Cardiovascular Disease: Our Greatest Health Risk

Our Greatest Health Risk

            We often fear cancer, but cardiovascular disease is the predominant risk for most men and women during our lives. There are many implications of having plaque build up in our arteries. Heart attack and stroke are the big ones. Chronic kidney disease, erectile dysfunction, peripheral arterial disease and other health conditions from decreased blood flow to end organs can affect our quality of life and our longevity.

            What is our primary goal relative to our cardiovascular system? Prevention, of course, and a significant part of primary care is dedicated to weight management, dietary modifications, blood pressure control, blood sugar testing and cholesterol management. As with all areas, I can easily argue that these areas need more attention and with more individualized depth and sophistication.

            What is the other primary goal we should consider? I will make the case that reversal of a person’s plaque burden is the other imperative.

            In my time in medicine, I have not seen any reference, even subtle or oblique, that cardiologists and other doctors are working toward this as a goal.

            We see corollaries to this in health and wellness all over the place. I was trained that the best we can do with bone density is to slow the rate of decline. By way of lots of research and an expanded perspective, I have come to find it is possible and even probable that we can improve a woman’s bone density over time.

            Hypertension and diabetes can be reversed. I’m up to 15 or so women in the practice who have had Hashimoto’s reversed. And on and on.

            Functional, comprehensive, integrative, holistic approaches are typically needed to break free of the diagnose-and-treat-for-life model of healthcare.

            Back to your cardiovascular system. The first question is whether it’s even possible to reverse the plaque burden in your arteries.

            Starting with Dean Ornish, multiple researchers and practitioners have shown that this is possible. Ornish focused on a plant-based diet with regular exercise, stress management and meditation/mindfulness.

            Those that see the world through the lens of minerals and nutrients have focused much of their attention on chronic mineral deficiencies, relative calcium overload and vitamin C insufficiency as focal to this effort.

            Over a year ago, I saw David, a 70-year-old male, for his physical. He was in good general health with a reasonable lifestyle that needed a tweak here and a nudge there. We talked about the variety of way we could assess his cardiovascular status. We can aggregate a person’s individual risk factors to make an educated guess about what’s happening. We can use one of many risk calculators available online.

            Or we can do testing to be more precise about what is actually happening. One of the options to check a person’s status is the coronary plaque CT score. One group locally that can do this test is Internal Vision in Beverly.

            The classic undercall was Jim Fixx. He was a marathon runner and, in the 1970s, a prominent figure in the arena of health. When he was 52-years-old, he was out on a run and dropped dead. He was found to have blockages of 90% or more to all the arteries supplying his heart. How could this be? There are many risk factors (like stress, nutrition, toxic load and hydration) that are challenging to quantify and others that receive little or no attention from the cardiology establishment. There are genetic tests that can be done to check for anomalies of the enzymes MTHFR, NOS and others potentially relevant to arterial flow. We are not in a place yet to definitively link these genetic anomalies to risk, so that would be speculative.

            David had a coronary plaque scan with a total score of 265. In addition to exercise, diet, stress management, sleep and good hydration, I recommended a supplement called Synergy K with vitamin K1 that is beneficial for the arteries and vitamin K2 that facilitates a shift of calcium from the arteries to the bones. I also recommended whole molecule vitamin C (via the Innate or Pure Radiance supplement companies) at least 1,000mg daily.

            This year, we repeated David’s coronary plaque scan and his score improved by 26% in one year.

            Is it possible to know which of the factors played the majority role in this improvement? On some level, does it really matter? In some ways yes, because it would help us focus our efforts going forward but otherwise, complex problems often require multiple simultaneous interventions to make an impact.

            I would consider calling Internal Vision or another group that can do a coronary plaque scan to find out your number. Addressing this vital issue could help you prevent a heart attack or stroke and save your life.

Andrew Lenhardt, MD