Taking heart

Lynne McTaggart

About one in three of us can already predict what’s likely to give way first in our bodies: our hearts. Although cancer, stroke and even iatrogenic (medically induced) illness are close runners-up, heart disease is still the number one killer in the West.

About one in three of us can already predict what’s likely to give way first in our bodies: our hearts. Although cancer, stroke and even iatrogenic (medically induced) illness are close runners-up, heart disease is still the number one killer in the West.

And despite claims of tremendous strides made in cardiac treatment, major breakthroughs in prevention and a great deal of self-congratulation, cardiovascular disease – an umbrella term that includes coronary heart disease, heart attack, angina, heart failure and stroke – continues to knock off one person every 37 seconds in the US alone.

As a consequence, this epidemic has spawned entire industries among the food and pharmaceutical industries, the medical profession and a host of manufacturers: new diet regimes and a low-fat food industry; ever more sophisticated drugs and surgical procedures; and of course, ‘just-in-case’ preventive drugs like aspirin and statins, which now have developed into their own Fortune-500 industry.

The inconvenient truth is all these efforts are not making much difference in the statistics; heart disease in general still accounts for 40 per cent of all deaths.

Medicine’s red herring
The conventional medical view is that atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is an inevitable result of smoking, lack of exercise and, above all, a high-fat diet.

Every year, Americans spend around $26 billion (£17 billion) on statin drugs and at least double that amount on low-fat foods, spreads and drinks (such as low-fat milk) to reduce levels of ‘bad’ artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

The logic behind the ‘fat causes atherosclerosis’ theory, which forms the foundation of the entire monolith of medical treatment and prevention, is simple. Arteries become narrowed by deposits of cholesterol; fat in the diet contains cholesterol; so fat must cause atherosclerosis. The idea is so entrenched in the medical mind that the proposition is no longer a theory, but established fact.

The only problem is that the theory is manifestly wrong. As a consequence, so are most of the medical approaches to the epidemic.

High-fat and low cholesterol
Recent studies have confirmed what a minority of cholesterol skeptics have always suspected: high-fat foods don’t raise levels of cholesterol.

In a decade-long Brown University study of 3,630 middle-aged men and women in Costa Rica, who were split into two groups, those who’d had suffered a heart attack and the same number of healthy ‘controls’, whose hearts were fine, Brown University researchers discovered that both groups had consumed similar levels of dairy products like milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter, which are full of supposedly harmful saturated fats.

In fact, some of those in the healthy group chugged up to 593g of day of dairy – but their hearts didn’t mind. The researchers were forced to conclude that ‘the evidence is not there’ to support the fat-equals- heart disease theory.

Another study came up with a heretical conclusion: the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol is actually good for you. Their study of 52 adults between 60 and 69 years who were in good health but not physically active found that those with high levels of LDL cholesterol developed the most lean muscle mass after vigorous work-out training.

As the head of the research team Steve Riechman put it: ‘The truth is, cholesterol is all good. You simply can’t remove all the “bad” cholesterol from your body without serious problems occurring. People often say “I want to get rid of all my bad cholesterol,” but the fact is, if you did so, you would die.’

Not living longer with statins
Some of the most telling evidence is information we’ve recently uncovered in What Doctors Don’t Tell You about statins. Danish researcher recently asked a highly inconvenient question: how much longer will you live if you take statins over the long term?

The answer, according to all the latest evidence? About four days.

There are essentially 10 major causes of heart disease, none of which includes high cholesterol. Sugar, trans fats, gum disease, low levels of certain vitamins like chromium – all these are the true culprits in heart ailments.

Sort out these problems with a simple change of diet and the addition of some supplements, and you are overwhelmingly likely to overcome your heart disease.

Do go gentle
Although medicine considers that any adversary as formidable as heart disease can be defeated only by the most sophisticated of drugs, surgery and medical gadgetry, many far more gentle alternative treatments are often more effective in treating all manner of heart conditions.

Alternative medicine, which often employs a holistic approach, even tackles one under-appreciated cause of heart disease: social isolation. For all its clever technology, modern medicine doesn’t take into account that many people with heart disease are literally dying of a broken heart.

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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