The heart beats billions of times over the span of a lifetime pumping blood, oxygen, and other essential nutrients to the body. It is the most important muscle that we have. The heart itself, just like the rest of the body, owes its survival to the blood that it pumps. It needs special care.
Ischemic heart disease ranks as the world’s biggest killer, followed by stroke. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the biggest increase in deaths in the last 20 years has been in ischemic heart disease. The number of deaths and amount of disability from heart disease is staggering. It is an incomprehensible human tragedy. Millions of lives are lost and forever altered every year and there appears to be no end in sight.
When should we start being proactive about our heart health? The answer is today, yesterday, and the day before. It is never too late and never too early to start taking steps to prevent the world’s number one killer. February is Heart Month and now is a good time to start.
Heart disease is considered by many as a discretionary disease or a disease of choice. It is primarily a disease of inappropriate diet and lifestyle. One can attribute the cause of heart disease to genetics or the luck of the draw, but this view does not have robust science behind it. There is abundant science to support the view that we do not need to be dying on such a massive scale from a disease that is mostly preventable and even reversible. Heart disease has been described by a prominent heart surgeon in the U.S. as a "paper tiger" that is preventable, and if present, can be arrested from further progression.
Signs of heart disease are appearing in early childhood. Children are showing signs of early heart disease at a younger and younger age and their parents and grandparents are being taken away from them in ever increasing numbers and earlier than ever. The tragedy and trauma of an untimely death of a parent or grandparent affects all children of any age. We are all children of someone affected by heart disease. We owe it to ourselves, our children, and our loved ones to take the steps that are necessary to prevent the world’s most insidious killer and destroyer of lives.
There is much confusion and contradiction out there among opposing philosophies of prevention and treatment of heart disease. It’s really not that hard to separate fact from fiction if you have the commitment and desire to take control of your heart health instead of letting heart disease take control over you. Just follow the science and jettison your beliefs with an open mind and you will succeed. No one needs to die or be disabled from a heart attack or stroke but don’t think for a moment that it can’t happen to you.
You can get a head start by first getting checked by your family doctor for early markers associated with heart disease. Common tests associated with heart disease risk are elevated CRP (C- Reactive Protein), Fasting Glucose, Fasting Insulin, Hemoglobin A1c, Cholesterol, Triglycerides, Creatinine, Homocysteine, Serum Viscosity, Ferritin, TSH, Liver Enzymes, and Blood Pressure. Your family doctor may do further health screening tests such as a Complete Blood Count (CBC) with Differential, Electrolytes such as Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Bicarbonate, and Minerals such as Magnesium, Calcium, and Phosphorus, as well as Vitamins such as Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D, all of which can impact heart health if suboptimal.
If you are unable to get any tests done through your family doctor or a Walk-In Clinic, we can do them for you privately. These tests are all part of LifeLabs Assessment Panels and General Tests for Naturopathic Doctors. The broad menu of LifeLabs tests for Naturopathic Doctors is not constrained by the B.C. Medical Plan which limits and restricts testing by family physicians. If you are able to get some, but not all, of these tests through your family doctor or Walk-In Clinic, we can do the remaining ones for you privately, which will reduce your out-of-pocket costs. You may have coverage if you have extended medical benefits. Private health costs should be turned over to your accountant or bookkeeper for income tax purposes.
What if you have elevated risk markers for heart disease? The most important thing to remember is that one should not treat numbers on a blood test or a blood pressure monitor. Masking heart disease symptoms and lab test results with pharmaceutical drugs, or even natural health products, will not prevent or reverse heart disease. For example, prescribing a cholesterol lowering drug for high cholesterol will lower the cholesterol and other lipids. However, taking cholesterol lowering medication does not come even close to eliminating the risk of a heart attack or stroke. At best, the risk of a heart attack or stroke may be lowered by only a few small percentage points more than placebo if one continues taking the cholesterol drug for 5-10 years.
Everyone has a right to fully informed consent when taking drugs to lower cholesterol or blood pressure. Unfortunately, most patients neither question nor understand just how ineffective these drugs really are. Part of the problem is that the efficacy of pharmaceutical drugs is expressed in terms of relative risk rather than absolute risk. Relative risk reduction percentages are usually much higher than absolute risk reduction percentages. Higher relative risk percentages sound more impressive compared to lower absolute risk percentages. Pharmaceutical companies use relative risk reduction percentages to promote their drugs. For example, a drug with a relative risk reduction of, let’s say 37%, may have an absolute risk reduction of less than 1%. What that means is for every person who takes that drug, which is admittedly 37% more effective than nothing or placebo, less than one person out of 100 taking the drug will be saved from a heart attack or stroke. The other 99 out of 100 persons who take the drug will receive no benefit whatsoever and reap all the potential side effects associated with that drug.
Sadly, most people tend to believe that if they take cholesterol or blood pressure medication they will be saved from having a heart attack or stroke, as if these drugs work as vaccines. Conversely, they mistakenly believe that if they don’t take the drugs they will die, not realizing that the vast majority who do take the drugs will receive no benefit. A prominent cardiologist states that this is in effect certainly “scientific fraud” and is in effect “organized crime”. You can view her comments here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AY4eTGMe-EY and decide for yourself.
Heart disease is a serious matter that deserves serious attention.
Help is only a phone call or an email away. Don’t wait until it’s too late.