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. Try these two (non-drug) strategies to lower blood pressure naturally

    According to a new study, laughing regularly as well as listening to music could modestly lower blood pressure naturally. And this may make all the difference in whether or not you need BP medication.

    For the study, researchers recruited 90 men and women with high blood pressure. The randomly divided the volunteers into two groups. One group went to music classes or "laughter sessions" twice a month. The other group didn't go to anything.

    (Okay, I know what you‘re thinking. What‘s a "laughter session"? The report that I read likened it to visiting a comedy club.) In the music sessions, volunteers enjoyed their favorite music and stretched to jazz. (They were also encouraged to listen to music at home.)

    The researchers checked back in on their volunteers three months later to determine whether of not such practices were able to lower blood pressure naturally. They found that volunteers who went music or laughter classes lowered their systolic BP by five to six points on average.

    This may sound like a modest improvement. But if you ask me, it‘s pretty darn good. One expert said this is the equivalent of losing 10 pounds or cutting salt from your diet or even taking BP meds.

    And here‘s what‘s even more interesting...

    Researchers took the volunteers‘ BP before and after each therapy session. They found dips of six to seven points before and after each session. The dips were temporary, but consistent.

    Why would their BP go down before going to class?

    The lead researcher for the study said that music and laughter might help to lower your cortisol levels. Cortisol, as you‘ll recall, is a stress hormone that may influence blood pressure. So, in this case, it appears that just anticipating that you will have a good time helps to lower your cortisol and push your BP down. Some experts believe listening to music or laughing also helps to relax and dilate blood vessels. This, in turn, helps to lower blood pressure naturally.

    So if you ask me...

    Rent a funny movie. Go to a concert. Making laughter and music a part of your life will help you to lower blood pressure naturally.

  2. TIME misses key flaw in bogus drug study encouraging Actos for diabetes

    Last month, The New York Times and TIME magazine both ran articles that reported on new research for a diabetes drug called Actos (pioglitazone). According to the new research, men and women with elevated blood sugar levels who took Actos were less likely to develop diabetes than a placebo group.

    Now, you can make the case that the reporters wrote balanced arguments concerning the use of Actos for diabetes. In fact, both reporters raised concerns about giving a diabetes drug to patients without full-blown diabetes. Plus, both reporters warned you about the drug‘s very serious side effects.

    But there's one major problem with both articles: They fail to point out a key flaw in the new research on prescribing Actos for diabetes. In fact, the results of this study are so shaky, TIME and The NYT had no business giving it any ink. (You‘ll learn exactly why the results are so shaky in a moment, I promise!)

    But first, I want to point out something about Big Pharma...

    The new Actos research reflects Big Pharma's new marketing strategy. Don‘t just take our drugs to treat disease. Take them before you develop the disease too! Unfortunately, the national news media seems all too willing to take this strategy seriously. But, in my book, it‘s all about boosting sales.

    Here‘s what they don't tell you...

    Actos's patent expired in January of this year. But Takeda Pharmaceuticals -- the company that makes Actos -- struck a deal to delay entry of generic versions of the drug until August 2012.

    So, this is the company‘s last-ditch effort to boost sales of Actos for diabetes over the next 12 months. Get men and women who don‘t have diabetes to take a diabetes drug. What a novel idea! Is it any surprise, then, that Takeda Pharmaceuticals partially funded this bogus study? Yep. Who didn‘t see that coming from a mile away?

    The good news is there are lots of ways to prevent diabetes without resorting to a drug like Actos. In fact, a new study proved that even small amounts of one key mineral could lower your blood sugar by nearly 10 percent. I‘ll tell you all about that study in a moment, but first let‘s look at the details of the latest Actos research...

    Study raises red flags from the start

    U.S. researchers gave Actos to 602 men and women with pre-diabetes for two years. (To be clear, these folks did not have full-blown diabetes, just elevated blood sugar levels.) During that time, 7.6 percent of the volunteers who took a placebo developed diabetes. By comparison, only 2.1 percent of volunteers who took Actos developed diabetes.

    According to TIME and The NYT, this means volunteers who took Actos reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 72 percent.

    Sounds great, right?

    The lead researcher for the study called these results "astounding."

    Well, not so fast Dr. Ralph A. DeFronzo. Let's look at the results from your study using the raw data.

    Here's what really happened in your "astounding" study that looks at taking Actos for diabetes...

    Of the 602 men and women who started the study, 10 patients who took Actos developed diabetes. On the other hand, 45 patients who took the placebo developed diabetes.

    So...we‘re talking about a total difference of 35 people! Just 35 people.

    Talk about ignoring the big fat elephant in the room. Did the reporters omit this information because it lessens the argument? I can‘t be sure but what I do know is that the mainstream press needs to take a long hard look at the study data.

    There are 300 million pre-diabetics living in the U.S. alone. Should we really even consider giving this drug to any of them based on the results that 35 fewer people developed diabetes? In my opinion: No.

    I don‘t care how much The NYT and TIME warned their readers about weight gain and fluid retention. When you leave out a key piece of information like that, you‘ve really dropped the ball.

    And that‘s not all...

    Actos linked to heart risk and bladder cancer

    Many people consider Actos a safer alternative to other diabetes drugs, but it‘s not. Here‘s why...

    It belongs to the same class of drugs as Avandia. As you‘ll recall, the FDA greatly restricts the use of Avandia because it may increase your heart attack risk. So, how about Actos? Could it increase heart attack risk too?

    Of course, it could.

    In fact, a 2010 study found that Actos caused as many heart problems as Avandia. Plus, the FDA is investigating a link between Actos and bladder cancer. I suspect they will find the longer you take Actos, the greater your risk.

    Now, I promised you some good news in this whole mess. And here it is: there are non-drug solutions to getting your blood sugar under control...

    Tackle diabetes naturally

    First off, there's diet and exercise. As I mentioned earlier, this can cut your diabetes risk by 58 percent. Plus, a new study found that magnesium might help too.

    For this study, researchers divided 52 men and women with diabetes into two groups. One group got 365 mg of magnesium per day for six months. The other group got a placebo. Overall, the magnesium group improved in two out of three tests for insulin sensitivity. Plus, their blood sugar levels after fasting improved by about seven percent.

    Though this study is small in scope, researchers point to large-scale meta-analysis that confirms their results. In that analysis, researchers found that men and women lowered their diabetes risk by 15 percent with each 100 mg of magnesium taken. So, just think...taking 300 mg magnesium each day could lower your risk by 45 percent. Not too shabby.

    If you want to learn more about how to lower your diabetes risk without drugs, go back and look at my Guide to Good Health from 8-12-10. In this report, you‘ll find 3  important steps you can take to improve your blood sugar control.

  3. Natural benefits of olive leaf extract outshine Big Pharma superstar

    Revealed: Natural competitor works just as well as Big Pharma superstar!

    Did you know that researchers recently discovered that an all-natural extract can lower your blood pressure as well as key Big Pharma drugs…in just eight weeks!? Don‘t feel bad if you hadn‘t heard about this breakthrough. Big Pharma pays big bucks to make sure small studies like this one never see the light of day. They‘d rather keep you in the dark to pad their own pockets. In fact, Big Pharma spends far more money on marketing than it does on research. One recent report found that drugs companies shell out $57 billion a year on promotion. But it spends almost half that research and development. So you tell me. What‘s more important to Big Pharma: Keeping you healthy or keeping your attention? Big Pharma is so obsessed about promotion because if people knew about this natural competitor, they wouldn‘t need to rely on manufactured solutions. Just consider this small (but impressive) study recently published that fell through the mainstream cracks...

    Natural plant extract lowers BP as well as ACE inhibitor

    ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors are among the most widely used drugs in the world. They lower your blood pressure by blocking a hormone called angiotensin II. This hormone causes your blood vessels to constrict, so your heart must work overtime to pump bloodaround your body. By blocking this hormone, ACE inhibitors allow your blood vessels to relax and reopen. As a result, your blood pressure comes down and your heart gets a break. Now here‘s where things get interesting... Researchers recently found that olive leaf extract (OLE) could lower blood pressure as well as one popular ACE inhibitor! For the study, they recruited patients with stage-1 high blood pressure. They divided the patients into two groups. One group took 500 mg of OLE twice daily for eight weeks. The second group received 12.5 mg of the ACE inhibitor Captopril twice daily for eight weeks. At the end of the trial, researchers found that both groups lowered their blood pressure. On average, the OLE group went from 149/94 to 138/89. The ACE inhibitor group went from 148/94 to 135/87. There was one major difference, however, between the two groups. The olive leaf group lowered their LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. The ACE inhibitor group did not see these improvements. (To do that, they‘d have to pop another drug. Yes, just think of the gains for Big Pharma!)

    One compound does double duty

    The researchers believe a compound called oleuropein holds the key to OLE‘s success. They believe oleuropein helps relax your blood vessels and sweep away bad cholesterol. Plus, this isn‘t the first time researchers used OLE to lower high blood pressure... Back in 2008, researchers studied identical twins with borderline high blood pressure. One twin received 500 mg of OLE twice a day for eight weeks. The other twin received "lifestyle advice." After just eight weeks, the OLE group lowered their BP from 137/80 to 126/76. They also saw their LDL (bad) cholesterol fall. The "lifestyle advice" group, on the other hand, only slightly improved their cholesterol scores. Their BP scores stayed the same.

    Proceed with caution...

    If I had to choose, I‘d take OLE over an ACE inhibitor any day of the week (and twice on Sundays!). Just look at the side effects for ACE inhibitors and you‘ll probably see it my way too. (The most common side effect for Captopril is a chronic, dry cough. But people who take this drug can also suffer from kidney failure as well as head, neck, and intestinal angioedema. This type of swelling is similar to hives, except it occurs beneath the skin and can be lifethreatening if it affects your airway. Captopril is also associated with a blood disorder called neutropenia. With this disorder, your white blood cell count drops to abnormally low levels. This is not good because white blood cells protect you against infection and pathogens. Lastly, pregnant women should not take Captopril. It raises the risk of your child developing "major" congenital malformations.) Nevertheless... I do have some concerns about taking OLE continuously. You see...

    Olive leaf extract is well-known in alternative medicine. We use it to fight colds and infections. But I don‘t ever use it continuously, as it can almost work too well. In fact, over time, OLE can wipe out your body‘s supply of good bacteria...especially in your gut. Now, maybe if you take plenty of probiotics along with the OLE you‘ll sidestep the problem. But these are untested waters, and I‘ll keep you posted about any further studies. Before trying OLE for high blood pressure, I‘d seek the advice of a professional. Here is a list web sites where you can search for a natural health practitioner in your area:

    • The American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA) at http://www.holisticmedicine.org
    • The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) at http://www.naturopathic.org
    • Orthomolecular Medicine at http://www.orthomolecular.org
    • The American College for Advancement in Medicine: http://www.acamnet.org

    Lastly, go back and read my Guide to Good Health from last August. In this article, you‘ll learn about my five-step plan to lower your blood pressure without drugs.

  4. Diet soda linked to strokes

    If you drink a diet soda every day, you may be thin (though I doubt it)... but you also run a much higher stroke risk. That‘s according to a new data presented at last month‘s International Stroke Conference. For this study, U.S. researchers followed than 2,500 men and women for almost 10 years. They closely monitored what kind and how much diet soda the volunteers drank. During this time frame, 559 vascular events occurred. This included ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes.

    Diet soda increases stroke risk by 61 percent! 

    When the researchers analyzed the data, they found a clear connection between diet soda and stroke risk. In fact, the men and women who drank just one diet soda each day experienced a 61 percent greater risk. So, aside from the aspartame (a known carcinogen) found in this junk, diet soda is clearly bad news for your health. So stay away from the can! If you want to drink something light and refreshing, grab some ice water and put a lemon in it. Lemon juice from a bottle works just as well. Keep it in the fridge and squirt some into your ice water. It makes for a refreshing and risk-free drink.
  5. Vegans may increase heart disease risk

    Have you noticed how people always assume that vegans are super healthy? Frankly, I've encountered many vegans who are just downright smug. They think they are healthier than everyone else is. But I disagree. I think veganism is a serious mistake. In fact, a new study found that eliminating meat from your diet could harm your health. Here's why... Scientists recently analyzed dozens of vegan studies from the last 30 years. They found that men and women who follow a strict vegan diet (no meat, poultry, fish, or animal by-products) tend to have elevated homocysteine levels. And that's not good. Too much of this amino acid in your blood greatly increases your risk for heart attack or stroke. But that's not all the scientists discovered... They also found that vegans seem to run a greater risk of developing blood clots and atherosclerosis. They also tend to have lower HDL (or "good") cholesterol. I really don't have anything against vegans. It's just that I'm an omnivore. Specifically, I make sure to eat a few servings of organic chicken and wild-caught fish each week. I'm not even opposed to eating lean organic red meat (that's been grass-fed) occasionally. Simply put, we need the protein and the saturated fats. We also need vital nutrients like CLA, l-carnitine, iron, zinc, B12, vitamin A, and omega-3 fatty acids. But the only place most of us get these nutrients is through meat, fish, and fowl. Plus, vegans tend to rely on lots of TVP (textured vegetable protein). This is fancy term for non-fermented soy, which is loaded with phyto-estrogens and phytate. These compounds block your absorption of nutrients and disrupt your hormones. Some scientists also link them with cancer. In addition, if you look at the intestinal tracts of pure carnivores and pure herbivores, humans are somewhere in the middle. We were designed to eat some meat. I don't recommend you go out and treat yourself to a rack of greasy ribs every night. But you can -- and should -- enjoy salmon, chicken, and even flank steak on a weekly basis. You need the protein and the nutrients these foods deliver.
  6. Vitamin D conspiracy leads straight to Big Pharma

    You've probably heard about the bad rap vitamin D has been getting lately. The argument goes something like this...the vitamin D crisis isn't as bad as we thought. You probably don't need as much of it as we thought. But it's a free country. So go ahead and take 400 IU of it per day, if you want. That's more than enough. Just don't go over 4,000 IU per day. "High doses" like that can increase your risk for "harm." These new guidelines come from the U.S. Institute of Medicine (or IOM), a powerful non-profit agency that advises the nation of matters of health. But here's the problem: Their report is pure propaganda. In fact, I believe these low doses of vitamin D are a deliberate attempt to keep the American public needing more drugs until the day they die. (I'll admit,that sounds a tad paranoid. But I'll explain why my paranoia is well-founded in a moment.) First, let's look at the three major problems with the IOM research.

    Leave it to the IOM to redefine "majority"

    First off, the IOM report states that the "majority" of adults living in the U.S. get enough vitamin D...and that's just nonsense. As you'll recall, last week I told you about a major CDC study that found almost 80 percent of Americans don't get enough vitamin D. Plus, another major study published late last year by researchers from the University of Tennessee came up with similar results. In fact, this time researchers found that 87 percent of the general population is mildly to severely deficient in vitamin D. Even the most conservative estimates put vitamin D deficiencies at about 50 percent of the population. So how the IOM can confidently claim the "majority" of Americans get enough vitamin D, I have no idea!

    Spend a minute in the sun each day

    The IOM report also states that "North Americans need on average 400 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D per day. People age 71 and older may require as much as 800 IUs per day because of potential changes in people's bodies as they age." Again, this is pure nonsense. But before I go any further, here's a quick biochemistry primer... The IOM says you only need 400 IU of vitamin D. But they actually mean 400 IU of vitamin D3 (or cholecalciferol). Your skin makes this natural form of vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. In fact, spending just 30 minutes in the sun without sunscreen, your skin will produce anywhere from 10,000 IU to 50,000 IU of D3! Plus, you can also take D3 as a supplement. Next... Vitamin D3 passes through your liver and it turns into a pre-hormone called 25-hydroxycholecalciferol. This is abbreviated as 25(OH)D. When you get a vitamin D blood test, we really want to see how much 25(OH)D is in your blood. We measure 25(OH)D in nanomoles per liter or nmol/l. Now, stick with me, because here's where it gets interesting... According to the IOM report, taking just 400 IU of vitamin D3 per day will give 97 percent of us a blood serum level of 50 nmol/l. And that level will protect us from fractures. Sounds okay, I guess. But let me put this another way to show you just how silly the IOM recommendation really is... Let's assume that your body makes 10,000 IU of D3 for every 30 minutes spent in the sun without sunscreen. (Most experts say you make at least twice that much...but let's not get picky.) So, how long does it take for your body to make 400 IU of D3? Hurray! Just 1.2 minutes in the sun! That's all you need to keep your bones strong. Is it me, or does that just sound wrong? Well, here's the good news. It isn't just me. It is wrong. And there's some solid scientific proof to back me up...

    IOM gets their numbers wrong

    Two major meta-analysis' from 2009 found that 50 nmol/l of 25(OH)D in your blood isn't enough to protect you from a fracture or a fall. In fact, 28 separate studies found that 50 nmol/l isn't enough! Plus, the International Osteoporosis Foundation recommends men and women have 75 nmol/l of 25(OH)D. This is what it takes to protect you from accidental falls and fractures. Lastly, numerous studies over the years show that the more 25(0H)D in your blood, the greater your bone density. But to get up to those higher levels of 25(OH)D, you need more D3. Plus, here's another interesting twist. The authors of the IOM report most likely knew about all this research...they just chose to ignore it. You see, before publishing the new vitamin D guidelines, the IOM board consulted with Dr. Walter Willet. The board even thanked Dr. Willet at the end of their report. So who's Dr. Willet? He's a vitamin D expert and Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard. He also co-wrote one of the 2009 reports on vitamin D I mentioned earlier. The IOM, however, ignored his findings. But don't feel bad, Dr. Willet. Yours isn't the only research the IOM ignored...

    IOM report ignores research on vitamin D and disease

    Remember how I told you the IOM said 400 IU of D3 is enough to protect you against osteoporosis? Well, what about everything else...like cancer and heart disease? In a press conference, IOM chair Dr. Catherine Ross said "We could not find solid evidence that consuming more [vitamin D] would protect the public from chronic disease ranging from cancer to diabetes to improved immune function." And with that simple statement, Dr. Ross lost all credibility. Here are some of the best studies linking vitamin D and major diseases: Breast cancer: Women with vitamin D blood serum levels less than 50 nmol/mL are eight times more likely to develop an aggressive form of breast cancer. Colon cancer: Men and women with the highest vitamin D levels cut their colon cancer risk by 40 percent. Heart Disease & Stroke: Men and women with low vitamin D double their heart attack or stroke risk. Cognitive decline: Older women with low vitamin D are twice as likely to suffer cognitive impairment. Diabetes: A whopping 91 percent of diabetics have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. Plus, the less vitamin D in their blood, the greater their blood sugar problems. And I'm just scratching the surface here! If you want to look at all the scientific data on vitamin D, the Vitamin D Council is a good place to start. They list the studies by disease, so you can see the all scientific data Dr. Catherine Ross and her colleagues missed. In closing, there's one last reason why the IOM report has the pungent smell of propaganda...

    There's a rat in the house

    Glenville Jones, PhD is one of the authors of the IOM report. He's a scientist and also the co-inventor of drug made by a company called Cytochroma. This drug is still in development....but what condition will they treat with their top-secret drug? You got it. Vitamin D deficiencies! (I'm not making this stuff up. You can see the patent for yourself at the U.S. Patent Office website.) Dr. Jones also sits on the scientific advisory board of a drug company called Receptor Therapeutics. These guys also made a synthetic vitamin D treatment for cancer...in fact THREE synthetic vitamin D treatments for cancer. (Drug companies use synthetic vitamin D because they can patent it and make a huge profit. You can't patent natural vitamin D.) Well, isn't that so thoughtful... You don't need to take vitamin D. But if you do happen to get cancer...guess who plans to have a vitamin D drug you can take? Here's the bottom line for you: Ignore anything published by the IOM. Take up to 5,000 IU of natural vitamin D3 each day. And avoid anything made by Cytochroma and Receptor Therapeutics. Want more facts about vitamin D? Look back at all the Guide to Good Health reports by following this link. In the search box, type "vitamin D" and you'll find 40 articles.
  7. Chlorine defeated soldiers in Vietnam War and could harm your health too

    During the Vietnam War, autopsies performed on young American soldiers killed in combat left coroners scratching their heads. When examined, these soldiers looked like booze-guzzling, cigarette-smoking, overweight couch potatoes in their 70s...not like 20-year-old fighting machines. And a study suggests it was all thanks to chlorine. Thick, sticky cholesterol plaques filled their arteries. Some the men had total or partial blockages of one or more arteries. Some even had massive cholesterol lesions on their hearts. It's not a stretch to say...if these men hadn't died in combat...they would have died of a stroke or heart attack. So how'd they get so sick? Was it their diet? Did they smoke too much? Did they inhale Agent Orange? The U.S. government commissioned a study to solve the mystery. They hired scientists to compare the fallen soldiers to men who died in car crashes. They found one major difference between the two groups of men: Their drinking water. You see, U.S. soldiers took large "water-purification tablets" before they could safely drink the water in Vietnam. These tablets were pure chlorine. I guess it did prevent soldiers from getting diarrhea in Vietnam (a major problem in the war)...but it also nearly killed them. And based on the research I've seen...if you drink straight from the tap...the same will happen to you, sooner or later. Keep reading to learn exactly why...

    It's killing us from the inside out

    The U.S. started to add chlorine to public drinking water in the early 1900s to combat cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and hepatitis. And very quickly, this technique wiped out disease from America's water supply. Today, about 98 percent of U.S. cities use chlorine to filter public drinking water. Yes, I said 98 percent. But sadly, this may also explain why so many of our loved ones die from heart attack, stroke, or even cancer. To explain myself, let me step back again in time... In the 1960s, Dr. Joseph M. Price, M.D. exploded onto the medical scene with a book called Coronaries/Cholesterol/Chlorine. He called chlorine "the greatest crippler and killer of modern times." Dr. Price stumbled upon the link between chlorine and heart disease during his service in Vietnam as a medic. Like the U.S. government, Price noticed that healthy young soldiers often had clogged arteries. He too worried about the drinking water. When Dr. Price returned home from the war, he performed experiments on chickens to see if they'd develop vascular problems -- as the troops did -- by drinking chlorinated water. He divided his chickens into two groups. One group got chlorinated water and the other group got regular spring water. He found that 95 percent of the chickens that drank heavily chlorinated water developed heart disease and clogged arteries within a few months. (In humans, the process takes longer.) Plus, he found that the greater the concentration of chlorine, the greater the vascular problems. On the other hand, chickens that drank spring water didn't develop any problems. Interestingly, the poultry industry took notice of Price's work. In fact, to this day, most large poultry farms in the U.S. filter out the chlorine from the water given to their chickens. Too bad chickens are treated better than you and me in this country!

    EPA scientist proves Price was right!

    Even more recently, Dr. Richard Bull, when he worked for the Environmental Protection Agency, gave chlorinated water to pigeons. He found that pigeons given chlorinated water developed cholesterol levels 50% greater than the group given filtered water. Turns out, there's a scientific reason why chlorine causes cholesterol problems. In 1974, the EPA discovered that chlorine reacts with organic matter found naturally in water. It creates harmful compounds called trihalomethanes (or THMs). Dr. Price believed these THMs cause cholesterol to deposit in your arteries. It doesn't come from the foods you eat. In fact, he says that cholesterol found in food doesn't ever make its way into your arteries. Instead, it's all about the THMs. He believes that they ultimately cause most heart attacks. He also argues that's why nobody had heart attacks before 1900. The U.S. government didn't start adding chlorine to the water until the 20th century. But that's not the only problem with THMs...these buggers are also known carcinogens.

    Cancer in your drinking water

    Besides encouraging cholesterol to stick in your arteries, THMs also encourage the spread of free radicals. As you'll recall, free radicals are like loose cannons flying around in your body. Anything they hit, they damage. So that's why the link to chlorine and cancer shouldn't surprise you. In 1992, Harvard researchers found that drinking tap water raises your bladder and rectal cancer risk. They estimate as many as 10,000 people get these types of cancer each year...simply because they drink tap water filtered with chlorine. The New York Times ran an article about this study called "Tiny Risk in Chlorinated Water." Give me a break! Ten thousand new cases of bladder cancer each year is hardly a "tiny" risk...especially when you consider that many places in the world safely purify their water without chlorine! But that's not the only cancer link... In 1992, a team of U.S. researchers examined the breast tissue samples taken from women in their 60s. The women were identical in almost every way...except half them had breast cancer and the other half didn't. The other major difference had to do with chlorine... The researchers found that women with breast cancer had 50 to 60 percent higher levels of chlorine by-products in their tissue samples than women without cancer. Now, here's the good news... You can easily remove chlorine from your water by installing a carbon-based filter. Carbon absorbs chlorine and other contaminants. But as we learned last week, chlorine isn't your only problem. Fluoride is a killer too...and carbon filters don't do much to remove fluoride. I suggest using a home filter with UV or ozone technology. Almost of all of Europe uses this technology to safely filter public water...without a drop of chlorine or fluoride, to boot. So what gives in the U.S.? You got me on that one. Though, a few cities have begun to switch over to these types of systems...most notably Boston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Las Vegas. If you don't live in one of these cities, don't lose hope. Contact your local city council member or state legislator to voice your concerns! A few years back some folks from Washington State took on Uncle Sam and got fluoride yanked from their public drinking water! Lastly, you can look up what's in your town's tap water by visiting the Environmental Working Group's web site. Just go to the site's main page and look for the "Drinking Water Quality Report." Then enter your zip code. I found out the last time my town's water was tested, 17 chemicals exceeded health guidelines. Three chemicals even exceeded the legal limit...including the carcinogen THM I told you about that's linked to cancer and heart disease. Check out your town's statistics by visiting www.ewg.org. Hope they're better than mine. p.s. I've read that as much as 2/3 of your chlorine exposure comes from taking a shower. So make sure to install a filter on your showerhead as well.
  8. Boost your health with sunflower seeds

    I keep sunflower seeds in my kitchen cabinets, at my desk, and in the car. These crunchy seeds contain lots of natural vitamin E. In fact, just a quarter cup of sunflower seeds contains almost 100 percent of your Recommended Daily Allowance of this fat-soluble vitamin. As you’ll recall, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that patrols your body for harmful free radicals that lead to disease and aging. It also blocks free radicals from damaging cholesterol in your body. You see, every cell in your body needs a certain amount of cholesterol, but when attacked by free radicals, it becomes oxidized (or unstable). And cholesterol, once it has oxidized, can stick to blood vessel walls and lead to atherosclerosis. But eating a handful of sunflower seeds each day will give your body the tools it needs to flush out these unstable molecules. But that’s not all… When you eat a handful of sunflower seeds, it’s almost like taking a multivitamin. That’s because they contain all the nutrients your body needs, except for vitamin D. So when you bite into a sunflower seed, you also get:
    • Selenium, another powerful antioxidant shown to help with DNA repair
    • Magnesium, a versatile mineral that plays a major role in controlling blood pressure, migraines, muscle cramps, asthma, and fatigue.
    • Phytochemicals, such as phenolic acids and lignans, which may help prevent heart disease and cancer.
    • Fiber & protein, to help you to feel fuller longer.
    • Potassium, which helps to counteract too much sodium in your diet.
    • And even Tryptophan, the hormone that encourages the release of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin.
    When shopping for sunflower seeds, look for black-and-white shells that are firm and unbroken. Skip any packs that have shells with a yellowish tinge…this means they’ve probably gone rancid. And if you buy them from a bulk bin, give them a sniff to make sure they still smell fresh. Add fresh seeds to salads, yogurt, oatmeal, and homemade muffins…or just eat them by the handful as I do.
  9. Magnesium deficiency could increase risk of sudden fatal heart attack

    Common mineral slashes risk for sudden cardiac death

    More often than not, a fatal cardiac arrest hits without warning. Called a "sudden cardiac death" or SCD, it hits men and women who didn‘t have high cholesterol. They didn‘t have high blood pressure. They didn‘t even have angina pain. But many of them did have one hidden problem. In fact, according to two new scientific studies, this little-known problem affects a shocking number of men and women who die suddenly from heart failure. Turns out they‘re deficient in a vital mineral that‘s involved in literally hundreds of biochemical functions...from energy metabolism to DNA repair. It also helps to relax your arteries, keeping your blood pressure low. It also seems to help prevent heart arrhythmias, the most common cause of sudden cardiac death.

    Lack of magnesium: Major health problem

    When it comes to minerals, calcium gets most of the attention. But low magnesium is a major health problem. In fact, I‘ve read estimates that say up to 90 percent of the adult population in the U.S. is magnesium deficient. And there are a couple of reasons why this happens...

    First off, most men and women don‘t eat enough fruits and vegetables. These (as well as nuts and beans) are the best natural sources for magnesium. Plus, even if you do eat plenty of fruits, veggies, and nuts, these foods just don‘t contain as much magnesium as they used to.

    You see, poor commercial farming practices over the last 100 years have robbed U.S. soil of magnesium. So a serving of spinach in 2010 doesn‘t contain nearly the same amount of magnesium that it did back in 1910.

    As a result, you probably need to take a supplement to get the Recommended Daily Allowance. (I recommend a slightly higher amount than the RDA for anyone concerned about heart health. More details in a moment.)

    Unfortunately, very few of us do get the RDA, and take a look at what can happen...

    Fatal cardiac arrest risk skyrockets

    U.S. researchers looked at data for 90,000 healthy women enrolled in the Nurses‘ Health Study. These women filled out questionnaires seven times between the years 1980 and 2002. They answered questions about the foods they ate and the supplements they took. Plus, two times during the course of that study, researchers gathered blood samples from the volunteers to check for magnesium levels.

    At the end of the 26-year study, researchers found that about 500 women suffered sudden cardiac deaths. This means that death occurred within one hour of symptom onset.

    And low magnesium intake definitely stood out as a compounding factor. In fact, researchers found that women with low magnesium intake (less than 261 mg per day) were 34 percent more likely to suffer a sudden cardiac death than women with adequate daily intake (more than 345 mg per day).

    Plus, here‘s what I want you to remember about magnesium: You need to take it every day.

    You see, about half of the magnesium you take each day gets stored in your tissues and organs. The other half combines with calcium and phosphorus in your bones. But a crucial one percent of your daily intake circulates in your blood. And this tiny amount may make all the difference in whether or not you die from cardiac arrest. But you have to take the mineral everyday to keep your blood levels constant.

    In fact, researchers found that women with high plasma magnesium gained a ton of protection. They were 77 percent less likely to die from cardiac arrest compared to women with the lowest blood plasma levels.

    In their report, the researchers didn‘t hold back: "Given that most Americans do not meet the RDA for magnesium, increasing intake of magnesium presents a potential opportunity for sudden cardiac death prevention in the general population."

    Plus a study from earlier this year published in the American Heart Journal garnered very similar results.

    High blood plasma magnesium cuts SCD risk by 40 percent
    For this study, U.S. researchers looked at magnesium blood plasma levels in 15,000 men and women with atherosclerosis. They found that those with the highest levels of magnesium in the blood had a 40 percent reduced risk of suffering a sudden cardiac death. And those with consistently high blood plasma magnesium decreased their risk the most. Plus, the reduction in risk held true even after the researchers accounted for pre- existing conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Clearly, magnesium plays a major role in preventing fatality from cardiac arrest. To support your heart health, I‘d take 500 to 800 mg of it per day. I‘d also add in 1,000 mg of l-carnitine, 100 mg of coenzyme Q10, and 400 to 800 IU of vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols) for anyone concerned about heart failure. Plus, for more aggressive treatment, try adding the amino acid taurine to your regimen. It can be as effective as coenzyme Q10 for cardiac output, congestive heart failure, edema (swelling), and palpitations. Three grams per day may be necessary. It‘s best taken between meals for optimal absorption. I‘ll continue to write about real ways to combat heart disease...and I promise, not one will involve taking a drug.
  10. Vitamins may reduce the risk of heart attacks in women

    Taking a multivitamin is one of the foundations of good health, especially if you‘re a woman. In fact, researchers recently found that women with no history of heart disease who regularly take multivitamins significantly reduce their risk of suffering a heart attack. And the longer you take one, the better. For the study, a team of Swedish researchers followed about 30,000 women for 10 years. At the outset of the study, most of the women were healthy, with no history of heart disease and ranged in age from 49 to 83. And about 60 percent of them regularly took multivitamins. Over the next 10 years, about 1,100 women suffered heart attacks. But taking a multivitamin clearly lowered a woman‘s risk. In fact, women with no history of heart problems who took a daily multivitamin for five years reduced their heart attack risk by almost 20 percent. Plus, if a woman took a multivitamin for 10 years, she lowered her heart disease risk by 41 percent compared to non-vitamin takers. So when looking for a good multivitamin, here are a few tips: 1. Skip the grocery store brands. These only contain 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). And the RDA just doesn‘t cut it. As I‘ve said before, look for a high-quality multi that will give you 25 mg of B1, B2, and B6. 2. Skip any the once-a-day brands. I know you like the convenience of an "all-in- one" daily vitamin. But all the good stuff can‘t fit into one single capsule. A good multivitamin usually consists of 3 to 6 capsules that you take throughout the day. 3. Look for a multi that contains digestive enzymes like amylase, lipase, and protease. These make your capsules bigger, but they‘re really important. They help support proper digestion and ensure the best possible absorption of vital nutrients in your multi.
  11. One of the many benefits of walnuts could be lower blood pressure

    Last month, researchers found that eating one type of snack food for six weeks could lower your blood pressure. Plus, this kind of snacking could even improve your blood pressure when you‘re under stress. And that‘s important, because if you have a high-octane lifestyle, you run a greater risk of developing heart disease. But can eating one type of food really make a difference? That‘s what researchers from Penn State recently set out to discover. For the study, they recruited 22 healthy adults with elevated LDL and asked them to follow three different dietary programs. The researchers provided all the meals and snacks and closely monitored the participants‘ progress. For the first six weeks, participants ate a "typical" American diet. It was high in fat and carbs, a few fruits and vegetables thrown in here and there, no nuts, and plenty of processed foods. For the second six weeks, participants again followed a "typical" American diet with two exceptions. They ate a handful of walnuts instead of another unhealthy snack. They also replaced some of the "bad" fat in their diet with one tablespoon of walnut oil. Their overall caloric and fat intake did not change. For the last six weeks, participants continued to follow a "typical" American diet. But this time researchers included a serving of walnuts, walnut oil, and 1.5 tablespoons of flaxseed oil each day. To see what kind of affect these dietary changes had on the body, the participants took a series of stress tests...

    Walnuts improve your body‘s response to stress

    At the end of each six-week period, the volunteers took two stress tests. The first test gauged the participants‘ reaction to mental stress. Researchers assigned each volunteer a random topic. The volunteers each got two minutes to develop a presentation based on the topic. Then, they had to deliver a three- minute speech on camera. Then, at the end of the presentation, researchers took the participants‘ blood pressure. The second test gauged the participants‘ response to physical stress. For this test, they dunked one foot into a bucket of ice-cold water. Again, the researchers measured the participants‘ blood pressure to see how their bodies responded to the stress. Overall, researchers discovered three things. First off, eating walnuts lowered the participants‘ resting blood pressure by two to three points. Secondly, eating walnuts improved blood pressure scores during both types of stress tests. In fact, researchers found that participants significantly lowered their average diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) in both sets of stress tests when they followed the walnut diets. Thirdly, the researchers found that adding flax seed oil to the mix didn‘t further reduce the participants‘ blood pressure. However, adding flax seed did have some other very important benefits. In fact, during the flax seed oil phase, some of the participants underwent a vascular ultrasound. The results showed that eating flax seed oil (in addition to walnuts) improved the participants‘ arterial dilation. The walnuts plus flax seed diet also lowered the participants‘ levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of heart health.

    When your stomach grumbles, grab a handful of walnuts

    Walnuts are one of the best foods to snack on when you‘re stressed. They are rich in fiber and antioxidants. Plus, walnuts and flax seeds both contain alpha linolenic acid, a special kind of omega-3 fatty acid that promotes cardiovascular health. In fact, in another recent study men and women who ate ALA each day reduced their blood pressure by up to six percent. And if you‘ve got high blood pressure, that‘s not too shabby. It may be enough to get off your blood pressure medicine! So make one small, positive change in your life today. Substitute a serving of walnuts for one of your snacks each day. Ounce-for-ounce, they‘re much more filling than just about any other snack. Plus, they may help you stay calm and collected through even the craziest day. Just make sure they‘re fresh. Nuts can go rancid very quickly.
  12. Resveratrol benefits… could it be the “fountain of youth”?

    I'm a research junkie. I'll admit it. So I just about jumped out of my seat when I read that someone had finally tested resveratrol--the antioxidant superstar found in red wine and grapes--on actual human beings! Yes, nutritionists have known about resveratrol for decades. It helps tame inflammation and prevent oxidative stress. This is significant because unchecked inflammation and oxidative stress can lead to heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer. Even the mainstream press picked up on resveratrol a few years back when scientists proved it could extend the lifespan of mice by 20 percent! They dubbed it the "fountain of youth." But until last month, there was one giant problem with this antioxidant phenom: Zero clinical proof actually existed that it works on humans. (And I mean, ZERO.) There was plenty of data showing that it can increase the lifespan of roundworms, fruit flies, mice, and yeast. But nothing on humans...until last month. Will the antioxidant superstar work on humans? You may be wondering, why all the fuss? If resveratrol is found in red wine...doesn't everyone know that drinking a glass of red wine is good for your health? And yes, that's true. But this study digs much deeper. In fact, it's the first- ever study showing why resveratrol may be a legit "fountain of youth" for humans after all. Specifically, scientists from the University of Buffalo wanted to see if resveratrol could decrease inflammation and oxidative stress in healthy men and women. So the scientists recruited 20 healthy men and women and took samples of their blood. Then, they split the participants into two groups. One group received 40 mg of resveratrol each day for six weeks. And the other group received a placebo. And here's what they found...

    Anti-aging extract scores off the charts!

    Resveratrol performed just as we all had hoped. First off, it blocked the formation of free radicals (reactive oxygen species or ROS). These harmful, unstable molecules cause damage to healthy cells. Over time, widespread free radical damage can harm your DNA and lead to a disease like cancer. But the participants who took resveratrol for six weeks significantly lowered their ROS levels. Secondly, the resveratrol group also lowered their TNF levels. TNF (or tumor necrosis factor) is a harmful protein that creates inflammation throughout the body. A few weeks ago, we talked about this harmful protein and the role it plays in rheumatoid arthritis. But TNF doesn't just harm rheumatoid arthritis patients. It causes widespread inflammation that can affect your blood vessels, your organs, your skin, and even your brain. It also messes with your body's insulin production. In fact, endocrinologists believe that lowering TNF levels will improve insulin resistance in diabetics.

    Small study, big impact

    Now, unfortunately this study is terribly small in scope with just 20 participants. Nevertheless, I think that it will have a big impact in the years to come. First off, it proves that resveratrol can help control inflammation in humans. And that's huge! Inflammation is the underlying, biological cause of so many different uncured diseases -- from rheumatoid arthritis to Alzheimer's disease. Plus, it just builds more momentum for this superstar antioxidant. It will be interesting to see if one day scientists prove that resveratrol can extend your lifespan, as they proved with mice a few years back. So if you're not already taking something with resveratrol, now's definitely the time start! (Especially if you're over 50 or have an inflammatory disease.) And yes, you'll find resveratrol in red wine and grapes. But you'd have to drink gallons of wine (or eat bushels of grapes) to get 100 mg of resveratrol. That's the amount you'll find in any quality resveratrol supplement. Most of these are derived from the Japanese knotweed herb. So take action now to keep feeling and looking young.
  13. Can calcium supplements really give you a heart attack?

    A major new study announced that taking a calcium supplement may raise your heart attack or stroke risk by as much at 30 percent. I know what you're thinking: "Is this really true? Could the pill I take for my bones really be that bad for me?" And the answer is: Yes, calcium can cause serious health problems when taken alone. But I could also argue that shaving your beard is bad for you health because you could cut the carotid artery in your neck. Or walking the dog is bad for your health because you could get hit by a car. Basically, you do anything the wrong way and you can get hurt. So go ahead and shave your beard, walk the dog, and take calcium. Just do it the RIGHT way. Study misses one major fact... Professor Ian Reid and his team from the University of Auckland analyzed data from 15 different randomized trials conducted over the last 20 years. They found that men and women who took calcium supplements did increase their risk of heart attack or stroke by about 30 percent. But to tell you the truth, that stat didn't surprise me. And neither did his other big "discovery": Men and women with high dietary intakes of calcium did not see the same increased risk. In interviews, Reid and his team seem to scratch their heads to explain this conundrum. Why does a calcium supplement appear to raise risk and not a high- calcium meal? They theorize that calcium supplements cause the mineral to collect in your blood...and high-calcium meals do not. And, again, that's true. Taking 500 mg of calcium alone isn't a good thing. Your body can't handle it. In fact, in addition to cardiovascular problems, it can cause problems with your kidneys, GI tract, nervous system, and even your brain! But there's one sure-fire way to solve the calcium problem: Take magnesium with it. And that's the one huge, gigantic, obvious missing piece from Reid's analysis. You see, calcium cannot work in the body without magnesium. Crack the calcium puzzle You body can NOT handle high amounts of calcium on its own. It gets stuck in your blood, soft tissues, and in your kidneys. It also causes hardening of the arterial walls...and eventually cardiovascular events as Reid's meta-analysis showed. That's why I've always recommended taking one part magnesium for every two parts calcium. Magnesium helps your body absorb the calcium so it doesn't collect in your kidneys and soft tissues. By the way, this is taught in every Nutrition 101 course, in nearly every community college across the country. (Clearly, Professor Reid slept through that course.) And truthfully, I'm not sure why manufacturers even sell supplements that only contain calcium. If you've got a bottle, throw it out. Calcium and magnesium naturally work together So...now can you figure out why people from Reid's meta-analysis with a high- calcium diet didn't increase their cardiovascular events risk? You got it: They were also eating a high-magnesium diet. In natural foods, calcium is always paired with magnesium. It's just nature's way of providing us with exactly what we need to stay healthy. Just look up high-calcium foods like broccoli or kale. These foods also contain magnesium. In fact, nature doesn't make a calcium-rich food that doesn't contain magnesium. That is unless it's "fortified with calcium" like homogenized milk and most dairy products on the shelves. So don't get fooled into thinking these products are natural! Professor Reid goes down swinging In interviews, Professor Reid isn't content just bashing calcium. He goes after all supplements: "We have tended to focus on just the benefits of supplements without really looking at their safety. In the future I think we need to look at both the efficacy and the safety of supplements." Well, truthfully, I have to agree with that last thought...but for a different reason. Just because something is natural doesn't mean that it can't also do harm. Supplements are powerful tools and you must learn to use them the right way...in the right amount and combination. That's why it's important to work with a qualified naturopath and keep reading my Guide to Good Health. I'll make sure to point out the landmines and steer you clear of Professor Reids of the world.
  14. Natural ways to lower blood sugar without dangerous drugs

    How much does a heart attack cost? Five hundred thousand dollars? A million dollars? Two million? Truth is, it doesn't really matter. GlaxoSmithKline will pay it. And they'll pay it willingly a thousand times over just to keep you taking their diabetes drug Avandia. That's because even after the billions spent on lawsuits, damage control, and cover-ups, Avandia is still worth it for them. It makes a profit. Yes, Avandia appears to raise your heart attack risk. (And yes GSK knew about it and tried hard to cover it up).But you do have other options. And I'm not talking about taking one of those "safe" Avandia-replacement drugs advertised just about everywhere these days. I'm talking about non-drug options. Safe, effective options for diabetes patients Without a doubt, you can lower your blood sugar without taking drugs. But it's not a quick, easy fix. It will take commitment. But I promise you; it's worth all the effort. You'll safely lower your blood sugar and you'll probably lower your risk of heart attack as well (instead of raise it, like Avandia does). Here's where you've got to start:

    STEP 1: Get off the sugar. And that includes throwing out any refined and processed flour products, such as white bread, rice, cookies, pancakes etc. The good news is that complex carbs such as 100 percent whole wheat, de-hulled barley, bran, and oats are all okay. Pasta is fine as long as it's made from spinach, artichoke, brown rice, or 100 percent whole wheat. It's heavy, so try angel hair pasta and don't serve as much. You won't need it.

    STEP 2: Fortify your overall health by taking a good multi vitamin that contains at least 25 mg of B3. I'd also double up on vitamin C to help detoxify your system. Go for 1,000 mg three to four times a day. If you start to experience diarrhea, back off by 1,000 mg increments.

    STEP 3: Then, I'd start looking at some natural ways to lower your blood sugar. First off, I'd think about adding chromium to your daily regimen. Go for either chromium picolinate, or preferably chromium GTF (Glucose Tolerance Factor). This trace mineral helps to support your body's overall metabolism. It also helps to balance blood sugar levels and convert glucose into energy.

    I'd also considering adding to the mix 400 to 800 mg of the Indian herb Gymnema Sylvestre (GS). It too helps support healthy blood sugar levels and glucose metabolism. Plus, some research suggests that GS even repairs special cells in the pancreas called beta cells. These cells are vital because they produce insulin and help control how much sugar gets dumped into your blood. But in diabetics, up to 80 percent of their beta cells aren't working. (In type-1 diabetes, none of their beta cells work.) In fact, these little cells are so critical to your health, scientists are even investigating ways to replace damaged beta cells in diabetics. Scientists from India actually just wrapped up the first-ever human trial using Gymnema Sylvestre with diabetics. It was a small trial using a patented version of GS, but the results look promising. After just 60 days of taking 500 mg of GS, 10 out 11 patients significantly lowered their fasting blood sugar levels. The patients also increased their insulin and c-peptide levels. If you are dealing with full-blown diabetes, I'd also suggest looking into taking small doses of vanadium (or vanadyl sulfate). This mineral has been shown in limited studies to improve how diabetics process sugar. But there's also some concern that high amounts of vanadium (far higher than 5 mg) may cause harmful oxidative stress in the body. So the question becomes: How much can you safely take? Unfortunately, there's no standard protocol here. So I'd only try vanadium under the careful guidance of a qualified naturopath. Safely lower blood sugar by 20 percent Cinnamon is another powerful, yet safe blood-sugar solution. Sprinkle it on apples, oatmeal, whole-wheat pancakes, or yogurt. This tasty spice improves how your body processes sugar. In fact, in one recent study, cinnamon significantly lowered blood sugar among diabetics. For the study, U.S. researchers divided diabetics into two groups. One group received one, three, or six grams cinnamon each day. The other group received a placebo. And the results--after just 40 days – were astounding! All three groups taking cinnamon made big improvements all around. They lowered their fasting blood glucose levels by 18 to 29 percent, slashed triglycerides by 23 to 30 percent, and cut total cholesterol 12 to 26 percent. So even taking just ¼ to ½ teaspoonfuls each day made quite a difference. But it's important to keep it going because when the patients stopped taking the spice, their blood sugar levels rebounded. Not surprisingly, the patients who received the placebo didn't experience any improvements in the markers of their disease. But be careful what you wish for... There's no doubt in my mind that if you follow this regimen, along with a little exercise, your blood sugar will come down. But just be careful. These natural efforts can be so effective that you MUST seek the guidance of a good naturopath or enlightened physician. In fact, it's possible to push your blood sugar down so far that you become hypoglycemic. So it's important that your doctor monitors your medications very closely and lowers them as your diet and supplements take effect.
  15. Vitamin E "rescues" brain after stroke

    Last week, we talked about vitamin E and bladder cancer. But, really, we just scratched the surface. There's so much more to learn about this powerful antioxidant. According to a new study, vitamin E may protect you against brain damage following a stroke. Scientists say they've never seen anything like it. Even small amounts of the vitamin appear to protect precious brain cells following a stroke. Too much of a good thing... A stroke occurs when a blood vessel leading to your brain gets blocked or ruptures. Your body wants to repair the damage. But it overreacts and causes more harm than good. In fact, following a stroke, your brain releases a neurotransmitter called glutamate. In normal amounts, glutamate helps with learning and memory. But too much glutamate sets off a chain reaction that kills brain cells. And this sudden loss of brain cells is what's to blame for most of the long-term damage from a stroke. This is also why time is of the essence when responding to a stroke. The faster you remove the blockage, the less glutamate flooding into the brain, the fewer brain cells killed. But scientists from the Ohio State University (OSU) have recently found another way to block the damage caused by excess glutamate in stroke victims' brains. You got it: vitamin E. Not just any vitamin E will do... As you'll recall, vitamin E is a collection of eight different molecules. We don't know a lot about the roles each of these molecules play in human health. And we probably know the least about the one fraction of vitamin E called alpha- tocotrienol. And that's exactly the fraction that OSU scientists used in their recent stroke experiments... First, OSU scientists divided lab mice into two groups. The first group of mice got no vitamin supplementation. The second group of mice received a daily regimen of alpha-tocotrienol. (But they didn't get a lot. In humans, it would be like cutting your vitamin E supplement into 10 pieces. If you took just 1 piece of it each day, you'd get the equivalent of what the second group of mice received.) Next, the scientists injected all the mice with glutamate (to simulate what occurs in the brain following a stroke). In the non-vitamin group, the glutamate triggered the release of a toxic enzyme called cPLA2. This toxic enzyme poisoned the animals' brain cells, causing massive brain cell death. But how did the mice given alpha-tocotrienol do? Saving brain cells...without a drug in sight The glutamate injection still triggered the release of cPLA2 in the second group of mice. But it caused much less damage. In fact, the mice who took alpha- tocotrienol reduced their glutamate and cPLA2 levels by 60 percent following the stroke. As a result, these mice saved four times as many brain cells than the group without alpha-tocotrienol. Just think about that...four times as many brain cells saved! In humans, would that make all the difference in saving your ability to speak? Or being able to feed yourself? Here's how the study's lead researcher summed up their results: "Our research suggests that the different forms of natural vitamin E have distinct functions. The relatively poorly studied tocotrienol form of natural vitamin E targets specific pathways to protect against neural cell death and rescues the brain after stroke injury...So what we have here is a naturally-derived nutrient, rather than a drug, that provides this beneficial impact." Imagine that! A mainstream scientist going on record that a vitamin, not a drug, can protect you against brain damage following a stroke. And believe it or not the National Institutes of Health funded the study! Maybe we are starting to make small inroads into mainstream medicine, after all? Now, if only we could get rid of all that garbage on TV during football season telling you to take a drug to lower your risk of stroke! Keeping it natural Sure, we've still got a long way to go before proving vitamin E does the exact same thing in humans. But believe it or not, mice and human have a lot in common. Our brains react in the exact same way when exposed to glutamate. Plus, OSU scientists believe that vitamin E will protect human brains in the same way it helped the mice. Now... As you'll recall from last week, it's pretty tough to get enough vitamin E from your food sources. You'd have to eat a lot of almonds and wheat germ oil to get what you'll find in just one vitamin E supplement. I recommend finding a high-quality gel cap that contains all eight molecules. On the label, look for a blend of "mixed" tocopherols and tocotrienols. (They should be listed on the bottle as: alpha, beta, delta, and gamma tocopherol; and alpha, beta, delta, and gamma tocotrienol.) You'll also want to make sure only to take the natural forms of vitamin E, not synthetic. There's a little trick I can teach you for spotting a synthetic. Just look back at last year's Guide to Good Health.
  16. Muscle damage: More reasons to avoid statin drugs

    It's not uncommon to hear someone who takes a statin drug (like Crestor, Lipitor or Zocor) complain of muscle aches and pains. But that's a fairly benign trade-off, right? After all, these drugs help lower your cholesterol. Well, not so fast. Statin drugs are far more dangerous than Big Pharma wants you to know. In fact, even those "benign" aches and pains could be much more serious than you think. According to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, statin drugs may actually cause structural damage to your muscles. Plus -- the damage may be irreversible. So even if you stop taking the drug, the muscle pain and weakness doesn't go away. Defining muscle pain Here's the deal. About 10 to 15 percent of people taking statin drugs reportedly experience minor muscle aches and weakness called myalgia. A smaller percentage of people taking statins experience severe weakness or pain that doesn't go away. This is called myopathy. You're more likely to suffer from myopathy if you take a statin drug and:
    • You're over 65
    • You take certain types of prescription drugs
    • You follow a rigorous exercise regimen
    Oh yes -- and you're more likely to suffer from muscle pain or weakness by taking higher doses of statin drugs. Connecting the dots The authors of recent study wanted to see if this type of statin-induced muscle pain was an indication of a bigger problem. They biopsied muscle samples from 44 men and women who suffered from statin-induced myopathy. Prior to the biopsy, the patients had been taking a variety of different statin drugs, including: Zocor, Pravachol, Lipitor, Lescol, and Crestor. According to the results, almost 57 percent of the biopsied samples (in 25 out of 44 patients) had confirmed structural damage to the muscle fibers. And in case you're wondering -- their muscles didn't necessarily repair themselves once they stopped taking the statin. In fact, the study included several samples from patients who had stopped taking their statin drug at least three weeks prior to the study. So even though these patients no longer had statins in their blood stream, their tissues still reflected structural damage. This led the researchers to conclude that not only could statin drugs cause damage, but in some patients they may also inhibit the body's ability to repair damaged muscles. Predictable results… So why do the results of this study not surprise me? Well, you may recall that in 2001 the statin drug Baycol was pulled off the market. Any guess why? You got it. It caused muscle damage. In fact, Baycol was linked to 52 deaths due to rhabdomyolysis, a rapid deterioration of muscle tissue. It's no small stretch to assume that the other statin drugs on the market (which perform similar chemical actions in the body) would cause similar -- perhaps not fatal -- damage to your muscle tissue. Now onto kids… The results of this latest study have me particularly angry, especially when I think of all the kids who may suffer irreparable muscle damage. As you'll recall, last year the American Association of Pediatricians (the most ill-informed docs on the planet, in my opinion) recommended that children as young as 8 years old get screened for high cholesterol. If their numbers are high, their pediatrician should get them on a statin, according to the AAP. But if these drugs can cause irreversible damage to adult muscles, imagine what they might do to young children with growing muscles! Healthy tickers without statins There's plenty you can do to prevent a heart attack without taking a statin drug for the rest of your life. The first step is to stop smoking (if you smoke). The second step is to give your diet an overhaul. Cutting out processed and fried foods is a must. The third step is to get moving. Just a 10 minute walk every day that raises your pulse will make a big difference. Lastly, in additional to a quality daily vitamin, consider adding these heart-wise supplements to your regimen: 1. 1,000 mg L-Carnitine 2. 100 mg Coenzyme Q10 3. 500 to 800 mg Magnesium 4. 400 to 800 IU Vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols) In closing, if you currently take a statin drug and experience muscle pain, I seriously hope you'll reconsider your options. Seek the advice of a qualified naturopath to help you map out a personalized plan that doesn't include a statin drug.

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