the version of prevention employed in order to avoid the development of arterial plaque, and potentially the most common cause of death in the world, starts and finishes with an aspirin and a statin or other cholesterol lowering drug, a tremendous opportunity to further reduce risk is being completely missed.
Why? Well, hopefully that is obvious by now. Drugs, by their very nature, do not and cannot satisfy unmet needs the body may have. They may not offset the negative effects of many of the noted insulting factors above, and they may not adequately reduce susceptibility to this disease to the degree possible when nutrition is also, or alternatively employed.
Instead, they’re designed to make up for the negative effects of these crucial factors; to simply put a band-aid on a poorly healing, dirty wound that needs cleaning, in a body that needs better nutrition.
This disease is running rampant. Only a thorough approach, which may or may not need to include such drugs, will serve to provide truly adequate protection from its grasp.
Daniel Chong, is a licensed ND who can be reached at 503.893.4364/drdanielchong.com