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Posted on 09-13-2013

By now, you’ve probably heard about the controversial class of drugs known as statins, which are prescribed to treat high cholesterol and, thus, reduce risks of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular illness is a growing epidemic and a top killer, not just in this country but worldwide.

But are statin drugs the answer? Many doctors may think so. Statins are some of the best-selling prescription drugs in the world, despite their risky side effects. In the United States, one in four people over age 45 has been prescribed a statin drug to control cholesterol. In fact, a growing body of evidence suggests that statin drugs are overprescribed. Researchers continue to demonstrate that cholesterol levels are not as big a risk factor as previously thought.

Nevertheless, drug companies, research institutes and public health agencies continue to promote statins for heart attack and stroke prevention. Some people have even publicly raised the question of whether statins should be added to the U.S. water supplies along with fluoride, another highly controversial substance.

Risks Or Benefits?                           

Results from studies on statins continue to offer contradictory results. A recent large-scale study purported that the benefits of statin drugs outweighed the risks. Other studies show that statins are largely ineffective in preventing primary heart attacks but may protect patients who have already suffered a cardiovascular event from having a recurrence.

Several major studies have found that among statin drugs’ other widely reported side effects (including muscle pain, memory loss and liver damage), these medications also increase your diabetes risk by as much as 13 percent. To make matters worse, the Food and Drug Administration acknowledges the influence of statins on diabetes risk but has approved its use for heart attack prevention anyway. The good news: There are natural alternatives for promoting heart health that focus on addressing inflammation, boosting circulation and fighting free radicals.

Diet And Supplements

It is well-known that simple lifestyle changes — such as a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats along with daily physical activity, adequate sleep and hydration — can go a long way toward reducing inflammation and supporting cardiovascular health. Antioxidant-rich botanicals and foods also play a critical role in integrative protocols to combat heart disease, thanks to their ability to quench free radicals and to counteract chronic inflammation.

I recommend a comprehensive nutritional intervention strategy that includes anti-oxidants and circulation enhancers such as Arginine and inflammation reducing nutrients. So you need powerful anti-oxidants, circulation booster,  and inflammation by blocking the harmful effects of a pro-inflammatory protein called galectin-3 and has been shown in preclinical studies to reduce hardening of the arteries. Natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herbs, nutrients and botanicals are some of our best allies in protecting heart health.

The Cholesterol Myth

The controversy about statins brings up an important point in understanding cardiovascular health and disease: Cholesterol and fat aren’t the big enemies some doctors have thought. We have all been told not to eat too much fat because a high-fat diet causes a rise in harmful cholesterol that can lead to a heart attack. This conclusion is too black and white, too rigid, and simply not true.

While humans need fat and cholesterol to survive, it is the type of fat that is critical — not how much of it you consume. Trans-fats (found in fried food and many highly processed foods) and excess saturated fats promote unhealthy cholesterol and are major triggers of inflammation. Healthy fats from whole-food sources such as cold-water fish, raw nuts and seeds, olive oil, coconut oil and other nutritious oils do not have the same effect. In fact, these fats are essential for health and can reduce cholesterol and inflammation. Your body happily uses these fats for cardiovascular health, brain health, hormone balance, inflammation regulation and more.

In truth, many people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol. The myth of high cholesterol as the cause of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and heart disease is slowly being dispelled as new research clarifies what takes place in heart disease.

There’s good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol. However, what type of LDL (bad) cholesterol particles you have is also more important than the amount. Bigger is better. Large, fluffy LDL particles are practically harmless to your arteries; small, dense LDL particles easily penetrate your arteries. After penetration, the immune system responds, causing arteries to become inflamed and leading to hardened plaque (atherosclerosis).

Inflammation: The Real Culprit

Research shows that people with high levels of c-reactive protein and/or galectin-3 (biomarkers that indicate inflammation) have significantly higher risks of heart disease. The dangerous issue with cholesterol occurs when it is oxidized from chronic inflammation, toxins, free radical and other causes. Oxidized cholesterol is quite toxic and creates a vicious cycle of inflammation throughout the cardiovascular system. Antioxidants help reduce inflammation and combat oxidized cholesterol.

In order to maintain cardiovascular and overall health, it is critical to reduce and control your levels of inflammation with diet, supplements, movement, hydration and proper stress relief. Seasonal fruits and vegetables, nutrient-dense whole foods, and anti-inflammatory herbs and nutrients are some of your best choices to address chronic inflammation and free radical damage, in addition to providing additional health benefits such as immune protection, mood support and much more.

For more information on nutritional products go to the Nutrition Store tab above. Information provided by Dr. Isaac Eliaz.

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