Heart Health

The NorthStar blog on heart and cardiovascular health covers the latest news on these important topics, including the best natural options for keeping your ticker strong and healthy for a lifetime.

  1. Capsaicin in peppers may help your heart

    Last year I told you that capsaicin in peppers may be able to help you lower your blood pressure. Now scientists are saying that the same compound that gives jalapenos, habaneros, and other chili peppers their bite can, indeed, help your heart.

    Scientists reported at the 243rd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society that the capsaicin in peppers can reduce your cholesterol levels and keep your blood flowing by blocking the action of a gene that makes your arteries contract.

    Of course more research needs to be done to fully understand how the capsaicin works. But you certainly don't need to wait around for those findings to reap the benefits of this spicy compound, simply add more hot peppers to your menu.

  2. Serious statin side effects confirmed

    I suppose a Johnny-come-lately is better than a Johnny that never shows up at all. Right?

    Well, after nearly two decades, Johnny, AKA the FDA, has finally broken ranks with their pals in Big Pharma and issued warnings of statin side effects increasing your risks for diabetes, memory loss, and serious muscle pain.

    Hm... it seems like there's a seriously delayed echo in here.

    Years ago when I was raising the red flag about the dangers of statins... from muscle damage, to memory loss, to blood sugar problems... I must admit it felt pretty darn lonely up there on top of that hill.

    Sure, I wasn't really alone. There were already a handful of us warning about the ineffectiveness of statins and serious statin side effects. But there were a heck of a lot more of them laughing at the "quacks" who dared to question the use of statins and declaring the pills a true "miracle of modern medicine."

    A miracle? Ha! I'd say more like a menace!

    The real miracle here is that the feds are finally saying that they agree with us "quacks"... wouldn't you agree?

    Dying for a healthy heart?

    Yes, as unlikely as it seems, after years of choosing the drug companies over you the FDA has finally cracked under the pressure of the mountains of evidence saying that the use of statins comes at the cost of some incredibly serious statin side effects.

    According to one New York Times report, about ten percent of statin users experience muscle aches, pains, or fatigue due to the drug. And, ironically, if you're one of those statin users who is trying to do something good for your health by exercising, that number jumps up to 25 percent.

    But muscle pain isn't the whole story: Far from it in fact. It was all the way back in 2009 that I warned you about the potentially permanent muscle damage that these drugs can cause. You see statin drugs not only can cause severe muscle pain and fatigue they can also lead to irreversible structural damage to your muscles.

    And according to the literature on one major statin drug website, that muscle damage could lead to kidney problems and even kidney failure.

    As if muscle pain, permanent muscle damage, and possible kidney failure weren't bad enough the drugs have also have been linked to an increased risk for developing diabetes. And despite the FDA's sudden announcement, this is not a brand new development.

    An analysis of statin side effects published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year finally concluded what many of us have already been saying for years. And that is that statins can affect your blood sugar.

    In fact, a growing number of studies over the last five years or so have linked statins with type 2 diabetes... and of course, later, all the complications that come with the disease like... ironically... hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.

    And, when you realize that the use of statins has increased ten fold in the past two decades, and that incidences of type 2 diabetes have tripled in the last 30 years also... well... let's just say its hard to not wonder how many of those cases might be statin related.

    Then, of course, there's the statin link to confusion, memory loss, and "brain fog." And while this might seem like the least worrisome of the side effects, let me assure you that for those suffering with it, it's frightening and far from benign.

    Statins may not save lives

    Now, of course, the mainstream media was quick to put the FDA's stunning announcement about statin side effects into the "proper light" pointing out that the increased risk for diabetes is "very small."

    Yeah, try telling that to any one of the victims who is now suffering the consequences of that "very small" risk. Not to mention the fact that there's simply no good reason to be on these meds in the first place.

    As I've been telling you for years now, despite all the hype statins do not significantly lower your chance of dying from a heart attack or heart disease over plain good old-fashioned taking care of yourself

    In other words, if you watch your weight, get some exercise, and don't smoke you can reduce your risks as much as... or even more than... you could if you were popping a statin every day.

    (And look Ma... no side effects!)

    If you're still in doubt, I encourage you to take a look at the results of the huge 4-million person population study out of Switzerland--published in the Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine last year--that concluded that the numbers of people suffering or dying from heart attacks simply has not gone down, despite the huge rise in statin usage.

    Besides, simply having elevated cholesterol doesn't mean you have heart disease, or that you're more likely to die from a heart attack for that matter.

    So, instead of pumping yourself full of a drug with questionable benefits and proven side effects I recommend that besides eating right and exercising you try adding a few ticker-friendly supplements to your routine instead, like L-carnitine (1,000 mg), coenzyme Q10 (100 mg), magnesium (500 to 800 mg), and vitamin E as mixed tocopherols (400 to 800 IU).

  3. Is your proton pump inhibitor drug doing more harm than good?

    A new warning from the FDA should have you thinking twice before popping a proton pump inhibitor drug (PPI) like Nexium, Protonix, Prilosec, or Prevacid to soothe your heartburn. If you're a regular Guide to Good Health Reader you already know that PPIs can be bad news...they have been linked to increasing your risks for hospital-acquired pneumonia, bone fractures, and magnesium deficiencies. But, it turns out, the acid-suppressing drugs have yet another super-nasty trick up their collective sleeve. According to the FDA, a proton pump inhibitor drug (PPI) may increase your risk for chronic diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile (C. diff) bacterium. It seems that while the drugs are suppressing your stomach acid they're also making your gut a much friendlier place for C. diff to grow and thrive. And trust me when I tell you that you don't want dangerous...and sometime deadly...C. diff running the show in your intestines. Your best bet for ending your acid reflux problems without resorting to a potentially dangerous proton pump inhibitor is to consult a naturopath who will likely use a combination of probiotics and digestive enzymes to soothe your digestive troubles once and for all.
  4. Effects of black tea on high blood pressure

    According to a recent study of the effects of black tea published in the Archives of Internal Medicine three cups of black tea a day may help lower your blood pressure and in turn your risk for heart disease. If you're a coffee or green tea drinker you've already heard a lot of good news about your beverage of choice over the last couple of years. Green tea has been linked with a reduced risk of cancer and coffee has been found to lower your risk for diabetes. If you're a black tea drinker, however, there hasn't been nearly as much to celebrate. But I finally have some good news to share with black tea fans on the beneficial effects of black tea. During the 6-month study volunteers drank either 3 cups of regular black tea a day or 3 cups of a placebo with the same flavor and caffeine content, but not derived from tea. At the end of the 6 months those participants who drank the tea had lowered both their systolic and diastolic by about 10 percent compared to the placebo drinkers. So go ahead and brew yourself a cup of English Breakfast or Earl Grey tea. In fact, have several...your heart will thank you for it.
  5. Are unnecessary medical tests paying for your docs' next vacation?

    Well they're at it again. I'm talking about those doctors who choose to skate on the razor's edge of ethics by ordering unnecessary medical tests, or by performing what I refer to as bread-and-butter surgeries, simply to help pay for their golf vacations. This past summer I told you about a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that found cardiologists performing 75,0000 angioplasties that were "inappropriate" or of "uncertain" benefit to the patient. And now, yet again, there I was paging through a recent issue of JAMA when I stumbled across another blatant case of wallet padding. This time it's cardiac stress testing that the crooked docs are abusing.

    Where there's a bill there's a way

    The study, which included 17,847 patients, found that doctors who bill for stress tests are far more likely to order those tests than those who simply refer a patient for testing somewhere else. In fact, researchers found that 12% of patients who had undergone a coronary revascularization...commonly called heart bypass surgery...were given a stress test within 30 days of their one to three month post-surgery follow-up visits. So you may now be asking yourself, "Ok, and what's the problem with that?" The problem is that these tests were done despite the fact that the current "appropriate-use criteria"...guidelines that were drawn up specifically to ward off just this kind of monkey business...do not recommend this kind of routine early stress testing. But that's not all. Researchers also found that only about 15% of patients in the study even had ongoing symptoms of coronary disease prior to undergoing stress testing. So, in other words, there was absolutely no reason...not even a paper thin one...for their doctors to have subjected them to the tests. And now, knowing that little infuriating fact it probably will not surprise you to learn that when you really dig into the numbers it is painfully obvious that financial incentive trumps the urge to do what's best for the patient far too often. Let me explain...

    Cha-ching goes the cash-register bell

    There are actually two ways that a doctor can profit from ordering more...and even unnecessary medical tests, including imaging tests. First doctors can bill for what's called a "professional fee" if they intend to supervise and interpret the results of the test themselves. In other words, they do not need to have the imaging equipment in-house to charge this fee. The second way doctors can profit is that if their practice actually owns the imaging equipment that a test is done on then they can bill for a "technical fee" that's intended to pay for the costs associated with the equipment and staff. When researchers examined the records of the volunteers in the study they divided the physicians who ordered the tests into three groups; those who billed for technical and professional fees, those who billed only for professional fees, and those who did not bill for either. I'll give you just one guess about which of the three groups came out on top for ordering up the most of the questionable stress tests. Yup...ding, ding...you've got it. It was the docs ordering the larger percentage of tests...12.6%...who billed for both fees. Doctors who billed for professional fees alone, slid in at 8%. And just 5% of the doctors referred patients for testing and did not collect any fees at all for the testing. So what's the bottom line? Well, if you've already had bypass surgery and you find your doctor ordering up a slew of tests soon after surgery and tossing in a stress test...you know, just in case wink, wink...don't be afraid to ask why or...even better...demand a second opinion.
  6. You may be able to influence genetics and heart disease after all

    There's an old saying, "Great Danes have Great Danes and Schnauzers have Schnauzers." In other words, there's nothing we can do about our inherited genetics. Well, according to research done by an international team of scientists...and published recently in the journal PloS Medicine...that long-held belief that we're slaves to our genes may have been way off base. In fact, they‘ve shown that diet alone may be able to modify your pre-determined genetics and heart disease risk. Researchers analyzed the genetic and diet data for more than 27,000 volunteers from five different ethnic backgrounds...South Asian, Latin American, Chinese, Arab, and European. The scientists were looking specifically at the 9p21 gene, which is the strongest marker for heart disease. And what they found when they focused on the volunteer's individual diets, frankly, even surprised the researchers. Because, you see, those volunteers who had the high-risk genotype for heart disease, but who also ate a diet that was high in raw vegetables, fruits, and berries had a similar heart-attack risk to those with volunteers with the low-risk genotype. In other words, it appears that eating a generous amount of fruits and berries can, quite literally, change your genetics and heart disease risk. Although more research needs to be done to truly understand the connection between diet and genes it's quite obvious that there's an important link. I don't know about you, but THIS Great Dane plans to double up on his vegetables at dinner tonight.
  7. Women showing symptoms of high cholesterol live longer

    One in six adults in the U.S. has high cholesterol, according to the CDC. And nearly every doctor in the land will tell you that if you have high cholesterol, you're at risk for heart disease, the number one killer in the nation.

    To deal with this supposed epidemic, doctors prescribe statin drugs. They prescribe lots of statin drugs. In fact, one out of two men (and about one out of every three women) ages 65 to 74 take a statin drug to lower their "bad" cholesterol.

    But what if this was all a great big hoax? What if high cholesterol weren't so bad after all? In fact, what if high cholesterol actually made you live longer?

    Missing the mark intentionally

    For years, I've been telling you that high cholesterol is the wrong target.

    In fact, remember the ALLHAT heart study that I always cite? That federally-funded study followed 10,000 men and women with high cholesterol for eight years. Half the patients took a statin during the trial. The other half followed "usual care." This meant the patients made healthy changes to their diet and lifestyle.

    At the end of the trial, the statin group lowered their cholesterol by 17 percent. The "usual care" group only lowered their total cholesterol by eight percent.

    But here's the clincher...

    The statin group had no fewer heart attacks or strokes. Plus, both groups had the very same mortality rates.

    So let's recap...

    In this major, federally-funded study, men and women who took a statin drug for eight years didn't improve their heart attack and stroke risk. Plus, they didn't live any longer than the folks who just tried to take better care of themselves.

    So consider this...

    If you take a statin drug, you will lower your cholesterol. But will you live any longer by doing so?

    Eh. Probably not.

    And here's why...

    As I've always said, blood cholesterol isn't such a bad thing. In fact, a brand new study out of Norway found that high cholesterol might even be desirable!

    Women with high cholesterol live longer!

    For this study, Norwegian researchers followed more than 50,000 men and women between the ages of 20 and 74 for 10 years. They checked cholesterol levels for the volunteers at the beginning of the study. Then, the researchers checked back up on the volunteers to see who had died from a heart attack or a stroke. They used this data to determine cholesterol's connection to overall mortality risk.

    And here's what they found...

    Women with high cholesterol lived longer! In fact, cholesterol levels had an inverse relationship to mortality. So, the higher the cholesterol levels the lower the mortality risk.

    And the opposite was true too...

    The lower the cholesterol levels, the higher the overall mortality risk.


    The data showed that women with high cholesterol had the lowest risk of suffering a fatal heart attack or stroke.

    The data for the men wasn't quite as clear-cut. But it was pretty darn close.

    The researchers think there are "possible errors" in the way we calculate risk for cardiovascular disease. In fact, maybe we should cut high cholesterol out of the equation altogether.

    (Gee, you think!?)

    According to the researchers' report, "public health recommendations regarding the ‘dangers' of cholesterol should be revised. This is especially true for women, for whom moderately elevated cholesterol (by current standards) may prove to be not only harmless but even beneficial."

    Beneficial cholesterol!

    This brings me back to the problem of statin drugs. If high cholesterol isn't the ironclad risk factor we once thought...why they heck are one in two (or one in three) adults of a certain age taking the darned drugs?

    I'll tell you why...

    No one out there knows the truth about cholesterol. Most of us only know what we get from the news. And the mainstream media doesn't pick up stories like this that point out problems with the high cholesterol-causes-heart disease model.

    In fact, I just ran a quick Google search to see which mainstream media hacks picked up on the Norwegian research.

    Not one.

    Not one major news outlet ran the story about women with high cholesterol living longer.

    So, let's try another tactic.

    I ran another Google search. This time I typed "statin drugs" into the search box.

    Oh yeah. The mainstream press is all over this one. They all ran stories about the new combo cholesterol-diabetes drug by Merck. And you'd better bet all the biggies are here on the list: TIME, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and U.S. News & World Report.

    According to the Chicago-Sun Times, "The first combination pill for the millions of people with the dangerous combination of diabetes and high cholesterol won U.S. approval Friday, offering convenience -- and savings -- to patients taking multiple pills."

    Well, high cholesterol might not be as dangerous as everyone thinks it is. But let's not get picky. Just think of the convenience and the savings. Oooh doggies!

  8. Insomnia can be bad for your heart health

    If you have insomnia, nobody needs to tell you that it takes a toll on your day-to-day life. But do you know about the more serious consequences of insomnia? It can have a major effect on your health. In fact, a brand new study found that men and women who can't fall asleep in their own bed face a much higher risk of winding up in a hospital bed! For this study, researchers analyzed data for more than 50,000 Norwegian adults who filled out a national survey about their sleep habits. The researchers followed these adults over 11 years. During this time, 2,368 men and women suffered heart attacks. After analyzing the data... The researchers found that insomniacs ran a 45 percent greater heart attack risk than men and women who didn't have problems falling asleep. Plus, the men and women who fell asleep fine, but had trouble staying asleep through the night, showed a 30 percent increased heart attack risk. According to Edward Fisher, professor of cardiovascular medicine at NYU says, "animals with disrupted circadian rhythms develop metabolic changes." When these problems occur in humans, it might increase heart disease risk as well. So, if you run into a bout of insomnia, take measures to correct the problem. Skip the Ambien and try a steaming hot shower with the lights turned down low. That's my go-to insomnia cure.
  9. Margarine increases heart disease risk

    Remember, last week I told you about my "Dutch" conspiracy theory? I probably sounded like a quack, but I said the government of Denmark wants to breed sicker citizens, who will be at a higher heart disease risk,by charging more for a stick of butter. And remember, how I said saturated fats aren't the problem? The problem starts when you stop using natural sources of fat (like butter) and turn to synthetic forms (like margarine). Well, consider this for a moment...and you'll have to admit I've never sounded saner! In 1995, a Harvard Medical School epidemiologist analyzed data for the 865 Framingham Study participants. He found that men who used margarine had TWICE the heart disease risk of those who didn't use the "plastic" stuff. What's more, the butter eaters didn't increase their heart disease risk one iota! So you tell me, why charge more for butter...unless you want to kill off your citizens?
  10. Foods you should eat now, before the government tacks on a fat tax!

    I'm not much of a literature buff, but I do remember reading Aldous Huxley's sci-fi book Brave New World in 10th grade English lit class. In this story, Huxley creates a futuristic world where the government promotes population control. Gone is natural reproduction. Government scientists create fetuses in a lab. Then, they divide the fetuses into five different classes. Only the highest class, the Alpha class, develops naturally. The scientists program all the other fetuses to develop cognitive or physical impairments. Well, someone in Denmark must have read Huxley's book. This month, the Dutch government began to institute population control. No, they don't program fetuses to develop impairments. Instead, the government placed a "fat tax" on foods with saturated fat content more than 2.3 percent. So overnight, the cost of a McDonald's hamburger rose by about 40 cents. And you may think that's a good thing, but here's the problem... The Dutch "fat tax" targets all foods high in saturated fats, not just convenience foods. So now, a block of good Danish cheese now costs about 50 cents more each time you go to the grocery store. And don't even think about eating butter. Overnight, the price for a pound of it skyrocketed by a whopping 90 cents. The Danish government claims the "fat tax" will help reduce cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. And it looks like several European countries may adopt similar measures. In fact, I won't be surprised if one day the "fat tax" makes the leap across the pond to the U.S. Let's pray that doesn't. Because -- no matter what propaganda the government puts out -- this "fat tax" will only make us grow sicker and fatter. Call me paranoid, but maybe that's what it was intended to do in the first place. Here's why...

    Saturated fat is not the problem

    Back 100 years ago, everyone ate lard, bacon drippings, and butter. It's all we had. Nobody ate "heart smart" margarine, skim milk, or Egg Beaters. And guess what? No one ever got heart disease, either. In fact, when you look at medical books published 100 years ago, they barely mention the disease. And today, we eat less saturated fat, but heart disease is the number one killer in America. Plus, research proves the extra fat doesn't kill you... In 2006, a large-scale trial followed 49,000 women for eight years. Researchers showed that following a low-fat diet didn't improve health outcomes for these women one iota. In fact, women who followed low-fat diets didn't have fewer strokes or heart attacks than women who ate more fat. Plus, both groups of women developed heart disease at the very same rate. The Danish government says it wants to lower rates of cardiovascular disease. But they're swinging at the wrong target. The real problem is sugar (and refined carbs). In fact, consistent evidence shows that when you eat natural animal fats (not fried fats), and skip the sugar and processed carbs, you have much lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. That's what brings me back to Brave New World... With this new law, the Dutch government has created a class system. Now, only the wealthy in Denmark (or the nutritionally educated) will know eating butter, nuts, and full-fat cream cheese is worth the extra money. So, are they intentionally breeding sicker citizens just like in Huxley's story? It makes you wonder, doesn't it? Especially when you consider this recent study...

    Don't give up your full-fat dairy

    Last year, researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research found that men and women with the highest intake of full-fat dairy had 70 percent less risk of dying of heart disease or stroke. Whoa. Let me repeat that... Men and women in this study who ate the MOST full-fat dairy foods (ahem, like real butter and cheese) were 70 percent less likely to die of heart disease or stroke than men and women who ate the least amount of full-fat diary. Well, if you live in Denmark, I'm sorry. It's gonna cost you more than ever before to stay healthy and get your full-fat dairy. Of course, if you can't afford $10 for butter, you can always eat the government-sponsored margarine. It will cost less, but you'll die sooner. (Either way, the government makes out, I guess.) The bottom line?

    Don't let big government control your diet

    Governments should not dictate what you choose to eat or not eat. Even if it is a greasy, smelly McDonald's cheeseburger the crows won't touch. It's your right to eat it. And I'm not the only one hollering about the crimes committed by government in the name of better health. My friend, colleague -- and editor of our affiliated newsletter, The Douglass Report -- Dr. Bill Douglass has been a government watchdog for more than 40 years. In fact, he's the guy who told me about the dirty Dutch "fat tax." He also filled me in on a conspiracy much closer to home. Does the U.S. government want to outlaw an over-the-counter cancer cure? A recent study showed this all-natural cure slowed the growth of prostate cancer cells by up to a whopping 80 percent. And the government may want it out of your hands. Yes, folks, it's a brave new world.
  11. REVEALED: Capsaicin in peppers linked to lower blood pressure

    Men and women from southwestern China develop hypertension at nearly one-half the rate as the rest of the country. For decades, this puzzled the best medical minds in China. But a recent study of capsaicin in peppers may have uncovered the simple -- yet shocking -- explanation for their low hypertension rates. Turns out the men and women from this region aren't Zen masters. They don't exercise more. And they certainly don't follow the DASH low-salt diet. Nope. They eat one type of "hot" food like it's going out of style. And this food helps to relax the blood vessels and even decrease hypertension. You'll be shocked to learn how simple it is to incorporate this food into your diet. Plus, another study showed that a compound in this "hot" food might even protect the heart during a heart attack!

    Hot food relaxes blood vessels

    As I said last week, there is a ton you can do to combat high blood pressure without resorting to drugs. Even cardiologists are coming around to accept this simple fact. In southwestern China, they naturally keep their blood pressure low by eating hot and spicy foods. Specifically, they eat lots and lots of chili peppers. Sure, chili peppers set your mouth on fire. But they also contain a compound called capsaicin. This compound blocks a neuropeptide linked to inflammation. Plus, the hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. And that's a good thing if you're prone to inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, psoriasis, prostatitis...and hypertension! In fact, in this recent study, scientists from China gave capsaicin to rats bred to develop hypertension. They found that the capsaicin in peppers activated the TRPV1 channel found in the lining of the rats' blood vessels. This signaled the production of nitric oxide in the blood vessels. It sounds harmful, but it's not. It actually protects blood vessels against inflammation and dysfunction. This could be why, the authors state, that men and women in southwestern China have hypertension rates at around 10 to 14 percent. They eat lots and lots of hot peppers. On the other hand, the rest of China has hypertension rates at about 20 percent. Plus, in parts of the world where they eat lots of hot peppers, the men and women have fewer heart attacks, strokes and pulmonary embolisms. Most scientists agree capsaicin works because it cools inflammation throughout the body. That's why I wasn't surprised to learn about another exciting study with capsaicin...

    Capsaicin cream protects heart muscle during heart attack

    A recent study found that capsaicin in peppers might even prevent or reduce damage to your heart during a heart attack. In fact... Two years ago, scientists from the University of Cincinnati triggered heart attacks in mice. Then they applied capsaicin cream to different spots of the skin during the heart attack. The capsaicin triggered a powerful reaction in the central nervous system. These signals helped to protect the heart muscle. In fact, the mice that got the capsaicin cream experienced 85 percent less cardiac cell death compared to the mice that got nothing. According Keith Jones, PhD, the study's lead researcher, "Topical capsaicin has no known serious adverse effects and could be easily applied in an ambulance or emergency room setting well in advance of coronary tissue death." Plus, Dr. Jones said capsaicin cream might protect the heart during those long minutes it takes to open the blocked vessel. Jones believes capsaicin cream works because it tricks the body. Your skin senses the "hot" cream and sends out signals to douse the fire. Your body goes into high alert squelching inflammation. Apparently, it can even save critical muscle fibers during a heart attack. So... Do we have a long way to go before proving capsaicin really works to reduce heart damage during a heart attack? Sure we do. But if the research pans out (and I think it will), maybe one day EMTs will use capsaicin cream to treat heart attack patients. In the meantime, you can work on keeping your blood pressure low like the men and women from southwestern China. Eat lots of hot peppers. Habanera peppers and Scotch bonnet peppers are just about the hottest variety you'll find. And they contain the most capsaicin.
  12. Eat more fat to lower your heart attack risk

    Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of heart attack risk, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. And if you have it, I can pretty much guarantee your doctor wants you to take a statin drug, like Crestor. But this is a mistake (for more reasons than one). First of all, statin drugs may lower your cholesterol, but they don't keep you alive any longer than just taking better care of yourself. In fact, one major study published in the New England Journal of Medicine compared statin drugs to "usual care" in patients with moderately high LDL cholesterol. ("Usual care" means that patients tried to maintain a proper body weight, didn't smoke, and regularly exercised.) Researchers found that men and women who took a statin drug lowered their cholesterol by 28 percent. The "usual care" group lowered their cholesterol by only 11 percent. But don't start celebrating yet if you're on a statin... The statin group didn't die any less from heart attacks or strokes than the men and women following "usual care." In fact, both groups showed the very same rates of death from heart attack and cardiovascular disease. Plus, when you consider the drugs' serious side effects -- which can include muscle pain and neuropathy -- you're much better off hitting the treadmill for 10 minutes a day. What's the second reason you should skip the statin drug if you have atherosclerosis? Turns out that changing your diet and eating more fat may work better (and faster!) than taking a drug.

    Men and women reduce plaque lesions by eating more fat

    Spanish researchers recruited 7,500 men and women who had a high  heart attack risk to take part in their study. They divided the volunteers into three groups. The first group followed a Mediterranean diet and received 15 liters of virgin olive oil (VOO) to use in cooking over three months. The second group followed a Mediterranean diet and ate 30 grams a day of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts. The third group received instructions to follow a low-fat diet. After three months, the researchers checked back in on their high heart attackrisk patients. Of course, the low-fat dieters didn't exit the study in any better health. Their plaque lesions stayed the same as did their arterial thickness. But the high-fat groups did great! First off, they improved their ratios of apolipoprotein. This protein binds to fats in the blood. It's an important indicator of cardiovascular health. Plus... The men and women who entered the study with atherosclerosis also showed the biggest improvements. Their plaque lesions regressed and they reduced their arterial thickness significantly in just one year! In addition, five percent of the men and more than 16 percent of the women dropped out of the medium-to-high heart attackrisk category. Researchers saw enough improvements to place them in a low-risk category for suffering a cardiovascular event. This study underscores the importance of a good diet, rich in unsaturated fats. The researchers said it best in their report: "a modification in the entire diet pattern managed to achieve, in just one year, results that pharmaceutical drugs did not -- even after two years of treatment." So no matter what your doctor may try and sell you, whether it's a statin drug or low-fat diet, just ignore him. You don't need drugs. But you do need the "good" fat in your diet. It will help you live longer.
  13. CoQ10 for blood pressure

    Cardiologists are hot shots. Just watch any prime time TV hospital drama set and they always cast some brash and dashingly handsome doctor with a God complex as the hospital cardiologist. And they seldom admit they're wrong (or have something to learn). But two cardiologists from the University of Rochester Medical Center recently earned my respect. They admitted in a new review after studying CoQ10 for blood pressure that you can combat heart disease without using drugs or a scalpel. In fact, this all-natural superstar can have a "profound effect" on high blood pressure. Cardiologists witness "cultural shift" John Bisognano, MD, PhD may not want you to take a vitamin instead of a drug for your high blood pressure, but he doesn't have much say in the matter these days. In fact... "Right now," Dr. Bisognano admits, "we're seeing a cultural shift where an increasing number of people want to avoid standard pharmaceuticals. We're also seeing a growing number of patients who require a large number of drugs to control their blood pressure and are looking for something else to help manage it." Dr. Bisognano is the director of Outpatient Cardiology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He says these heart patients are coming to his office carrying bags of supplements they want him to look at. In the past, he didn't know what to tell them. He worried that their supplements might do more harm than good. So Dr. Bisognano and his colleague decided to learn something new. They examined all the research for non-drug interventions for high blood pressure. He felt this would help him guide patients looking for non-drug options. To share their findings from testing CoQ10 for blood pressure, they put together the most comprehensive review to date of non-drug interventions to treat high blood pressure. They published it in the scholarly Journal of Clinical Hypertension. Some of the stuff, the heart docs say, is junk. But some of it they admit actually does work. And one natural -- and safe -- superstar has a "profound effect" on high blood pressure. Imagine that! Superstar nutrient gains respect of cardiologists Bisognano and his colleague looked at lots of different vitamins for the heart. And one vitamin stood out from the pack: Coenzyme Q10 (or CoQ10). I'm no cardiologist, but I've talked about CoQ10 for probably 20 years. It's an enzyme and antioxidant found in nearly every cell in your body. It helps your body convert food into energy...so as a nutritionist, I use CoQ10 quite a bit. CoQ10 also plays a huge role in the heart's health. In one recent clinical trial, patients who took CoQ10 each day were less likely to die of a heart attack than patients who took a placebo. In addition, as Bisognano and his colleague noted in their review, CoQ10 for blood pressure could have a "profound effect". In fact... Several clinical studies suggest that taking CoQ10 for four to 12 weeks might lower your systolic blood pressure by up to 17 mm/Hg and your diastolic number by up to 10 mm/Hg. That's huge! And with a little exercise, it could make all the difference in whether or not you need medication. Plus, unlike most blood pressure medication, CoQ10 isn't associated with any significant side effects. Bisognano also noted that potassium, Hawthorn extract, and mistletoe extract seem to help slightly improve your blood pressure readings. What's still missing? Bisognano's review focused only on nutrients proven to lower blood pressure. But this is a mistake. High blood pressure is just one piece of the puzzle. I always recommend following the CCME plan for heart disease prevention formulated by the famed nutritionist Brian Leibovitz, PhD. He says, yes, we need CoQ10 for blood pressure, but we also need l-carnitine, magnesium, and vitamin E to prevent cardiovascular disease. So in addition to 100 mg a day of CoQ10, make sure to add this to the mix: • L-Carnitine to help carry fats across the inner membrane of cells (1,000 mg daily) • Magnesium to relax and dilate your blood vessels (500 to 800 mg daily) • Vitamin E as mixed tocopherols to scavenge for free radicals (400 to 800 IU daily) Bisognano also recommended that folks with high blood pressure follow the DASH diet that's high in fiber, low in fats, with lots of fruits and vegetables. Here again, I'll part ways with Bisognano. You need your fats. Just make sure they are the good fats found in olive oil, nuts, oily fish, and avocados. As always, work with a trusted doctor or naturopath. These guidelines should be tailored to fit your individual needs.
  14. Eating these "forbidden" foods cuts stroke risk in half!

    Normally I tell you: if the food is white, you should stay away from it. White flour. White potatoes. White sugar. You shouldn't touch any of it. So it may come as a surprise when I say, not all white food is bad. There are few "white foods" you do need. In fact, a new Dutch study found that eating specific "white" foods might reduce your stroke risk.. This study followed more than 20,000 middle-aged men and women for 10 years. At the beginning of the study, none of the men and women suffered from any type of cardiovascular disease. To kick things off, researchers asked their volunteers to fill out a detailed questionnaire about the kinds of foods they regularly ate. Specifically, the researchers wanted to see what kinds of fruits and vegetables the volunteers ate. Then, the researchers classified the fruits and veggies into four groups, by color: 1. Green 2. Orange or Yellow 3. Red or Purple 4. White And the results may surprise you... Eating these "white" foods pays off The researchers followed the men and women for the next 10 years, monitoring their stroke risk. During this time, 233 of the volunteers suffered strokes. But the men and women who ate the most "white" food had 52 percent fewer strokes than men and women who ate the least amount of "white" food. In fact, for each 25 gram per day increase in "white" foods eaten, the volunteers cut their stroke risk by an impressive nine percent! On the other hand, eating plenty of green, orange, yellow, red, and purple foods didn't do anything to decrease stroke risk. (But don't go cutting out those veggies...it just means they help you in other ways!) So what kind of "white" foods did they eat? In the study, the white fruits and vegetables included cauliflower, bananas, chicory, and cucumbers. And... Best of all, 55 percent of the "white" foods eaten in the study were apples or pears! Apples and pears count as "white" foods because their inside or "flesh" is white. The researchers believe the phytochemicals in the white flesh of apples and pears may help protect you against strokes. And remember how I said eating just 25 grams per day of white produce cut stroke risk by 9 percent? Well, guess how many grams the average apple weighs? It weighs about 120 grams. So eating just one medium apple a day could cut your stroke risk by up to 45 percent! How easy is that to work into your diet?! So -- while green, red, and purple veggies usually get all the attention. Remember this: eating certain whites is good for you too! According to Linda Oude Griep, M.Sc., the study's lead author, "To prevent stroke, it may be useful to consume considerable amounts of white fruits and vegetables. For example, eating one apple a day is an easy way to increase white fruits and vegetable intake." Want another a few more reasons to eat lots of apples and pears? White fruits contain powerful antioxidants Apples and pears contain a powerful antioxidant called quercetin. Emerging evidence suggests that quercetin may slow the growth of cancer cells, especially colon cancer cells. It also appears to encourage the normal turnover of cells in your body. We call this process apoptosis. Cancer cells do not undergo apoptosis. They just keep replicating and growing. Plus, other studies raise the possibility that quercetin may help fight prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) and heart disease. So eat lots of white fruits and veggies this fall, folks. Just remember the other whites are still off-limits, including white potatoes.
  15. Big Pharma cooks up new drugs to raise your HDL cholesterol

    Bad cholesterol gets all the attention. But truthfully, raising  HDL  cholesterol (good cholesterol) is far more important. Having plenty of this high density blood protein helps keep your heart disease risk low. In fact, studies show that for every five-point gain in HDL cholesterol, your heart disease risk decreases by a whopping 25 percent! That's why I wasn't surprised to learn that Big Pharma is pouring big bucks into a new drug aimed at raising HDL cholesterol. Think Lipitor...times 10! Well, forget it. Even if this Lipitor tag-along drug gets approved, you have better options. Here are some great natural ways of raising HDL cholesterol, without drugs:
    • Pitch the potato. Simple carbs like white potatoes lower your HDL cholesterol. But complex carbs like sweet potatoes and short-grain brown rice increase it.
    • Eat nuts. Foods with high monosaturated fats, such as nuts and olive oil, improve your HDL cholesterol. Get rid of saturated fats in your diet, like French fries. These will sabotage your hard work.
    • Take niacin (B3). For pennies a day, it will help boost your HDL cholesterol. Sure, some people experience a mildly uncomfortable "flushing" from niacin. But it's very temporary and tends to go away once the body has grown more accustomed to the increased niacin.
    • Lose a few pounds & exercise. These are two great, simple, and proven ways to improve your HDL cholesterol.
  16. New study on clear arteries show how to keep them clot-free

    Big Pharma scares you into taking a statin drug. They say it's the only sure way to prevent plaque buildup in your arteries. But what if one cheap vitamin could ensure clear arteries? Think Big Pharma would have a vested interested in making sure you never hear about this a vitamin that helps you keep clear arteries? You betcha. And the mainstream press is only too happy to comply. You see... On July 28th, researchers from Columbia University found a surprising connection between one vitamin and plaque in your carotid artery. This is the main artery that sends blood to your brain. When it gets clogged, you have a stroke. But one key vitamin may make a difference in helping you maintain clear arteries. In fact, researcher found that the more of this vitamin you have in your bloodstream, the less plaque you have in your carotid artery. On the other hand...the less you have of this vitamin in your bloodstream, the more plaque you have in your carotid artery. What vitamin does this? Vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin. And one of the cheapest vitamins you'll ever find.

    Vitamin D clears arteries like a drug

    Researchers from Columbia University looked at 203 adults enrolled in the Northern Manhattan Study. They measured the amount of 25-hydroxyvitamin D found in the volunteers' blood. (This is the form vitamin D takes in your blood.) Researchers also took ultrasounds of the volunteers' carotid arteries. Dr. Shonni Silverberg, MD, said, "We found a robust association of vitamin D levels with...carotid atherosclerosis." In my book, vitamin D presents a perfect alternative to taking a statin drug. But don't look for the mainstream press to cover this topic. I checked myself. None of the big dailies covered the study. As always, stay tuned to my Guide to Good Health. I'll point you toward important studies missed (or ignored) by the mainstream hacks. And if you want to keep clear arteries, take vitamin D. I recommend getting up to 5,000 IU of D3 per day.
  17. Shocking NSAID side effects revealed in large study

    Got high blood pressure or coronary artery disease (CAD)? Then you'll want to think twice before taking an NSAID – even the over-the- counter variety. NSAID side effects just might kill you. In fact, a new study reveals that men and women with these conditions who regularly take these meds significantly increase their risk of heart attack, stroke, even death. Take these drugs long enough and your death risk may shoot up by 127 percent! But wait. NSAIDS are supposed to be safe. You can pick it up any grocery store, gas station, or bathroom vending machine. Here's what you don't know… Researchers stumble upon startling, new data regarding NSAID side effects It all began with the INVEST study. This study involved 23,000 CAD patients with stable hypertension. It took place at university research labs in 14 different countries. The University of Florida led one of the outposts. At each visit, UF researchers asked their patients about medication use. They discovered that many of the patients regularly took NSAIDs (or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). In fact, nearly 1,000 of the patients were "chronic" NSAID users. The rest were "non-chronic" NSAID users. (Drugs such as aspirin, Celebrex, ibuprofen, and naproxen fall into this category.) The researchers then followed their patients over the next five years, tracking any consequences of long-term NSAID use or NSAID side effects. Tragically, they found a shocking number of the chronic NSAID users went on to suffer heart attacks, strokes, or worse. Here's how the data broke down: • After nearly three years of regular NSAID use, patients had a 90 percent increase in the occurrence of all-cause mortality. Plus, their nonfatal heart attack and stroke rose by 47 percent. • After five years of regular NSAID use, patients had a 126 percent increase in cardiovascular deaths. Plus, their heart attack jumped to 66 percent. Stroke rate stayed the same after five years. Now, I know what you're thinking. Maybe these folks with higher risk let their high blood pressure get out of control? And that's what killed them. Nope. The chronic NSAID actually had slightly lower blood pressure than the non-chronic users. So their blood pressure stayed low, but they had a much greater risk of dying. According to Anthony Bavry, MD, lead researcher for the UF team, "Among coronary artery disease patients with hypertension, chronic self-reported use of NSAIDs was associated with harmful outcomes, and this practice should be avoided where possible." He continued "Until further data are available, alternative modes of pain relief should be considered for these patients." Well said, Dr. Bavry. In fact, I think long-term NSAID use should be avoided by just about everyone. NSAID side effects aren’t worth the risk.
  18. Exercise works better than angioplasty

    Exercise is far better for you in the long run than a $20,000 angioplasty. In fact... In 2009, German researchers studied heart disease patients with angina pain and narrowed arteries. None had suffered heart attacks. (Now remember. Walk into certain U.S. hospitals with these symptoms and you get a fast-pass angioplasty.) The Germans researchers had other ideas. They divided their heart disease patients into two groups. The first group received an angioplasty to fix the clogged artery. No one in the second group had an angioplasty. Instead, they began a daily exercise regimen. The Germans followed up with their patients five years later. Any guesses which group fared better? Well, 63 percent of the exercising patients did not suffer a cardiac event (such as heart attack, stroke, or death). On the other hand, only 40 percent of angioplasty patients survived without a similar cardiac event. The exercise group clearly fared better! They had almost 25 percent fewer heart attacks, strokes, and deaths. This is my favorite kind of study...one that shows you can heal yourself, despite what your cardiologist may tell you. Just get moving.
  19. Angioplasties may be inappropriate, overused procedure in US hospitals

    Cardiologists in the U.S. perform angioplasties 600,000 times a year. You probably know someone who‘s had it, or maybe you‘ve even had it yourself. Even though I‘m sure you‘re familiar with  angioplasties, I bet you never realized how unnecessary (even dangerous) they can be. And I bet you never thought twice about how lucrative angioplasties are, either. We‘re talking about raking in $12 billion a year from this single procedure. It‘s like a cardiologist‘s secret offshore bank account! I‘ve railed against these bread-and-butter surgeries like angioplasties before. And now a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows I‘m right on target to suspect foul-play among certain cardiologists. For this study, researchers investigated cardiology departments at 1,000 U.S. hospitals. The researcher turned up some unsettling statistics. More than 75,000 procedures performed at these hospitals were "inappropriate" or of "uncertain" benefit to the patient. In many cases, the doctors performed the procedure on patients without any symptoms at all! These docs perform 75,000 questionable surgeries a year...7.5 million of them in a decade. Yet we revere these docs like they are gods. The good news is... Even if your cardiologist says you need to go under the knife, you may have options. Last year, I told you about a study that showed a little exercise is far better for you in the long run. It prevents more strokes and heart attacks! But first...

    How did we get to this point?

    I‘m talking about angioplasties. For this procedure, docs insert a balloon-tipped catheter into a narrowed or collapsed blood vessel. Once the artery is clear, docs usually place a stent in the spot to prop the blood vessel open. Angioplasties are now widespread now in the U.S., but it‘s relatively new to the medical scene. Andreas Gruentzig performed the first one in 1977 in his native Switzerland. He brought the technique with him when he came to work for Emory University. Then angioplasties quickly took off like hot cakes. Today, cardiologists use it to treat common problems like angina pain, shortness of breath, and coronary artery disease. Cardiologists also use the procedure to prevent a heart attack. In fact, the new study found that cardiologists perform 71 percent of angioplasties to avert an emergency. Don‘t get me wrong: in these cases, doing angioplasties are the right call 99 percent of the time. But it‘s the non-emergency cases where things get sketchy...

    Watch out for the angioplasty on the buffet table

    Let‘s say you have coronary artery disease. But you are taking steps to improve your health. You‘re exercising. You‘re watching your diet. And you don‘t have any symptoms, like angina or shortness of breath. Then, let‘s say you walk into your cardiologist‘s office for your annual visit. He runs a couple of tests and says you should have an angioplasty "just in case." The researchers found these types of "elective" angioplasties seems to occur all too often. In fact, they determined that cardiologists performed 55,000 "elective" angioplasties in just one year alone. Plus... Of these 55,000, almost 40 percent of them were of "uncertain" benefit. And 12 percent of them (or 16,838) were completely inappropriate. And that‘s not all... The hospital where your doc works seems to play a big role. In fact, the researchers found that some hospitals (about a quarter of them in the U.S.) keep their "inappropriate" PCI numbers low, at less than six percent. But other hospitals (again, about quarter of them in the U.S.) have sky-high numbers. At these hospitals, about 16 percent of the PCIs are inappropriate. So if your doctor says to you...don‘t worry, I do a ton of these a year. That might not be a good sign. Get a second opinion, pronto.
  20. Cooking with olive oil lowers stroke risk by 73 percent

    A new study found that men and women with the most monosaturated omega-9 fatty acids in their blood had fewer strokes. How do you get more monosaturated omega-9 fatty acids in your blood? By cooking with olive oil. Toss olive oil on salads. Dip your 100 percent whole wheat bread in it. Whatever you do, make sure you  are cooking with olive oil every day. That‘s especially important if you‘re over 65. A new study shows that‘s when you need it the most. For this study, French researchers followed 7,625 men and women over 65 with no history of stroke. The volunteers answered questions about how much they were cooking with olive oil. The researchers then divided the volunteers into three groups: no usage, moderate usage, and heavy usage. If a volunteer was cooking with olive oil or using olive oil as salad dressing, they were a moderate user. If a volunteer was cooking with olive oil and using olive oil as salad dressing, they were heavy users. And the heavy users get all the glory. They reduced their stroke risk by a whopping 73 percent by cooking with olive oil! So eat like an Italian this summer and start cooking with olive oil. Make a nice caprese salad with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil. Then, make sure to drizzle it with plenty of olive oil. Buon Appetito!

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