Heart Attacks: What Big Medicine Doesnโ€™t Want You to Know

The Truth About Cholesterol, Fat, and Heart Disease

Youโ€™re being lied to. Hereโ€™s whatโ€™s true and untrue about taking care of your heart health.

Jake recently underwent heart surgery โ€“ a quintuple bypass. Amazingly, he didnโ€™t have any of the traditional risk factors. His blood pressure and cholesterol were normal. He didnโ€™t smoke, eat a fatty diet, or have high iron levels. Despite all this, his doctor discovered blockages that could dislodge at any moment and cause a heart attack, hence the bypass.

Whatโ€™s going on here? How did a healthy guy get so blocked up? The book, โ€œOpen Heart,โ€ by Jay Neugeboren, gives us some shocking insights.

The Cholesterol Boogieman

Neugeboren, a healthy man with no overt risk factors associated with heart disease, underwent heart surgery after being repeatedly misdiagnosed. After his near-death experience, he began researching heart disease and unearthed mountains of disturbing information.

Consider first the issue of cholesterol: More than a third of individuals who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol. And if you look at all the studies, youโ€™ll find no evidence that lowering cholesterol prolongs life. Disturbingly, thereโ€™s a mysterious increase in deaths from other causes when you reduce cholesterol. And once you drop cholesterol below 180 mg/dl, the death rate also increases.

Yet every two years, experts from around the world meet and decide that the normal and accepted cholesterol level is invariably lower than it was at the last meeting โ€“ without having any solid evidence to back it up.

By the early 1970s, each biochemical step of the chain from dietary fat to cholesterol to heart disease had been mapped out, but the legitimacy of the claim has never been proven.

The closest theyโ€™ve come is through a study funded by the US Surgeonโ€™s Office. They determined that if Americans cut the amount of saturated fat they ingested, they could delay 42,000 deaths each year. That means that a woman who avoided saturated fat her entire life โ€“ who otherwise might have died on her 65th birthday โ€“ might live an additional two weeks. So, the role saturated fat plays in heart disease is controversial. Other factors may be involved.

There Are Lies… Then There Are Statistics

So where did the cholesterol myth originate? The drug companies that manufacture cholesterol drugs.

A study involving the cholesterol-lowering drug cholestryamine (Questran) and 1900 patients found that out of those taking the drug, only 30 had a fatal heart attack. And the number of those not taking the drug that had fatal heart attacks? Thirty-eight.

Statistically, that means the cholestryamine, over seven years, reduced the chances of having a fatal heart attack by less than half a percent. However, the drug company said that cholestryamine reduced the chances of dying from a heart attack by 25%. Sure, eight fewer deaths out of a total of 38 patients is indeed 25%. As they say, there are lies, and then there are statistics.

But even if cholesterol does lead to severe blockages, these blockages cause, at most, three out of every ten heart attacks. While doctors used to believe that heart attacks were caused by a build-up of plaque that would eventually rupture and cause blockages, that isnโ€™t necessarily the case anymore.

So, What Does Cause Heart Attacks?

If you combine all known risk factors such as the wrong kinds of fat in the diet, cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, markers for inflammation, and diabetes, they explain only half the risk of developing atherosclerosis. The answer most often given to explain this conundrum is that itโ€™s likely genetic, which, according to Dr. Rich Helfant, a cardiologist, is another way of saying, โ€œWe donโ€™t know why these things happen.โ€

A recent path of research points to another possible cause: hormone balance. One meta-study compiled the results of 100 testosterone studies and found that low testosterone was associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease and higher rates of mortality in general. The severity of the disease correlated with the degree of testosterone deficiency.

Estrogen levels, too, are important in men. When researchers monitored the estrogen levels of men with chronic heart failure, men with estradiol in the normal range (between 21.80 pg/ml and 30.11 pg/ml) had the fewest deaths during a three-year period.

Men with the highest levels (above 37.99) had 133% more deaths during the same period. However, the men with the lowest estrogen levels (below 12.90) fared the worst as they experienced 317% more deaths. Clearly, estrogen levels play a big part in the health of your ticker, in addition to the health of a whole lot of body parts, body systems, and body functions.

Five Different Doctors, Five Different Diagnoses

Thereโ€™s also the problem of diagnosis itself. โ€œPut a patient with even the slightest set of maladies in front of five doctors, and you might get five different diagnoses, five different prognoses, and five different recommendations for treatment,โ€ explains Dr. Helfant.

One study involving 453 recent medical school graduates found that more than 20% of the time, the grads couldnโ€™t identify common heart problems with a stethoscope, which is still a valuable tool for diagnosing heart problems.

While we seem to hold more technical diagnostic tools in high regard, the truth is much different. One study found that 75% of information leading to a correct diagnosis comes from detailed patient history; 10% comes from physical exam; 5% comes from routine tests; 5% comes from invasive tests; and 5% of the time no answers are found.

Also, regardless of whether a doctor recommends bypass surgery, angioplasty, drug therapy, or beating-heart surgery, the results are usually the same. Even if a patient receives optimal treatment, thereโ€™s less than a 50% chance that the patient will live longer than he or she would have without the treatment.

Lab Tests Suck, Too

Even common lab tests are woefully inaccurate. Consider the common blood test for cholesterol. Dr. Helfant says that if you send a blood sample to two different labs, thereโ€™s a strong possibility that youโ€™ll get two different results.

As an experiment, Helfant had the same lab repeat his cholesterol test on the same blood sample. The first time, the machine indicated that his total cholesterol was 152. The same sample tested at 176 a few minutes later, a discrepancy of 17%. With the high number, he couldโ€™ve been prescribed a cholesterol drug with questionable side effects.

Neugeboren sums it up by writing, โ€œWhen a test is performed more often, the result is both fewer missed cases and more false positive results.โ€

Greed and Shady Doctors?

According to Dr. Stephen Oesterle, over 50% of angioplasties performed each year in the US are unnecessary. That translates to over a hundred thousand needless and risky procedures yearly. The other side of the coin? Some patients who need treatment are sometimes misdiagnosed and end up dying.

Could there be something more at work regarding some of these unnecessary procedures, something more sinister than ineptitude?

According to one report, nine out of ten medical experts who make recommendations concerning the treatment of diseases have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. These ties are rarely disclosed. Similarly, many cardiologists and surgeons own stock in companies that make cardiac stents, surgical instruments, catheters, and drugs. All too often theyโ€™re also involved in the clinical trials that examine the efficacy of these products.

So Where Does That Leave Us?

Doctors canโ€™t agree on what causes heart disease. Sure, some statistical probabilities point to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, but they donโ€™t mean squat if youโ€™re one of the 50% of men or 63% of women who die from heart attacks while not exhibiting any strong risk factors.

Similarly, the โ€œcorrectโ€ treatment is often based on widely varying opinions, outdated science, and even corruption and greed. The only thing that doctors and scientists seem to agree on is that heart disease is a disease of inflammation.

Whatโ€™s common to just about everyone who dies of a heart attack is a large collection of white blood cells known as macrophages. These macrophages collect around fatty deposits, and they secrete enzymes that digest protein. The insides of blood vessels are made of proteins and in trying to eliminate the fatty deposits, the blood vessels are eaten away, made thinner, and made more susceptible to rupture.

Surprisingly, researchers also found these macrophages in presumably healthy arteries, indicating that the inflammation was systemic and not localized.

This may be why aspirin, which reduces inflammation, seems to be valuable in thwarting heart disease. It might also explain why some statins seem to work โ€“ not because they lower cholesterol โ€“ but because they have an anti-inflammatory effect.

How to Protect Your Heart

Put all that disturbing info together and youโ€™ll realize that working out and keeping your blood pressure in check may not be enough to prevent a heart attack.

Avoiding trans fatty acids and limiting saturated fat is still sound advice for everyone, but more than that, and given that heart disease seems to be an inflammatory disease, it might be wise to take the following every day:

  • 80 mg. of aspirin (if youโ€™re not at risk for hemorrhagic stroke)
  • 4200 mg of fish oil, mostly from DHA. Flameout (Buy at Amazon) contains mostly DHA.
  • 400 mg. of magnesium (crucial to proper heart function, and something most Americans are deficient in). ElitePro Vital Minerals (Buy at Amazon) contains 400 mg of chelated magnesium to ensure absorption.
  • ElitePro Minerals

  • Between 90 and 200 mg. of CoQ10 (Buy at Amazon) (which is essential if youโ€™re on cholesterol drugs).
  • 400 mg. of curcumin to help fight inflammation. Use only the micellar form, which is 95 times more bioavailable than standard curcumin with piperine. Biotestโ€™s Micellar Curcumin (Buy at Amazon) contains these solid lipid curcumin particles that greatly enhance absorption and utilization.
  • MC-on-Amazon

And of course, eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can work in, along with nuts or olive oil (for their monosaturated, heart-healthy fats).

While it seems that an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle are our best insurance against heart disease, we need to also make sure our testosterone levels and estrogen levels are within healthful parameters. Low levels of the former and high levels of the latter appear to play a big part in heart disease.

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