Repairing the Beautiful but Aging Circulatory System
Many patients are concerned about lowering their cholesterol in order to help reduce the prospect of heart attack and stroke. Of course this is important, but often many patients become so focused on reducing a laboratory “number” that they lose sight of the main goal. The overriding objective is always to gain overall good health, and in so doing to naturally reduce atherosclerosis-the clogging of the arteries.
This is an area in which I have a lot of experience and considerable expertise. Here are several examples of my approach in helping patients repair aging circulatory systems and promote cardiovascular and heart health.
“Tom” is a 45-year-old man who was referred to me by a cardiologist. Tom was diagnosed with triple vessel coronary disease. He has already had one heart attack, and the lesions in his coronaries could not be opened up with the “roto-rooter” type or procedure.
Tom sought my care because the only choice given to him by specialists was to have bypass surgery every five years. Tom was on a cholesterol-lowering medication, but this did not stop progression of the disease or reverse it. After six months of adequate anti-oxidant therapy, as well as dietary changes, his treadmill results no longer showed signs of decreased blood flow to the heart. Other symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches and irritability disappeared. He started jogging again and claimed he had not felt as well in years.
Tom was not a drinker or smoker so it was important to investigate what could have caused such extensive clogging of his arteries. His diet was low in anti-oxidants, and it was also discovered that he had high levels of mercury in his tissues. Mercury, as well as other metals and chemicals, are hazardous to human health and cause the body to use anti-oxidants at an alarming rate. By removing these toxic substances and adding the appropriate amount of anti-oxidants, Tom regained his health.
Here’s a similar case. John is a 68-year-old retired engineer. He complained of a severe decrease in circulation in his legs, resulting in constant pain that worsened with walking.
One doctor had suggested John consider amputation of one of his legs. On his own, John made some dietary changes and started taking a multiple vitamin. These changes alone saved him from the prospect of amputation, but he still had constant discomfort. As my patient, I placed him on adequate anti-oxidant therapy. Four months later he reports he is able to take long walks without leg pain. John’s constant pain is gone and his feet are no longer “freezing” all the time. Circulation has greatly improved.
The Cholesterol Alphabet
In cases such as Tom and John, issues of high cholesterol are always of concern. Let me walk you through the cholesterol alphabet. First, we need to understand that it’s perfectly normal and extremely useful to have cholesterol. Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found among the fats in the bloodstream and in all of our cells. It’s used to form cell membranes, and serves other functions, as well. The actual molecule of cholesterol is a building block substance that is used for a number of beneficial functions throughout the body. For example, cholesterol is the molecule from which all hormones are made.
Cholesterol is an integral part of every cell membrane and helps move anti-oxidants to where they are needed.
Cholesterol and other fats can’t dissolve in the blood. They have to be transported to and from the cells by special carriers called lipoproteins. And there are two kinds of cholesterol you’ve often heard discussed: low-density lipoportein, or LDL, and high-density lipoprotein, or HDL. When cholesterol is bound to the HDL protein it is returning to the liver to be removed, traveling away from our arteries. When cholesterol is bound to the LDL protein it is carrying cholesterol to the cells. This means the body is in need of repair. So, when LDL cholesterol is elevated it means that the body has been damaged or distressed, and this is part of the body’s effort to repair itself! So is all LDL bad? NO!
LDL cholesterol is usually characterized as totally “bad” and HDL cholesterol is usually considered totally “good.” In general one would proportionately want a higher HDL and a lower LDL because this would indicate that the body is healthier and in less need of repair.
What is extremely important to understand is that just reducing LDL-the “bad” cholesterol– does not improve overall health. In fact, this idea reverses the proper equation. You have to improve overall health to reduce LDL effectively. There are medications that will reduce LDL cholesterol, but they fail to improve overall health because they do not address the cause of high LDL.
And so we must ask, In what way is the body damaged? The body is damaged by substances that cause oxidation. To understand what oxidation is, think of rust. The process that causes metallic rust or breakdown is oxidation. And then we must ask: What damages the body and in this case the blood vessels? The answer is chemicals, metals, infections, allergic reactions, and more, including a small portion of the LDL that itself has become oxidized! So, yes there may be a small portion of the LDL group that is oxidized and is in itself causing damage. Unfortunately there is no standard test to tell us how much of our LDL is “bad or damaging” or of the oxidized type and how much is just doing its job of carrying cholesterol to where it is needed.
We make the body healthier by avoiding and removing chemicals, metals, and allergic reactions that cause oxidation, and by adding adequate amounts of anti-oxidants to protect the blood vessels. These anti-oxidants consist of high quality vitamin C, beta-carotene, bioflavonoids such as quercetin and pro or anthocyanidins, and Vitamin E. Together they can help protect the blood vessels from further damage and help start repairing existing damage. As the need to repair damage goes down, the overall LDL-bound cholesterol goes down and circulation starts to improve!
When taking a mechanistic view of health by focusing only on one number in a blood profile, the entire picture of the patient’s health is lost. The body functions as an interrelated team, and thus we must look at how all the members of that team can and are contributing to good health.