Integrative practitioners can help turn tables on cardiovascular disease.
February is the one month out of the year devoted to healthy beating hearts and to raising awareness of heart health. Studies suggest that integrative medicine can play a key role in the battle against cardiovascular disease (CVD), which has long been and still is America’s deadliest disease.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), data from 190 countries includes scientific evidence that heart disease is the cause of 17.3 million deaths per a year. Further, the AHA believes that by the time 2030 comes around, the number of deaths from CVD is expected to increase to more than 23.6 million, and in America alone, one in four (600,000) people continue to die from heart attack or stroke annually.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) explained that being diagnosed with CVD is not only life threatening, but also extremely costly. The amount of money spent on health care services, medications and lost productivity for patients with CVD, averages out to be $108.9 billion dollars in the U.S. alone, even though the CDC shows that approximately 47 percent of all cardiovascular-related deaths occur suddenly and most often outside of a hospital.
Lin Weeks Wilder, MD and renowned author, warns that the increase in CVD could lead to “a death sentence” due to surgical coronary arterial bypass, angioplasty and use of thrombolysis or “clot busting” agents that can actually cause more harm than good through reverse side effects. She references to the Framingham Heart Study, the longest running population study made of individuals at risk for heart disease, which has statistically provided more than 50 years of data that is considered reliable enough to create an “absolute risk score.” She does believe, however, that the risk can be prevented if practitioners look at the causes, and, therefore, so can the number of lives taken by CVD.
Causes of CVD
Dr. Wilder said that three factors come into play for the increased mortality rate due to CVD. First, there is an increase in the elderly population. Secondly, Type 2 diabetes has been prevalently rising in American adults and children, and finally, there has been a corollary and casual epidemic of obese Americans, regardless of age. “We have made great progress in reducing deaths, yet we’re also seeing a rise in diabetes among children, and childhood obesity rates remain stagnant. We must find ways to correct these troubling trends, or we risk losing ground,” added Elliot Antman, MD, president of AHA, professor of medicine and associate dean at Harvard Medical School and senior physician in the cardiovascular division of Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston. Additionally, the AHA has found other underlying causes of heart disease in the U.S. These include smoking, lack of physical activity, cholesterol, diet, blood pressure, weight and blood sugar.
Mayline Paez, RN for Florida-based Life Extension, insisted that “practitioners need to focus on other factors (besides cholesterol) that contribute to cardiovascular disease, such as elevated levels of homocysteine, C-reactive protein and low vitamin D levels,” as well as excess blood sugar levels, elevated levels of inflammation and oxidized LDL. And adding to what Dr. Paez said, Dr. Rodger Kendall with Vermont-based DaVinci Laboratories, believes that reducing inflammation may in fact be more beneficial than high cholesterol when predicting a heart attack or stroke. “Silent inflammation (chronic low-grade inflammation) plays a big role in most chronic illnesses and especially with cardiovascular disease–from irritation of artery damage, high blood pressure and in the blockage of arteries from clots or plaque formation,” he explained.
One Step at a Time
Adding a supplement regiment to a routine healthy diet and moderate exercise is priority, explained Dr. Kendall. But determining which supplement is most appropriate is not always easy.
Before patients can start a supplement plan, the discussion with patients needs to take place. “It’s easy to start a conversation with patients about cardiovascular health because they’re likely expecting a mention in each appointment. Even if that’s just because the practioner is wearing a stethoscope,” Dr. Kendall said. Doctors should begin the conversation with their patients with referencing to their diet and exercise, later they can recommend an alternative and integrative solution.
“Natural practitioners are often well versed in discussing lifestyle changes, but sometimes keeping up with the latest research into cardiovascular health news can be difficult,” he explained.
In addition to short-term prevention for Baby Boomers, practitioners need to be aware that there’s a demand for long-term prevention solutions as well. Dr. Paez said there is new evidence that heart disease can begin in people in their 20’s, therefore, practitioners need options for a heart healthy lifestyle decades before the disease becomes toxic. Researchers point to scientific evidence indicating that there are a variety of warning signs young adults should be aware of in order to flag the condition early before it worsens. The CDC’s list of CVD symptoms include chest pain or discomfort, super body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or upper stomach, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness and cold sweats.
Dr. Wilder offered 10 tips on how to manage cardiac health, however, what was not already mentioned in this article include: sleep seven to eight hours a day, cut down on sugar, cut down on carbs, become your own expert on heart health and heart disease, develop a consistent prayer or medication and, of course, decide to partner with a doctor.
In relation to cardiovascular health and natural remedies, Life Extension is interested on how antioxidants play a role in preventing heart disease. “Lycopene is a great example,” said Dr. Paez. “In one study, patients with existing heart disease experience a 53 percent widening of blood vessels in response to lycopene supplementation.” The company also noted that vitamin K plays a large role in preventing heart disease and that “higher levels are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular mortality.”
Life Extension carries a handful of products for practitioners to recommend to their patients. The first one they offer is their Endothelial Defense with Full-Spectrum Pomegranate, which ultimately reverses atherosclerosis. Dr. Paez refers to an Israeli study where within one whole year of taking a pomegranate juice supplementation, researches found that the fruit had lowered carotid intima thickness, lowered systolic blood pressure, improved blood flow and reduced oxidized LDL.
The company’s Super Omega-3 EPA/DHA with Sesame Lignanas & Olive Fruit Extract is another option. This supplement offers a good source of omega-3s found in fish oil. Next, their Super K with Advanced K2 Complex provides the body with a healthy amount of vitamin K to inhibit arterial calcification by keeping calcium out of arterial walls, Dr. Paez explained. Lastly, Super Ubiquinol CoQ10 with Enhanced Mitochondrial Support is a great source of CoQ10, which increases ATP, or the “fuel” the heart needs in order to run efficiently. According to Dr. Paez, studies have shown that CoQ10 improves the survival rate of heart failure patients. It also decreases oxidized LDL, restores endothelial function and lowers high blood sugar levels.
Dr. Kendall explained that, “DaVinci offers a variety of cardiovascular support formulas, as well as products that specifically target the circulatory system, the mitochondria and other areas of health such as inflammation that can affect the heart.” The company has two condition-specific products for consumers to take. First is Ubiquinol, the most potent form of CoQ10. It is absorbed three to four times more efficiently than the fat-soluble ubiquinone form of CoQ10, which makes it easier to access the cells.
However, the company’s most popular and most marketed cardiovascular health ingredients are vitamins A, D and K. Dr. Kendall insists that the combination of all three vitamins supports proper cardiovascular function, as well as the body’s natural way to produce cytokine. “The K2 in the formulas is in the MK-7 (menaquinone) form and works primarily outside the liver, in the bone and blood vessels,” he said. Vitamin K2 helps to maintain the elasticity of the arteries helping support cardiovascular function, the company said. When vitamins A, D and K2 are combined, it is believed that they play a critical role in preventing the build-up of calcium in the arteries. “Therefore, the balance of having all three vitamins together is the key to success of a supplement formula,” explained Dr. Kendall.
Red Yeast Rice (Monascus purpureus) by Pennsylvania-based Sylvan Bio, Inc., is a natural alternative to support healthy LDL cholesterol levels, stated Orrie Rondinella, director of sales and marketing for the company. To confirm the effectiveness of red yeast rice, the company offers scientific evidence that red yeast rice is safe and effective. While not a study per se, the 2013 journal of Missouri Medicine published a red rice yeast overview and included results from five different studies, he explained. The outcome was that 1,200 mg to 4,800 mg of red yeast rice that was taken in individual doses was positively effective in maintaining health LDL cholesterol levels.
Sylvan Bio, Inc. noted that practitioners should use red yeast rice that’s only organic, made under strict quality standards and not sourced 100 percent in the U.S. “Women ages 40 and up tend to be the primary purchasers,” Rondinella said regarding the company’s cardio-targeted supplement, “although men buy the product as well.” However, red yeast rice works equally as well in both men and women who are looking for integrative and alternative solutions to promote heart health.
The company offers consumers two red yeast rice products. First is their well-known and staple product, Sylvan Synastat Organic Red Yeast Rice (Monascus purpureus) that helps to maintain healthy LDL cholesterol levels. Their rice is USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture)-certified organic and is processed under strict quality control in the U.S., said Rondinella. It is available in a 120-ct. bottle and a 240-ct. bottle, and also comes in smaller vegetarian capsules as well.
The second red yeast rice product is Sylvan Synastat Red Yeast Rice with CoQ10, which had recently launched this January. What distinguishes this product is that it is currently the only 100 percent U.S. sourced red yeast rice on the market with CoQ10 available, the company stated.
Rondinella mentioned one 2009 double-blinded placebo study published in the journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, where researchers examined the effects of red yeast rice for dyslipidemia in 62 patients. Half of the participants were randomly assigned 1,800 mg of red yeast rice, and the other half was given a placebo. The conclusion provided evidence proving that the red yeast rice group had decreased their LDL cholesterol levels, minus increased CPK or pain levels. Additionally, the study suggested that the combination of red yeast rice and a few lifestyle changes might be the right way to go for patients suffering from dyslipidemia.
According to the AHA, the U.S. is working to improve cardiovascular health in Americans by 20 percent, and reduce the number of deaths related to CVD, including heart attacks and strokes, by 20 percent by the year 2020. Globally, the AHA is working with the United Nations (UN) and various international cardiology groups to adapt its evidence-based programs to be made available in surrounding countries.
Their report estimated that 11.4 million deaths of people between the ages of 30-69 and 15.9 million deaths among people 70 and older could be delayed or even prevented in the year 2025. That is, if the worldwide target audience is willing to reduce their use of tobacco and alcohol, decrease their salt intake; maintain a healthy weight and lower blood pressure and glucose levels.
In 2011, the journal Circulation published a double-blinded placebo controlled study that found that CVD and the amount of money spent to treat the disease would increase substantially in years to come. Yet, in order to provide solutions, the report concludes, “In the public arena, more evidence-based effective policy, combined with systems and environmental approaches should be applied in the prevention, early detection and management of CVD risk factors. Through a combination of improved prevention of factors, and treatment of established risk factors, the dire projection of the health and economic impact of CVD can be diminished.”
■ One in four (600,000) Americans die from cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart attack or stroke annually.
■ 47 percent of all cardiovascular-related deaths occur suddenly and most of the time outside of a hospital.
■ 11.4 million deaths of people between the ages of 30-69 and 15.9 million deaths among people 70 or older could be delayed or even prevented in the year 2025.
■ $108.9 billion dollars is spent in the U.s. on services, medication and lost productivity.