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June 18, 2018  |  Login
Cardiovascular Disease
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

One theory regarding the origins of arteriosclerosis has to do with a substance called homocysteine. Homocysteine is a toxic substance created in your body at too high a level. It is a by-product of protein metabolism when you ingest foods like meat or dairy products; luckily, most people who eat these foods in moderation are usually able to convert homocysteine into a chemical called methionine, which is harmless. But a significant percentage (approximately 10 to 20 percent) of us are born with genetic flaws that make it impossible for us to neutralize homocysteine in this manner, and this substance stays around, inflaming the blood vessels and contributing to arteriosclerosis. A simple blood test will show if you have an elevated level. B vitamins, such as B12, folic acid, and B6, can bring it down to normal levels.


Numerous disorders fall under the broad category of heart and vascular disease. Here, discussion is restricted to arteriosclerosis, angina, and heart attack. For related subjects, see High Blood Pressure and Stroke

Arteries transport blood from the heart and deliver it to other parts of the body. Arteriosclerosis occurs when the inside of the artery wall thickens, leaving a narrower passageway for the blood to travel through. This disorder is often called hardening of the arteries. Arteriosclerosis can affect the coronary arteries-the arteries that lead to the heart-and is usually caused by a buildup of fatty deposits within the arterial walls. This buildup is often the result of a poor diet, one that's high in bad fats and low in fiber. Most people who have arteriosclerosis are not aware of it, as it does not trigger symptoms in the body until later in the disease.

Unfortunately, when arteriosclerosis is left untreated, it just gets worse. Without treatment, the arteries will eventually become so constricted that adequate supplies of oxygenated blood can't reach the heart muscle. This oxygen deprivation may result in the chest pain known as angina. Angina is often a precursor to a heart attack.

In some ways, people with angina are lucky. Their pain usually leads to a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, and they can then take several steps to slow or reverse their condition before it results in a trip to the emergency room or even death. But for many, a heart attack is the first outward sign of trouble; 25 percent of people who suffer heart attacks have never felt any previous symptoms. A heart attack-or myocardial infarction, as it's called by doctors-is brought on when blood flow to a section of the heart muscle is completely cut off, either because a clot has backed up behind a thickened artery, or because the artery itself has become so narrow that no blood at all can pass through. If you ever suspect that you are having a heart attack, you must receive emergency medical care at once. Instead of having someone drive you to a hospital (unless you are really close), call for an ambulance. Life-saving treatment for heart attacks requires special medical techniques and tools, and the sooner professionals arrive with their equipment, the greater your chances of survival.

Heart disease is so prevalent now, most people are surprised to hear that it was ­ actually quite rare until the turn of the twentieth century. Our modern diet and way of life are at the root of most heart problems, and the best way to prevent or reverse heart disease is to change our habits. Because heart disease is caused by a variety of factors, it is best to include several kinds of therapies in your treatment or prevention plan. Eat well, exercise, manage stress, and identify and treat genetic susceptibilities that are known to bring on cardiovascular disease.

In recent years, researchers have found that chronic inflammation in the blood vessels is a central factor in the development of heart disease. This chronic inflammation leads to arterial wall damage and the resulting plaque formation. Although cholesterol levels have some importance, it appears that this substance is not the "villain" that it was once thought to be. While diet and lifestyle factors are root causes of chronic inflammation, there are also genetic reasons beyond inheriting a disposition to high cholesterol levels. They includes one's levels of homocysteine and lipoprotein(a) and other heredity factors. Fortunately, these genetic susceptibilities can be reduced through natural therapies. more

Next: What are the Symptoms of Cardiovascular Disease?

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