Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the US, killing about 610,000 people each year. Because of this very high number, it is very important that you know the 12 cardiovascular disease REAL-RISK factors.
“If we could eliminate heart disease tomorrow, the average
life expectancy of every American would increase by an
estimated ten years.”
Dr. Barry Sears
Heart Disease vs Cardiovascular Disease
Heart disease describes a broad range of conditions that affect your heart. Diseases under the heart disease umbrella include blood vessel diseases, such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); and heart defects you’re born with (congenital heart defects), among others. The term “heart disease” is often used interchangeably with the term “cardiovascular disease.” However, cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as those that affect your heart’s muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease.
What is Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all cells of the body, produced by the liver to help perform thousands of bodily functions. We need cholesterol to produce important things like hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help us digest certain foods by synthesizing bile acids. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to maintain normal levels of testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol. Cholesterol also assists in the production of cell membranes, the covering of nerve sheaths, and much of the brain. Understanding the functions of this much maligned molecule will help you understand why so many things can go wrong when we pursue lower and lower cholesterol numbers.
“So if you think cholesterol is the enemy, think again. Without
cholesterol, you would die. In fact, people with the lowest
cholesterol as they age are at highest risk of death.
Under certain circumstances, higher cholesterol can
actually help to increase life span.”
Dr. Mark Hymann
Fortunately the medical focus on high cholesterol levels as the ultimate cause of most heart attacks and strokes has started to turn. It’s important to understand that in a clinical setting the proven markers of cardiovascular disease include elevated levels of
- C-reactive protein
- NOT HIGH CHOLESTEROL LEVELS.
Medical studies now show that lowering one’s cholesterol levels will not lower one’s risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke. “People with low cholesterol (lower than 200) suffer nearly 40 percent of all heart attacks. In addition, people with low cholesterol (less than 180) have three times as many strokes as the general population.” William Castelli, MD (former director of the Framingham Heart Study)
I cannot talk about cholesterol or cardiovascular disease without focusing on the current onslaught of statin drugs. Statin drugs are HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, that is, they act by blocking the enzyme in your liver that is responsible for making cholesterol (HMG-CoA reductase).
Currently, we have tens of millions of Americans are taking these cholesterol-lowering drugs and some experts claim that many millions more should be taking them. Accompanied by massive marketing campaigns, statin drugs are tremendous moneymakers for the drug industry, to the tune of about $29 BILLION worth of sales in 2013. That’s the amount of money you make when one in four Americans over the age of 45 are convinced, by their doctor, they need a statin drug. Twenty years ago, physicians were not concerned about the effects that cholesterol might have on heart disease. Today, thanks to efforts by pharmaceutical companies, high cholesterol levels are now recognized as a major health concern. In fact, IMS Health, a global healthcare information company, reports that the two best-selling drugs in 2004 were statins: Lipitor® (atorvastatin calcium) from Pfizer (New York, NY, USA)-valued at US$10.6 billion with growth of 13.9% over the previous year-and Zocor® (simvastatin) from Merck (Whitehouse Station, NJ, USA). A pharmaceutical executive noted: “The emergence of cholesterol reduction as a market was a major event for pharma. Metabolic syndrome promises to be as big or bigger”. (Breitstein, 2004).
The side effects of statin drugs are well proven; in fact, there are now 900 studies proving their adverse effects, some of which include muscle concerns, memory issues and even increased cancer risk.
Important: If you are taking a statin drug, you should also be taking a high quality CoQ10 supplement. Statin drugs actually deplete the body of CoQ10, which can have unfavorable results. Doctors rarely inform their patients who are taking statin drugs about the importance of including a CoQ10 supplement. As the body gets more and more depleted of CoQ10, the body may begin to suffer from fatigue, muscle weakness and soreness, and eventually heart failure.
The best and most effective form of CoQ10 to take is ubiquinol. And the most effective brand of CoQ10, in my opinion, is Kaneka.
12 Real Risk Factors of Cardiovascular Disease that May Cause Heart Attack and Stroke
The following are some of the most important clinical indicators that show you have a higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
- Cardiac arrhythmia. This includes atrial fibrillation and other disruptions of the heart’s normal rhythm.
- Elevated triglycerides, particularly an elevated ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol. Studies have implicated triglycerides in the progression of coronary atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
- Elevated homocysteine. One study found that men with extremely high homocysteine levels were three times more likely to have a heart attack than others.
- Elevated insulin.
- Elevated cortisol levels. High levels of cortisol are associated with hypertension, which increases your cardiovascular risk. Patients with heart diseases exhibit higher cortisol levels than do others.
- Elevated estrogen in respect to progesterone.
- Low testosterone (in men). Higher levels of testosterone has been found to offer men greater than five-fold protection against coronary artery disease.
- High testosterone (in women).
- Lipid peroxide. Lipid peroxides are the products of chemical damage done by oxygen free radicals to the lipid components of cell membranes. High levels of lipid peroxides are associated with cancer, heart disease, stroke, and aging.
- Elevated C-reactive protein. C-reactive protein is a marker associated with production of inflammatory cytokines, which represent a threat to cardiovascular health. Men with CRP values in the highest quartile had three times as many heart attacks and two times as many ischemic strokes as the general population.
- Fibrinogen Activity and Fibrinogen Antigen Assays. When greater blood levels of fibrinogen are present, the balance is tipped in favor of blood clot formation, even when it may not be appropriate. This can happen, for instance, at the site of a ruptured coronary plaque. The injured plaque surface causes fibrinogen to be converted to fibrin, forming a blood clot, which may result in heart attack. Fibrinogen can also promote atherosclerotic plaque growth, even without blood clot formation. Elevated fibrinogen levels are associated with an increased risk of heart attack.
- Advanced Lipoprotein testing. Advanced lipoprotein testing can help provide great insight into your risks for heart disease, filling the gaping deficiencies of mainstream cholesterol or lipid testing. The superior information provided by lipoprotein testing can help you and your physician to devise an effective program to prevent future heart attacks. If you have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or any measure of coronary plaque, you should strongly consider lipoprotein testing. If you have had coronary disease already diagnosed—that is, if you have had a heart attack, angina, or a heart procedure like coronary angioplasty or bypass surgery—then lipoprotein testing can be a crucial part of your program to prevent future cardiac catastrophes, particularly if conventional lipid testing has failed to pinpoint the cause of your disease.
Other risk factors include thyroid concerns, magnesium deficiency and fatty acid imbalances.
The Good News
The good news is that it may not take a long time to rectify the imbalances that show up in a thorough cardiovascular evaluation. In fact with consistent lifestyle changes such as a healthy more plant-based diet including healthy fats, daily exercise, good supplementation including optimizing Vitamin D levels, good sleep habits, avoidance of smoking and drinking and stress reduction, many people are able to lower their risk in as little as 6-8 weeks.
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