Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Truth About Cholesterol

. . .
and Its Affect on Your Health

Cholesterol is a waxy, oily steroid compound which has received a lot of bad press in recent years – especially when it comes to cardiovascular degeneration. The truth states cholesterol is vital to the body's health and functioning.

Cholesterol is an essential component in cell membranes. It helps us to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E, & K) and essential fatty acids. It is also involved in manufacturing key male and female sex hormones and steroidal hormones. These are crucial for a healthy immune system and a smooth running hormonal system.

Ironically, a significant percentage of coronary heart disease occurs in people with normal to low cholesterol. The problem behind heart disease isn't the cholesterol itself – but oxidized cholesterol.
Over the past decade researchers have recently begun to realize that
heart disease is actually the result of long-term, low-grade inflammation of our arteries. Numerous nutrients have been indicated by thousands of published studies to promote healthy cardiovascular function. There are four primary benefits that can be achieved by using nutrition to promote cardiovascular health:

1) Antioxidant nutrients that prevent cell oxidation of the LDL (bad) cholesterol. Cholesterol only becomes your enemy when the LDL faction is hit by a free radical and becomes oxidized. The following are nutrients that have been shown to act as antioxidants and protect the LDL cholesterol from oxidation:
  • Garlic (400 - 2,000 mg per day - odorless aged extract is superior)

  • Vitamin E (400 - 1,200 IU per day - a natural blend is up to 3 times for powerful)

  • Grape Seed Extract (50 - 200 mg per day)

  • Red Wine Extract (50 - 200 mg per day - use standardized 30% or greater polphenols)

  • Green Tea Extract (100 - 300 mg per day - use standardized 80% polyphenols/55% epigallocatechin)

  • CoEnzyme Q10 (60 - 120 mg per day)

2) Nutrients that promote healthy homocysteine levels. Over 500 studies have been published in the medical literature about the dangers of homocysteine. Elevated homocysteine is up to 5 times more deadly than elevated cholesterol. Vitamins B6, B12, Folic Acid promote healthy homocysteine levels.

The following are recommended nutrients and levels to promote healthy homocysteine levels:
  • Vitamin B6 (50 - 150 mg per day)
  • Vitamin B12 (500 - 2,000 mcg per day - Methylcobalamin form is far superior)
  • Folic Acid (400 - 1,000 IU per day)
3) Nutrients that promote healthy cholesterol levels and ratios. Cholesterol levels are not the best indicators of cardiovascular health, the ratio of HDL (good) versus LDL (bad) are far superior. A ratio of 4 or less is good with 3 being optimal.

The following nutrients are recommended to promote healthy cholesterol levels and ratios:
  • Fish Oil (1000-4000 mg per day of EPA & DHA)
  • Garlic (900 mg per day - odorless aged extract)
  • Tocotrienols (10-50 mg per day)
  • Fiber (20 - 30 grams per day from food and supplements)
  • Olive Polyphenols (5-10 Mg. per day)

4) Nutrients that promote strong and healthy blood vessels. Many people's diets do not supply enough Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids to promote healthy blood vessels. Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids are critical to collagen formation, the major connective protein that maintains and promotes strong blood vessels.

  • Vitamin C (500 - 2,000 mg per day)
  • Bioflavonoids (100 - 500 mg per day)
  • Gingko Biloba (50-100 mg. per day)
  • Phosphatidylserine (100-400 mg per day)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Lowering Blood Pressure Naturally - The Lifestyle Connection

One of the best ways of lowering your blood pressure is to make a lifestyle change that incorporates exercise and a healthy diet designed to lower HBH (high blood pressure) Here is a video with Robert Kowalski (Author of the Blood Pressure Cure) where he talks about a diet that will lower your HBP naturally. You have probably heard of the DASH diet. It stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The Mediterranean diet would be part of this. A delicious way to eat, stay healthy and lower blood pressure by about 6-8 points. The Dash Study A landmark study called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) looked at the effects of an overall eating plan in adults with normal to high blood pressure. Researchers found that in just eight weeks, people following the DASH diet saw their blood pressure decrease. Weight and sodium intake were held constant and thus were not a factor in the blood pressure reductions observed. The lowering of blood pressure among DASH participants were comparable (systolic 11 to 12 mm Hg and diastolic 5 to 6 mm Hg reductions) to those observed with single drug regimens.The DASH authors also noted that their results were generalizable to the entire U.S. population since the blood pressure reductions did not stratify based upon age, gender, weight or race. The conclusion of the study was that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods and with reduced saturated and total fat can substantially lower blood pressure. This diet offers an an additional nutritional approach to preventing and treating hypertension as opposed to a drug treatment.

Exercise Reduces Blood Pressure...

... But too few doctors recommend it to their patients, study finds

Two-thirds of doctors don't take the time to tell their patients with high blood pressure about the importance of exercise and physical activity. "Patients do follow physician recommendations to exercise when instructed to, and patients who follow exercise recommendations tend to have lower systolic blood pressures than those who do not," said lead researcher Dr. Josiah Halm, a hypertension specialist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. 71 percent of patients with high blood pressure saw a drop in their blood pressure when they increased their physical activity, which means that they listened when doctors told them to exercise more, according to the report.
In a clinical trial, the participants in the Healthy for Life program ate a healthy diet and increased their exercise instead of taking drugs. After the trial, their systolic blood pressure dropped an average of 10 points and diastolic blood pressure dropped an average of 6 points in just 12 weeks. This is comparable to the DASH trial. The difference is that you will get more support with this program than trying to do the DASH program on your own. How would that affect your blood pressure if it dropped that much in 12 weeks? How long would it take to get off your meds?

Check out the Healthy For Life program by Dr. Ray Strand. The
information on this site could help you to get on your way to lowering your blood pressure naturally. In a clinical trial, the participants in the Healthy for Life program ate a healthy diet and increased their exercise instead of taking drugs. After the trial, their systolic blood pressure dropped an average of 10 points and diastolic blood pressure dropped an average of 6 points in just 12 weeks. 

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lowering Blood Pressure Naturally - The Grape Seed Extract Connection

In a recent study done at the University of California at Davis, it was discovered that a standardized dose of grape-seed extract lowered blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) dropped 12 points, on average. Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a blood pressure reading) dropped an average of 8 points. Click on the following article to read about it.

Grape-seed Extract for Blood Pressure?

Polyphenol antioxidants found in grape seeds naturally increase blood vessel
dilation (vasodilation), which increases blood flow and decreases blood pressure. Grape-seed extract is exactly what it sounds like--an extract produced from the seeds of grapes--with high levels of polyphenols, particularly one polyphenol known as proanthocyanidin. I use it to control the pain and inflammation for my father's arthritis. Consequently, he has no more pain. Amazing.

A Unique Way to Manage High Blood Pressure!

Grape-seed extract is available in capsules, tablets, and tinctures. Look for products that are standardized to 95% OPC content. (OPC is an abbreviation for oligomeric proanthocyanidins, which are a class of flavonoid complexes.) Grape seed extract is considered safe. However, because herbs and dietary supplements are not strictly regulated by the U.S. food and Drug Administration, it is difficult to verify the purity and strength of products claiming to contain grape-seed extract. That is why you should look for one that is pharmaceutical-grade and has the letters "USP" on the label (United States Phamacopeia). This is a level of manufacturing that has higher standards and may assure the purity and potency of what you are taking. In addition, it should be certified by a respected independent lab like Consumer Labs or the NSF to make sure their claims are true.

I take a grape-seed extract product called "Proflavanol 90" made by Usana Health Sciences. It is a pharmaceutical-grade (USP) grape-seed extract that is standardized to 95% OPC content. It is certified by the NSF and carries NSF's trusted Certified for Sport™ Mark. USANA also received Good Manufacturing Practices registration and dietary supplement certification in 2007 through NSF. Usana Health Sciences is the official health supplement supplier to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Thousands of Olympic and Pro athletes also trust their health to Usana Health Sciences.

Lowering Blood Pressure Naturally - The Magnesium Connection

Doctors usually prescribe Toprol and (maybe) a diuretic for high blood pressure to reduce body fluids. Diuretics help lower blood pressure but also leach out the magnesium, potassium in the body and raises homocysteine by 16% which can bring on Alzheimer's and a heart attack. Toprol raises her triglycerides and lowers her HDL (good) cholesterol which can lead to a heart attack.

If you are looking for natural ways to reduce your blood pressure, here are a few tips that might help.

Taking supplements is not the total answer to reducing blood pressure. But with a low-glycemic diet and daily exercise, it could be a part of the answer to get you off of high blood pressure medicines. Are you taking enough magnesium? As always, check with your doctor or a naturopathic doctor before you do anything different, but . . .
Magnesium has been shown to lower blood pressure.

Dr. Cohen wrote a book called, "The Magnesium Solution For High Blood Pressure." In it, Dr. Cohen looks at one probable underlying cause of high blood pressure -- magnesium deficiency. He describes how up to 75% of Americans are deficient in this mineral and as a consequence are sick in many ways. The average American only gets 40% of the Magnesium that it needs from diet alone. Doctors are widely ignorant about magnesium and tend to think of drugs as first resort rather than last. In the Journal of the American Medical Association, it was reported that over 90% of all doctors failed to look at a patients low magnesium levels even though some of them died of heart attacks from so low a level.

Dr. Cohen explains how magnesium is an essential micronutrient in maintaining suppleness in the walls of blood vessels. In magnesium deficiency, the vessels become stiffer and so do not absorb the blood pressure surges properly. “Evidence suggests that magnesium may play an important role in regulating blood pressure. Magnesium deficiency can cause metabolic changes that may contribute to heart attacks and strokes. There is also evidence that low body stores of magnesium increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, which may increase the risk of complications associated with a heart attack. Population surveys have associated higher blood levels of magnesium with lower risk of coronary heart disease.”

Magnesium is one of the body’s most important minerals. It is required as a cofactor in hundreds of enzymatic processes within cells. Magnesium is a major factor in relaxing the smooth muscles within the blood vessels, thereby reducing peripheral vascular resistance and blood pressure. It also stimulates nitric oxide, a mechanism at work when we exercise, helping to relax and dilate blood vessels. In addition, magnesium reduces nerve and muscle excitability, stabilizes cardiac conductivity, and influences neurochemical transmission. Magnesium also affects circulating levels of norepinephrine and the synthesis of serotonin and nitric oxide.

Indeed, because of magnesium’s primary role in blood pressure regulation, for decades scientists have called magnesium “nature’s calcium channel blocker” because magnesium directly offsets the constriction of blood vessels caused by calcium. Because drug companies cannot make money from a natural substance like magnesium, they have developed a whole group of drugs called calcium antagonists or calcium channel blockers to do what magnesium does. In 2000, doctors wrote more than 95 million prescriptions for calcium antagonists, including top sellers amlo-dipine (Norvasc), nifedipine (Procardia), diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac), and others at a total cost of more than $4.5 billion. These drugs are not only costly, but they can also cause side effects such as dizziness, palpitations, fatigue, tiredness, and swollen legs. Over a five year period, they shrink your brain and you could end up with Alzheimer's disease like my parents. Yet many doctors do not hesitate to prescribe these drugs because they were never taught about magnesium. While legions of pharmaceutical sales representatives bring stacks of studies and free samples of these drugs, no one pushes magnesium.

Fortunately, a growing number of doctors are now learning about magnesium. Sherry Rogers, MD, a highly respected integrative medicine physician, has written extensively about magnesium’s benefits for disorders caused by abnormal muscle constriction: “In order for a muscle to contract, it needs calcium. In order to relax, it needs magnesium.” Hypertension is one of the conditions for which Dr. Rogers recommends supplementing with magnesium.

Evidence-based studies have shown the same thing. A 1989 study published in the journal Hypertension found that taking 625 mg of magnesium daily produced significant reductions in blood pressure in 21 subjects. A study published in 1993 in the American Journal of Hypertension found that taking supplemental magnesium reduced average systolic blood pressure from 154 to 146 mm Hg and cut average diastolic blood pressure from 100 to 92 mm Hg.

A study published in the International Journal of Cardiology in 1996 found that taking 600 mg of magnesium daily reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 7.6 mm Hg and diastolic pressure by an average of 3.8 mm Hg.23 In another double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the British Journal of Nutrition
in 1997, subjects who took 411-548 mg of magnesium daily experienced significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Magnesium should be considered by anyone seeking to prevent or treat high blood pressure. The foundation for a healthy blood pressure consists of a healthy diet, adequate exercise, stress reduction, and sufficient amounts of potassium and magnesium. If you eat plentiful amounts of vegetables, you are likely getting plenty of potassium.

Foods rich in magnesium and often other important minerals include all sorts of nuts and seeds, whole grains, beans, and leafy green vegetables such spinach, broccoli, peas and artichoke. Note that processing foods often degrades their nutrient value. That means refined grains lose most of their magnesium. Freezing and canning, on the other hand, usually retain the original nutrients.

A wise and easier choice would be to supplement the diet with a balanced mineral, trace mineral and vitamin solution, because although there is an abundance of good quality calcium, vitamin d, and magnesium supplements on the market, caution must be exercised when deciding how much to take of each one in conjunction to the effect on the others. And remember, they have to be easily absorbed into the intestines to bring maximum benefits.

I take 700 mg. per day in a combination of multivitamin and a calcium supplement. There are different forms of magnesium such as magnesium sulfate, oxide, gluconate, lactate and citrate. Look for one with magnesium citrate as it is more soluble and, therefore, more easily absorbed than some of the other forms.

Magnesium can be used in concert with drugs for hypertension. Check with your doctor first. My brother knew an advanced yoga instructor who developed muscle tightness as a side effect of her anti-hypertensive medication. Supplementing with magnesium allowed her to reduce her medication dose, and her muscle tightness went away. If you ever get muscle cramps in you legs at night, magnesium might help relieve that too and get you a better nights sleep.

You can have your magnesium, potassium, arginine and other vitamin levels checked by getting a blood test. This might help you to determine what to do. In any case, taking more magnesium would be a good idea

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Is Your Scale Broken?

I was thin most of my life and then it hit me. I started gaining weight around my middle, my thighs, chest and neck. Even my face became fat! I went to my doctor and asked him what I could do. He said, "Exercise more and eat less." Well, duh! I was expecting something a little more profound than that. I followed his advice and came back in a month. When I got on the scale, I weighed MORE! How could this be, doc? He said that when I increased my exercise, it must have made me hungrier and I must have eaten more. I don't think so. When I was younger, all I had to do was think about losing weight and it would come right off (fast). Why was it so tough now? It's a simple formula, isn't it? Burn more calories than you take in. I had done that all my life and it always worked before. What had changed?

I did not know it but I had put my body on a high-glycemic roller coaster ride. For many years, it was not a problem. My body seemed to handled it just fine with no telling symptoms. Then, all of the sudden, I started putting on 10-15 pounds a year. I was always tired in the afternoon and I found that my memory was not as good as it had been before. The results of the roller coaster had finally caught up with me.

Here's how the glycemic roller coaster works. In a healthy person, blood sugars work best in a narrow range. The glucose levels should be maintained in the body between 70 to 150 mg/dl. In 1981, Dr. David Jenkins discovered that some foods will spike your blood sugar higher than others. In the chart below, you can see what happens when you spike your blood sugar. When it gets too high, your body protects itself by releasing a fat-storage hormone called insulin. A few hours after a high-glycemic meal, your blood sugars go below the normal range. This is dangerous, so your body protects itself again by producing cortisol and adrenaline in an attempt to bring your blood sugars back up to a normal level. This is usually when you crave another high-glycemic meal. The roller coaster starts all over again.

Over the years, this kind of insulin abuse leads to insulin resistance. Your body compensates by making more and more insulin. In turn, your muscles begin to reject the glucose sent their way. Normally, 85 to 90% of all the glucose produced after eating a meal goes to the muscle cells to be either utilized for energy or stored as glycogen for immediate energy reserve in the muscle. This means that only 10-15% of the glucose ends up in our fat cells. If the insulin and glucagon levels are normal, there is a nice balance of fat being produced and broken down, and no weight gain occurs.

It Starts In The Muscle

When insulin resistance develops, muscle cells start rejecting a majority of the glucose following a meal and it is redirected to our fat cells. It is like a train switching tracks and going in a different direction. This is when the unexplained fat starts to develop around your middle at an alarming rate.

When Is A Calorie No Longer A Calorie?
When insulin resistance is involved, a calorie is not merely a calorie any more. You can exercise and starve yourself all you want. The fact is, your fat cells start acting like a sponge and soak up all the glucose and efficiently change it into fat no matter how many calories you try to burn. The concept of "a calorie in and a calorie out" that has been the mainstay of weight loss therapy throughout the past century needs to change. When you begin to recognize the effect that insulin resistance throws into this equation, a calorie is no longer just a calorie.
Insulin resistance leads to Metabolic Syndrome (Syndrome X) and can finally lead to full blown diabetes. Unless you can find a way to "reverse the tracks" on insulin resistance and get back to normal, you simply will not be able to lose weight even with the most aggressive diets. In this state, the body is resistant to almost any weight loss program being advocated today. Only a program designed to reverse insulin resistance will successfully "flip the switch back again."

Here is a video of Dr. Ray Strand explaining how this all happens.

Why Care About Blood Sugar?
If you're not diabetic, you probably haven't given much thought to your blood sugar, but are some compelling reasons why you should care:
  • You should care if you find yourself getting sluggish or tired every afternoon.

  • You should care if you reach for cookies, candy or cola when you need a shot of energy.

  • You should care if you find yourself hungry late at night and raiding the refrigerator.

  • You should care if your attempts at weight loss have yielded little or no success.

  • You should care if you've noticed your memory or vision slipping in recent years.

These are all warning signs of blood sugar imbalance. Blood sugar is to your body what gasoline is to your car – fuel. Every cell in your body depends on it for the energy to stay alive and function. Whether you're a diabetic or not, your goal is to keep your blood sugar tank full, but not too full. Without balanced blood sugar, in addition to the health problems above, you may be increasing the risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

How Does The Glycemic Index Work?

The glycemic index (GI) ranks foods by how they affect your blood sugar levels.
  • Low-GI foods (less than 55) produce a gradual rise in blood sugar that's easy on the body.

  • Foods between 55 and 70 are intermediate-GI foods

  • Foods with high-GI numbers (more than 70) make blood sugar and insulin levels spike fast, which is a health threat.
Examples of high glycemic foods: White bread, white rice, white potatoes, soda pop, some fruit juices and most sugars.

Examples of low glycemic foods: Walnuts, peanuts, most fresh fruits and vegetables, chicken, turkey, tea (unsweetened), sugars like xylitol and stevia.

Research suggests keeping blood sugar from spiking pays off – low-GI foods stave off heart disease, prevent type 2 diabetes, help you evade serious side effects if you have diabetes, curb your appetite so you lose weight, and help boost energy.

The Science Behind The Glycemic Index
A study published in the November 2003 Journal of Pediatrics
showed that children who ate low-GI, high-fiber breakfasts were less hungry and ate less for lunch than kids eating a breakfast of refined sugary cereals. This is the first study to observe such an effect in a group of normal and overweight children and adds to the growing body of evidence that low-GI foods may have an important role in weight control and obesity management.

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that people who eat refined grains stripped of fiber are more likely to gain weight and be overweight compared to people eating high-fiber whole grains.

GlycemicIndex and Serum High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Concentration Among US Adults
Dietary glycemic index, an indicator of the ability of the carbohydrate to raise blood glucose levels, and glycemic load, the product of glycemic index and carbohydrate intake, have been positively related to risk of coronary heart disease
Arch Intern Med.+2001;161:572-576.

State of the Art Reviews: Glycemic Index, Obesity, and Chronic Disease.
Diets based on carbohydrate foods that are more slowly digested and absorbed (ie, low glycemic index diets) have been independently linked to reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer. Although ongoing research is needed, the current findings, together with the fact that there are no demonstrated negative effects of a low glycemic index diet, suggest that the glycemic index should be an important consideration in the dietary management and prevention of obesity and chronic disease.
American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, Vol. 2, No. 2, 142-150 (2008)
Glycemic index, glycemic load, and chronic disease risk --a meta-analysis of observational studies
Low-GI and/or low-GL diets are independently associated with a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases. In diabetes and heart disease, the protection is comparable with that seen for whole grain and high fiber intakes. The findings support the hypothesis that *higherpostprandial glycemia is a universal mechanism for disease progression.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol.87, No. 3, 627-637, March 2008
Association between Carbohydrate Intake and Serum Lipids
Results of this study suggest that there is a complex and predominantly unfavorable effect of increased intake of highly processed carbohydrate on lipid profile, which may have implications for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. Further studies in the form of randomized controlled trials are required to investigate these associations and determine the implications for lipid management.
Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 25, No. 2, 155-163 (2006)
Potato and french fry consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in women
Nurses health study findings suggest a modest positive association between the consumption of potatoes and the risk of type 2 diabetes in women. This association was more pronounced when potatoes were substituted or whole grains .
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 83, No. 2, 284-290, February 2006
FastFood, Central Nervous System Insulin Resistance, and Obesity
Dramatic increases in fast food consumption over the past 30 years have occurred in parallel with the twin epidemics of obesity and insulin resistance. Some of the properties of fast food, including its high glycemic index and its fatty acid composition, induce hyperinsulinemia and the development of insulin resistance, both peripherally (increasing energy deposition into fat), and centrally. Of course, fast food is merely the most extreme example of what has become the typical Western diet, so this phenomenon has implications for all patients with weight gain. Hyperinsulinemia is the primary initiator of CNS insulin resistance, which may in part be responsible for leptin resistance. This promotes reduced energy. Therefore, it is our contention that fast food, based on all its inherent properties discussed, must not be viewed as a marker, but rather as a primary etiologic agent in the genesis of the current obesity epidemic.
(+Arteriosclerosis,Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.+ 2005;25:2451.)© 2005 American Heart Association, Inc.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Suicide, Depression And Violent Behavior Linked To Low Cholesterol

Lowering our cholesterol seems to have become a national competition of sorts. Doctors are handing out cholesterol lowering drugs like they were candy. During follow up appointments, patients are congratulated for lowering their cholesterol and encouraged to get it even lower. Although high cholesterol has been connected to heart disease and stoke, could low cholesterol have some equally nasty side effects?

An eight-year Finnish study of 29,133 men aged 50 to 69, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that those reporting depression had significantly lower average blood cholesterol levels than those who did not. After eight years, they found that 280 had been hospitalized for major depression and 111 had committed suicide.

They reported a link between low levels of blood cholesterol and a fall in levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.

Serotonin is thought to control moods and low levels have been linked to depression and aggression.

A team from St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, compared 100 patients admitted to the hospital with self-inflicted injuries, including drug overdoses, with psychiatric patients and patients not suffering from any mental health problems.

The patients were rated on their level of depression, impulsivity and suicidal intent.

It was found that cholesterol levels in the patients who had deliberately harmed themselves were significantly lower than the other patients.

Cholesterol levels were also low in all patients who were rated as being impulsive. Lead researcher Dr Malcolm Garland said people who deliberately harmed themselves often had no intention of killing themselves.

Dr Garland said impulsivity stimulated by low cholesterol levels could be responsible for many types of dangerous behavior. For instance impulsive people might be more prone to road traffic accidents.

Statins may produce irritability or short temper in some people, a problem that occurs with statin therapy and resolves with its discontinuation (Golomb et al., 2004).

Low cholesterol linked to depression

Suicide link to cholesterol

Cholesterol And Violence: Is There A Connection?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Do Statins Make You Stupid?

World-wide, some 25 million people take statins, including Zocor, Mevacor, Crestor, Pravachol and Vytorin to lower their cholesterol. Could they also be lowering their IQ at the same time?

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Orli Etingin, vice chairman of medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital and the director of the Iris Cantor Women's Health Center, declared that, "This drug makes women stupid." She told of a typical patient in her 40s, unable to concentrate or recall words. Tests found nothing amiss, but when the woman stopped taking Lipitor, the symptoms vanished. When she resumed taking Lipitor, they returned. I've seen this in maybe two dozen patients," Dr. Etingin said later, adding that they did better on other statins. "This is just observational, of course. We really need more studies, particularly on cognitive effects and women."

Researchers at the University of California at San Diego are nearing completion of a randomized controlled trial examining the effects of statins on thinking, mood, behavior, and quality of life. Separately, the UCSD researchers are collecting anecdotal experiences of patients, good and bad, on statins; memory problems are the second most common side effect, after muscle aches, in about 5,000 reports to date.

"We have some compelling cases," says Beatrice Golomb, the study's lead researcher. In one of them, a San Diego woman, Jane Brunzie, was so forgetful that her daughter was investigating Alzheimer's care for her and refused to let her babysit for her 9-year-old granddaughter. Then the mother stopped taking a statin. "Literally, within eight days, I was back to normal -- it was that dramatic," says Mrs. Brunzie, 69 years old.Doctors put her on different statins three more times. "They'd say, 'Here, try these samples.' Doctors don't want to give up on it," she says. "Within a few days of starting another one, I'd start losing my words again," says Mrs. Brunzie, who has gone back to volunteering at the local elementary school she loves and is trying to bring her cholesterol down with dietary changes instead."I feel very blessed -- I got about 99% of my memory back," she adds. "But I worry about people like me who are starting to lose their words who may think they have just normal aging and it may not be."

The brain is largely made of of cholesterol, much of it in the myelin sheaths
that insulate nerve cells and in the synapses that transmit nerve impulses. Lowering cholesterol could slow the connections that facilitate thought and memory. Statins may also lead to the formation of abnormal proteins seen in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

The cognitive changes can affect men as well as women. But women on statins are often simultaneously losing estrogen due to menopause, which can also cause cognitive changes. "Women are getting hit with a double whammy," says Elizabeth Lee Vliet, a women's health physician in Tucson, Ariz., who has a background in neuroendochronology.

According to the "LDL hypothesis," lowering bad cholesterol prevents plaque buildup in the arteries. And that, in theory, reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. Vytorin -- which combines Merck's Zocor, a statin, and Schering-Plough's Zetia, a new class of LDL-lowering medicine -- does lower bad cholesterol but has also been proven to thicken the plaque in the carotid arteries (in the neck) of patients more than in those who took Zocor alone -- apparently contradicting the "LDL hypothesis." A blocked carotid artery can lead to restricted blood flow to the brain and a stroke.

Another cholesterol lowering drug called, Torcetrapib (Pfizer) represented a new class of cholesterol medicine designed not only to lower LDL cholesterol but also to boost HDL, or "good" cholesterol. But the results of two large-scale studies linked torcetrapib to deaths and showed it failed to prevent the buildup of arterial plaque. Soon after, Pfizer abandoned the project.

Myth: High cholesterol Goes Hand In Hand With Heart Disease

In the Framingham heart study done near Boston that spanned 30 years , the researchers concluded that high cholesterol was a risk factor for heart
disease, but when one really dissects the data, one must question how they came to that conclusion. For example, when the participants of the study are plotted on a graph it clearly shows that those with cholesterol levels between 182 and 222 did not survive as long as those with higher cholesterol levels of between 222 and 261. The study shows that about half the people with heart disease had low cholesterol, and half the people without heart disease had high cholesterol.

Most studies have found that for women, high cholesterol is not a risk factor for heart disease at all - in fact, the death rate for women is five times higher in those with very low cholesterol. In a Canadian study that followed 5000 healthy middle-aged men for 12 years, they found that high cholesterol was not associated with heart disease at all. And in another study done at the University Hospital in Toronto that looked at cholesterol levels in 120 men that previously had heart attacks, they found that just as many men that had second heart attacks had low cholesterol levels as those that had high.
Why is it that over half the people who die of heart disease do not have high cholesterol? Could it be that cholesterol is not the main problem?

A personal note

My parents were taking Zocor for a number of years. At $60 per month, it was quite expensive. My mother died of Alzheimer's disease last year. My father has Parkinson's related dementia too. Before I took him off statins, my dad was experiencing muscle pain, numbness, memory loss,
muscle weakness and many other side effects listed on the Zocor label. Although they claim that these side effects are rare, I believe that they are just under reported. Read the article below on, Is Your Doctor in Denial?

Other Side Effects Of Statins

Talk to your physician about the side effects of statin drugs which might include:

Inability to concentrate
Lowered sex drive
Violent Behavior
Weakened immune system
Shortness of breath
Liver damage
Kidney failure
Nerve pain
Muscle weakness
Rhabdomyolysis (painful bursting of muscle cells)

Getting Less Of What You Need
Statins block the production of Co enzyme Q10 in your body. Why is that so dangerous? Coenzyme Q10 is very important for heart function, it acts as an antioxidant in conjunction with Vitamin E, and it is important in energy metabolism in the mitochondria of muscles, which is why muscle pain is a common side effect of statin drugs. Your heart is one of your biggest and most important muscles. If your heart is weakened by the lack of Co enzyme Q10, statins could actually cause you to have a heart attack. Co enzyme Q10 is important for healthy brain function as well, and when Co enzyme Q10 levels are low, through statin use or otherwise, memory is affected.
Lower Your Chance Of Heart Disease Naturally
Eskimos, who eat a traditional diet of almost pure saturated fat (whale and seal blubber) have almost a zero incidence of heart disease. Danes, on the other hand, eat a high fat diet but have a much higher occurrence of heart disease. What's the difference? Eskimos eat a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet but one rich in fish, especially those containing the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids lower plasma of very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) and triglyceride (a type of fat in your blood) concentrations by depressing synthesis of triglycerides in the liver.

If you are not eating at least 3 meals a week that includes fatty, oily fish, you might want to consider taking some pharmaceutical-grade fish oil pills. These are more concentrated and purer than your regular grocery store brand. They are also less likely to give you the "fish burps" and you will have to take half as many pills because of the concentration.

Researchers at University Hospital in Basel Switzerland did a statistical analysis, called a “meta-analysis” of 97 double-blind, controlled studies, involving 137,140 people who received a heart-disease “intervention (statins, niacin, two other pharmaceutical drugs, diet or fish oil) and 138,976 who received a placebo. The remarkable findings: Fish oil reduced cardiac deaths by 32 percent; statins by 22 percent. Fish oil cut deaths from all causes by 23 percent; statins, by 13 percent. That means, say experts, that omega-3 fish oil was 45 per more effective than statins in preventing heart fatalities and 77 percent better at saving lives in general. (Marco Studer., Arch Intern Med 2005; 165:725-730)

Fish oil’s strong anti inflammatory activity is also a prime reason for its cardiovascular protection, say the Swiss scientists. Other reasons fish oil might beat statins: Omega-3s help regulate heart rhythms, preventing sudden cardiac deaths; thwart formation of blood clots; improve endothelial and vascular function, reduce triglycerides, lower blood pressure, and raise good HDL cholesterol. (Mori TA, Curr Atheroscler Rep 2004 Nov; 6(6): 461-7)

Fish oil has NONE of the side effects found with statins.

First Step Therapy

Doctors have always been encouraged by the medical community to help their patients to become heart healthy by prescribing healthy lifestyle changes like diet and exercise prior to beginning any medication at the early signs of these diseases. This is referred to as First-Step Therapy. Physicians have for the most part been very discouraged with the results of First-Step Therapy and have a tendency to simply write a prescription without offering their patients an opportunity to improve their clinical situation with healthy lifestyle changes. This is happening because physicians believe that their patients will simply not be able to make these lifestyle changes or even if they do, they will not be that effective. This attitude along with the tremendous amount of marketing by the pharmaceutical industry directly to the patient has led individuals to believe that their best option is to just begin taking medication. However, it is becoming more evident each and every day that there is also an inherit risk with taking any medication. In fact, adverse drug reactions to properly prescribed and properly administered medication are the FOURTH leading cause of death in this country. 

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Would You Give Your Dog A Diet Pill?

Is your pooch getting pudgy? Pfizer just released the first FDA-approved prescription diet drug for dogs. You heard me right! Can you believe that? It's called "Slentrol."

The adverse reactions associated with treatment with SLENTROL include vomiting, loose stools/diarrhea, lethargy,
and anorexia. These adverse reactions were mainly observed during the first month of treatment or during the week after a dose increase. Vomiting was usually mild in severity, of short duration, and resolved with continued SLENTROL treatment. The SLENTROL-treated dogs generally had an increased frequency and duration of vomiting and diarrhea compared to the control dogs. The control dogs received corn oil.

In addition to the adverse reactions listed above, there were other abnormal findings. Many control and SLENTROL-treated dogs had dental disease, abnormal skin and ear findings, and lameness/arthritis.

So, if you can put up with your dog puking and defecating all over the house, all you have to do is deal with a lethargic dog who might be anorexic, have dental disease, skin disease and arthritis/lameness. Not only will your pooch be slender but "sicker than a dog" should be.

works by preventing your dog’s digestive tract from being able to absorb fat. It also makes them feel full. It works just like Glaxo-Smith-Klein's drug for humans that is called "Alli." By the way, if you or your dog take these pills, you will also block several fat-soluble nutrients that are vital to a healthy diet. Here are a few of them:

Coenzyme Q10
This nutrient is the major energy source for almost every cell in your body as well as your pet’s and the key to healthy function of all major organs, especially the heart, brain and liver. It is what gives muscles their energy and strength, including your heart. Depriving your muscles of CoQ10 can bring about a condition called rhabdomyolysis. This breakdown of muscle causes pain and inflammation.

Vitamin A
Prevents many skin disorders. Enhances the immune system - protects against colds, flu, and infection to kidney, bladder, and lungs. Maintains and repairs the mucous membranes (all tissue that interacts with air, such as lungs, throat and eyes).

Vitamin D
Supports bone and tooth formation, muscle function and thyroid gland function. Important in the prevention and treatment of breast and colon cancer, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Needed for strong bones.

Vitamin K
Important for blood coagulation and increased calcium absorption.

Vitamin E
A major antioxidant that is important in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Promotes healthy skin and coat (hair). Improves blood circulation and blood pressure. Aids in healing and the formation of red blood cells.

The American medical system and the big pharmaceutical companies are notorious for giving you a pill to treat the symptoms (obesity) instead of focusing on the cause. Why is your dog fat in the first place? Is it because of a lack of drugs? How about taking a look at diet and exercise?

What Are You Feeding Your Dog?
Look at the ingredients on most commercial dog foods and you will find things like corn, rice, wheat, soy, beans—even peanut shells. Giving them food that contains a lot of grains will have the same effect that it has on humans: it produces an insulin spike, raises their blood sugar, and packs on the pounds.

Low Fat Dog Food?
Dogs have survived for thousands of years on a diet of mostly protein and fat. Fat doesn't make you fat. People lose weight on the Atkins diet every day and it includes plenty of healthy fats. The next time you go to a restaurant, take a pad of real butter (without the roll), put it in your mouthand swallow it. You will soon notice that your hunger is greatly diminished. Fat sends a message to your brain that you are full. When you feed your dog low-fat dog food, you could actually be making him/her fatter! Well-intentioned pet owners feeding Fido and Spot so-called “reduced calorie” specialty foods are actually giving them the exact opposite of what they need to stay fit and trim.

Here are some tips on feeding your dog:

If you feed your dog a commercial food, consider looking for one that has more protein (fish, lamb, chicken, beef) and less fillers.
Look for a food that contains less of the bad fats (corn oil) and more good fats (fish oil, omega 3's, flax seed oil, poultry oil). It’s the key to reducing heart disease, high blood pressure, ramping up HDL cholesterol levels (the “good” kind), and keeping their joints, eyesight, and immune systems strong and healthy. I’ll add a tablespoon of cod liver oil into my dog's bowl to make sure she’s getting plenty of omega-3.

  • Feed your dog real meat like chicken, beef, lamb, fish and turkey.

  • Cook your dog a few eggs every morning.

  • Eliminate or restrict rice, corn, bread or potatoes from your dog's diet.


I know that most dog owners are not home enough to be able to exercise their dogs as much as they should. But there are steps you can take to get them enough exercise. One is to hire a dog walker or have neighbors let their kids take your pet out to play under their supervision. You can also bring your dog with you on the go when you do errands. Even the extra walking is good for them. Extra walking would not hurt a pet owner either.