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A Natural Approach to Heart Disease

January 13, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Many patients and doctors believe that heart disease is a progressive illness. And, to be quite frank, they have good reason to adopt that view. The vast majority of the time, heart disease does, in fact, become more severe with time. And we all know the end result. But that’s what makes the news in today’s blog very exciting. I’m going to share some evidence that shows that heart disease can possibly be halted and even reversed to some extent.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of “integrative medicine“. This is a form of treatment that combines the best of mainstream science with the best that natural medicine has to offer. The idea is that by combining the two, we can find a synergistic effect. In other words, the combined effect is greater than the sum of its parts.

Dr. William Davis is a cardiologist (a heart specialist) who practices this type of medicine. He recently  co-authored an important new study which will hopefully wake up the modern medical establishment.

Calcium Isn’t Always Healthy

In December 2008 a study was published in the American Journal of Therapeutics. The study set out to determine what kind of an effect a combination of medications and natural supplements would have on patients with pre-existing calcium deposits (in their arteries).

CT Calcium

45 volunteers, both men and women, participated in this experiment. They all had a “calcium score” of 50 or higher but, did not exhibit any symptoms of heart disease (chest pain, shortness of breath, etc.). A “calcium score” is determine by using a particular X-ray test called “computed tomography” (CT scan). Its purpose is to quantify how much calcium buildup there is in the heart arteries. By learning such information, physicians can better understand how advanced heart disease is in a patient. A score of 50 or higher is generally a sign of “mild heart disease”. At this stage, arterial plaque has already formed and you’re considered to be at a moderate risk for a heart attack. Diet, lifestyle and pharmaceutical interventions are typically recommended at this stage.

All of the volunteers in this study were treated with a statin medication and several nutritional supplements: niacin, vitamin D3 and omega-3 fatty acids. They also followed a prescribed dietary program.

After an average of 18 months of diet, medication and supplementation, significant results were found. Here’s an overview of the findings:

  • 44% of the volunteers had a profound decrease in their calcium scores (indicating a lessening of plaque buildup)
  • 49 % showed a reduction in the rate of plaque growth (indicating a slow down in disease progression)
  • There was a 24% drop in total cholesterol. A 41% reduction in LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol and 42% decline in triglycerides. It’s also important to note that there was a 19% increase in HDL (the “good”) cholesterol and an 83% rise in vitamin D levels. All of these changes are considered favorable with regard to heart disease and general health.

Based on these results, both doctors and patients may need to re-evaluate their views about the “normal course” of heart disease progression.

Ancient Chinese Secret

I’m not a fan of statins. As you may know, I tend to prefer natural alternatives to such powerful medications. But since a statin was used in the prior study, I thought I’d mention a natural option that appears to offer a reasonable (and possibly safer) alternative to statin drugs.

Red Yeast Rice has been utilized in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. In the past, it was often used for a variety of health conditions ranging from digestive issues to poor circulation. But in recent times, the focus of the scientific inquiry into this ancient remedy has primarily focused on its cholesterol
lowering effect.

Perhaps that’s why a recent review was conducted on red yeast rice and fish oil in the Chinese Medical Journal. In that particular review, the authors examined the effects of red yeast rice on a total of 4,870 patients. Based on their analysis, they found a 46% reduction in the risk of non-fatal heart attacks in the red yeast rice consuming patients.

These same scientists also provided a very positive analysis of the effect of fish oil on heart disease. They looked at research involving a total of 11,324 patients. Those taking fish oil had a 45% drop in their risk of “sudden death” and 35% decline in death from heart attacks.


A Problematic Solution

If you and your doctor decide to try red yeast rice and these other supplements, it’s vital that you do your homework and select high quality products on which you can rely. It would be great to find a good alternative for a medication. But, if you find such a product, you want to be able to depend on consistent quality from one bottle to the next. Without that, you’re taking a different kind of risk with your health.

This is why I strongly suggest that you research the companies from which you buy supplements. Ask questions. Demand proof of adequate quality control. See who endorses various brands. Reputable doctors and holistic experts only want to lend their name and image to products about which they actually feel confident. And make sure to check on your own progress while using supplements. If you’re taking something that’s supposed to help manage your cholesterol and your cholesterol goes up, something is obviously not right!  But, if you don’t test to see … you simply won’t know what’s going on in your body.

Remember: Natural medicine generally demands that you be more accountable for your own health success!

Finally, it’s important to note that many nutritionally-inclined doctors recommend supplementing with Coenzyme Q10 if you take red yeast rice or a statin medication. Statin medications may deplete CoQ10 levels and this may increase the risk of statin induced side effects (like liver complications and muscle pain). A deficiency in CoQ10 levels may also be an independent risk factor for heart disease. So please consider researching and inquiring about this with your doctor prior to embarking on the statin/red yeast rice highway.

Be well!


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2 Comments & Updates to “A Natural Approach to Heart Disease”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks for explaining every thing in detailed way.

  2. JP Says:

    You’re most welcome!

    Be well!


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