Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming roughly one in four Americans. As of 2018, over 30 million Americans were diagnosed with heart disease! Coronary artery disease, blockage of arteries that supply blood to the heart, is the most common cause, with the heaviest risk factors including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and depression. While we have many effective medications to manage heart disease, unfortunately they do nothing to address the cause.
Many are surprised to learn that heart disease was quite rare before the beginning of the twentieth century; rates began to rise sharply in the 1920s. What happened to cause such a dramatic change? Cholesterol has been almost singularly blamed for heart disease, but our ancestors prized and frequently ate high cholesterol foods. Why didn’t they have heart disease?
Data from the Framington Heart Study, involving thousands of people and spanning three generations, shows that eighty percent of people who have a heart attack have the same exact cholesterol level as people who never had a heart attack. Other large studies show that people continue to have cardiovascular events despite high dose cholesterol-lowering statin therapies. Furthermore, statins deplete critical nutrients, including CoQ10 (vital for heart health), vitamin K2 (vital for cardiovascular health), and zinc, and lower hormone levels including testosterone and thyroid.
The truth is that cholesterol is essential for hormone production, and for maintenance and repair of the lining of our blood vessels. In fact, many studies show a direct correlation between low cholesterol levels and all-cause mortality! Has our fixation on cholesterol caused us to ignore other more significant contributing factors?
After one large health study showed a strong positive correlation between elevation in an inflammatory marker called C-Reactive Protein and risk of cardiovascular events, inflammation has increasingly been acknowledged as a key player. This makes sense, given the significant environmental and lifestyle changes in the past century.
Chronic inflammation directly damages the lining of our blood vessels, and obesity, diabetes, and depression all dramatically increase inflammation! Fat cells produce strong pro-inflammatory factors. Elevated blood sugars from a high carbohydrate diet turn on inflammatory cytokines in the body and turn “good” cholesterol into “bad” cholesterol. And when our sympathetic “stress” nervous system is chronically activated, our platelets become sticky, our blood sugars and blood pressure become elevated, we develop insulin resistance, and incidents of arrhythmia increase. Like all degenerative diseases, cardiovascular disease is multifactorial.
At Vital Health we dig deep to uncover the root causes of cardiovascular disease. Acupuncture is profoundly effective for reducing levels of stress and inflammation, and is utilized together with targeted diet change, herbs, and supplementation to help restore your cardiovascular health.
©2022 Darcy Greenwald, M.S.O.M., L.Ac. and Vital Health