Let’s have a heart-to-heart discussion about keeping your heart healthy and strong for years to come.
Despite all of our best medical efforts, heart disease is still the number one cause of death worldwide for both men and women. We’ve waged the war on cholesterol, fought the fat battle, cut the carbs, and intensified our exercise – and heart disease still causes nearly one-third of all deaths in the US. And speaking from my four decades of experience as the First Lady of Nutrition, I have a pretty good idea of exactly what we’re doing wrong.
As with so many other chronic diseases, we’re missing what’s truly at the heart of the matter – inflammation. To find the root causes of heart disease we have to dig deep. We have to get into the bloodstream and make sure all of the nutrients the heart needs are present in optimal amounts. We also need to remember that the heart doesn’t work alone – the health of supporting organs like the kidneys, liver, and thyroid are vital to the health of the heart.
Inflammation – not Cholesterol – is at the Heart of the Matter
Did you know that studies show nearly 75 percent of patients hospitalized for a heart attack did not have high cholesterol? And did you know that half of all people with high cholesterol do not have heart disease?
Statistics like these really bust the cholesterol myth and show why statin drugs are not a miracle cure for heart disease. Does this mean we should ignore cholesterol? No, but it does mean we need to understand it better and how it relates to inflammation in the body and heart disease, in particular.
Cholesterol is an essential building block for every cell in your body. It’s not only a component of every cell’s protective outer membrane, but also serves other important functions in the body. It helps you make Vitamin D, stress hormones, and sex hormones, and supports the health of your immune system and your brain. Breast milk is rich in cholesterol because it’s important for developing the myelin sheath around the nerves; cholesterol nurtures a baby’s growing brain.
When you find cholesterol in your blood vessels, it’s there for a very important reason – repair. And what causes the damage? Inflammation. Inflammation in the arteries causes the lining to become injured more easily, and where there’s an injury, there’s a protective substance sent to help heal that injury. In this case that protective substance is cholesterol, but what kind of cholesterol is there determines whether it does more harm than good. This is where the VAP test comes in.
The Vertical Auto Profile (VAP) test is the most comprehensive and accurate cholesterol test available today. It goes far beyond the simple 3-part test we’re used to, that measures only HDL, LDL, and triglycerides. The VAP test measures 15 separate components of blood cholesterol and identifies specific patterns that put you at either a higher or lower risk of heart disease.
The pattern to be concerned about is the LDL-B Pattern Profile. This means your LDL cholesterol is primarily made of dense, sticky particles that are known to cause inflammation, blood clots, and arterial plaque. If you haven’t had the VAP test done but have had another comprehensive cholesterol panel done, then look for your LDL-B results or more specifically, high levels of the Lp(a) fraction.
If you have elevated levels of LDL-B or Lp(a), then I recommend supplementing with what Integrative Cardiologist Stephen Sinatra calls the “Awesome Foursome”:
- Mag-Key – to relax arterial walls, encourage normal heart rhythm, and lower blood pressure. 400-800 milligrams daily, or 5 milligrams per pound of body weight per day.
- CoQ10 – the optimal heart fuel. 100-300 milligrams daily.
- D-Ribose – to increase cell function and energy recovery. 5 grams per day.
- L-Carnitine – for transport of critical fatty acids into the muscle cells of the heart. 500-4000 milligrams daily.
Because research shows that Omega-3 essential fats reduce levels of the dangerous Lp(a) cholesterol and raise healthy HDL levels, I would add 1 to 2 grams of Super-EPA fish oil to make it the “Fab Five” of nutrients. This is the only fish oil I trust, because it’s molecularly distilled from sardines and anchovies in the pristine South Pacific waters.
What Your Liver, Kidneys and Thyroid Can Tell You About Your Heart Health
Have you ever wondered where cholesterol comes from? This friend-or-foe is actually produced in the liver, and your liver also removes the excess cholesterol from your body. When cholesterol levels go up, whether it’s HDL, LDL, or triglycerides, it’s a sign your liver needs support and detox. A liver that’s bogged down with toxins can’t process cholesterol optimally, and weight gain should be your first clue that your liver needs support.
To keep fat, cholesterol, and toxins from building up in your blood stream, eat a diet that detoxes you, like my Fat Flush Plan or Radical Metabolism Plan. Both of these plans were designed to support, nourish, and detox the liver while reducing inflammation and taking off excess weight. In addition, supplement with at least 200 milligrams of CoQ10, the super nutrient for both the liver and the heart.
If your LDL cholesterol levels are elevated, you need to check your thyroid function. According to a 2012 study, even a slightly elevated TSH level, which is a sign of mild hypothyroidism, can directly raise your LDL levels – even when your other thyroid hormone levels are normal. Elevated LDL cholesterol from an underactive thyroid gland should not be treated with a statin drug! A proper dose of prescribed natural thyroid replacement like Armour Thyroid, plus a glandular support supplement like Thyro-Key get to the heart of the cholesterol issue by supporting your struggling thyroid.
If you struggle with high blood pressure and have hands, feet, or ankles that swell, then fluid balance issues may be putting a strain on your heart. Your kidneys may be the culprit. Your kidneys are responsible for the fluid balance in the body and electrolytes are a key player.
Your simple, annual blood tests will show when kidneys are struggling. You can find your electrolyte levels on the metabolic panel that’s commonly done. Take a look at sodium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium levels. Many times, one or more of these electrolyte levels are in the low range or are slightly lower than normal, and focusing on foods naturally high in these electrolytes and supplementing with magnesium can bring fluids back into balance and support healthy kidney and heart function.
Go Easy on the Iron
Iron is one of the most important minerals in the body for energy, but is also one of the most toxic to the heart. When iron accumulates in any our tissues it causes damage, much like heavy metals do. When the liver can’t keep up with the need for eliminating it, the excess iron is exposed to oxidation and causes us to “rust” on the inside, leading to a variety of health issues. Excess iron has been implicated not only in cardiovascular disease, but also Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, cataracts, osteoporosis and more.
Just like anemia, excess iron causes fatigue, heart palpitations, hair loss, and frequent infections, so we can’t go by symptoms alone to alert us to iron excess. The blood tests that need to be done are the Complete Blood Count (CBC), which includes the Hemoglobin and Hematocrit levels, plus we need to know our Ferritin level, which is a measure of our iron stores. If your hemoglobin is elevated and your ferritin is more than 70 ng/mL, then it’s time to reduce the amount of iron you’re getting.
Iron overload is common in men and postmenopausal women because of a reduced need for it. Iron comes to us not only through what we eat, but also the water we drink (well water especially), cookware we use (think cast iron), and the supplements we take. This is why an iron-free multivitamin is so important. For years, iron-free multivitamins were nearly impossible to find, which led to my formulation of UNI KEY Health’s easily absorbable Advanced Daily Multivitamin. Considering how stressful the last few years have been for many of us, it only makes sense to guard your heart health with proper testing, diet, and supplementation.