Infections, Inflammation, Metabolism
Issue 30 - July 1999
Bypassing Heart Surgery
The infection aspect of heart disease has been given added validation by means of a recent report published in JAMA showing that up to 55% of heart attacks appear to be prevented by treatment with proper antibiotics. In addition, evidence published in Science, February 1999, implicates an infectious bacteria known as Chlamydia. Ninety-five percent of us are exposed to Chlamydia during our lives. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Herpes (common retroviruses) have also been shown to be closely connected with heart attacks.
Researchers are finding that long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs is a major factor in helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes. It is now common wisdom that taking an aspirin when one is having a heart attack can increase survival, but this should be a temporary emergency measure only. Statistics show that the great majority of us seem to need some long-term anti-clotting, but there is a serious downside to taking a daily dose of aspirin and/or other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These can cause internal bleeding, plus liver and kidney damage, and are linked to 20,000 deaths and over 125,000 hospitalizations annually. Herbalists have long used willow bark (from which aspirin was originally derived) and feverfew. Rutosid, a plant-derived Bioflavonoid, similar to heparin but with anti-viral properties, can also be prescribed.
There are also important nutritional and metabolic aspects of this disease. One of the key elements involved is homocysteine. This amino acid is a normal by-product of protein metabolism, specifically of methionine, an amino acid found in red meat and milk products. In a healthy body, the enzymes are present to convert methionine to homocysteine, and homocysteine to the harmless amino acid cystathionine. But in individuals deficient in the necessary enzyme, homocysteine levels will be abnormally high. Excess homocysteine can generate free radicals that are capable of oxidizing cholesterol, creating substances called oxysterols. Oxysterols are a major factor in damaging vessel walls. If sufficient antioxidants (such as vitamins B6, Folic acid, C, E and beta-carotene) are present, the oxysterols can be neutralized and injury prevented. But the body’s supply of anti-oxidants is easily depleted and significant damage can occur within weeks. Current research clearly shows that homocysteine is such an important risk factor that the cholesterol levels we have wasted so much time and money on virtually pale in comparison.
This enzyme deficiency that used to be a rare, in-born metabolic error has become a virtual epidemic. Doctors looking for a rational explanation are focusing on a combination of contributing causes. For the most part, these causes could be characterized as dietary deficiencies of many essential nutrients, as well as excessively high protein intake. For instance, our bodies today have on the average 1,000 times more lead than was present before the industrial age. Among the many proven adverse effects of this elevated lead is the poisoning of zinc-dependent enzymes. This impairs the efficient metabolizing of protein, which most of us consume excessively, leading to the build-up of homocysteine.
All this information points to new parameters of heart health: the need to build up our autoimmune systems; the need for essential nutrients; the need to purify our blood; the need to reduce heavy metals from our tissues and organs; and the need for a safe anti-inflammatory. The time has arrived to standardize our approach to optimal health with more comprehensive, nutritionally balanced supplements (Editor’s note: please also refer to this issue’s Ask The Physician column on heart nutrients on page 66).
No longer can we remain secure by following the old, completely inadequate recommendations made by the American Heart Association and other so-called health authorities. Their recommendations have led to today’s unhealthy, “one-size-fits-all” fat-restricted diets, which lump beneficial and detrimental fats together, along with using the ill-advised cholesterol-lowering drugs so commonly relied upon. The fact is that cholesterol, unless it is oxidized, is a valuable nutrient that the body has to manufacture every day in order to help build the membranes of the new cells that we must continually form to replace dead and dying cells.