Number One Cause Of Death

The Number One Cause of Death in the United States

A healthy diet, regular exercise, and the daily use of a broad spectrum, high quality, potent, pure nutritional supplement program, that includes vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and the essential fatty acids appear to be our best bet for obtaining and maintaining heart, arterial, and cholesterol health, immunological health, skin, liver, brain, and kidney health, glycemic health (blood sugar control), increasing energy and possibly increasing longevity.  

We KNOW what we SHOULD do, but often don't.  We get lulled into a false sense of "health security" simply because we don't "feel" that there's anything wrong with us.  However, the majority of people who die of heart disease don't feel anything .... they simply have a heart attack one day, and most die!  Actually, more than half of the people who die of atherosclerotic (plaque)-related heart attacks have totally NORMAL LDL cholesterol levels!  If that is the case, then there MUST be more to the development of coronary artery disease and deaths from heart attacks than simply a high LDL cholesterol level.

Heart disease kills 725,000 Americans annually, with women accounting for 2/3, or nearly 500,000 of those deaths. After thirty years of cholesterol-lowering medications’ failure to significantly lower the death rate from cardiovascular disease, a new and more potentially dangerous class of drugs was unleashed upon the world in 1987: the “statin” drugs. Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are now the standard of care that physicians are indoctrinated into prescribing to reduce the risk of death from heart disease.  Unfortunately, simply lowering one's LDL cholesterol does not translate into a reduced risk of heart disease, heart attack, or death. 

Our lifestyles choices have almost everything to do with influencing our risk of developing and dying of heart disease, as well as, diabetes, cancer, and almost all other chronic degenerative disease.  As a society we are not making healthy choices.  We are living longer, yes; but longer with chronic disease and medications.  

We have the opportunity to choose what will support us in becoming healthier and what will not.  For example, a lack of sleep and an increase of stress will increase the risk for heart disease (as well as cancer, diabetes, and accelerate aging).  Our lifestyle choices: to exercise or watch TV, and to eat healthy or not; to supplement our diets with a quality nutritional supplement program, or just take a single multi-vitamin (that does little to maintain health).   

The True Cause of Heart Disease, Stroke, and Most Chronic Diseases

Atherosclerosis. or hardening of the arteries, is a disease caused primarily by inflammation.  Oxidative damage to the arterial lining from homocysteine, a toxic amino acid complex, is a major risk factor for atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke.  Homocysteine acts like sandpaper, scratching the lining of arteries.  Oxidized LDL cholesterol sticks to micro nicks along the lining of the arteries, known as the endothelium.  (Much like sanding allows paint to "stick" to wood, the nicking of the arteries by homocysteine allows oxidized LDL cholesterol to stick to the endothelium.)  Homocsyteine, in combination with other free radicals and toxins, such as stress, pollution, unhealthy food choices (trans fats), cigarette smoke, all oxidize arteries, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, allowing for damaged LDL cholesterol to stick to the arterial lining.  This results in an immune response and inflammation, which causes an elevation of C Reactive Protein (CRP) in your blood.

Oxidation of metal is demonstrated by rust.  Oxidation is also demonstrated by an apple that turns brown after it is cut in half and exposed to air; as well as bananas that turn brown as they rot.  Rubber bands left in the driveway in the hot summer sun, exposed to UV light, become brittle after a few weeks as the elastic molecules become oxidized.  People who excessively tan over years experience accumlative oxidative damage to collagen and elastic fibers within the skin.  This leads to skin damage, wrinkles, and possibly cancer.

Oxidation occurs every single second of every single day throughout our entire body.  Our cells are bombarded, both on the outside and on the inside of the cells, by free radicals.  Free radicals, from various sources (including our own metabolism), let alone from toxic chemicals, stress, trans fats, air and water pollution, and cigarette smoke, strip away electrons from cell membranes, hormone receptors (including insulin receptors), lipids (including cholesterol), enzymes, and DNA.  Striping away electrons from molecules results in a change in the three dimensional shape of a particular molecule, which alters the function of the molecule.  Alter the function of a molecule, and you have damaged that molecule.  In other words, the alteration is nothing more than damage.  Sometimes oxidative damage results in an alteration to DNA …which may lead to cancer.

Antioxidants, which are produced by our own cells and ingested in the form of vitamins and other supplements, “donate” electrons to electron-seeking free radicals, and effectively neutralize these free radicals.  Therefore, antioxidants protect our cells and cellular structures from free radical oxidative damage.  Our cells are able to repair themselves and function at their optimum.  Healthy cells not only function normally, healthy cells are, by definition not cancerous cells.

This does NOT mean that a person who eats healthy, exercises, and takes nutritional supplements will never have heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, wrinkle, or die.  However, it is true that that person may enjoy a reduced risk of developing such diseases compared to someone who has an increased accumulation of oxidative exposure.  Just as people who smoke 2 to 4 packs of cigarettes per day (accumlative excessive oxidation) have an increased risk of nearly all chronic diseases compared to those who don’t smoke, those who eat healthy, exercise, and take a full-spectrum, quality nutritional supplements every day have less accumulative oxidative damage and are more likely to have better heart, arterial, glycemic, and immunological health.

Regarding the number one cause of death, heart disease: Of the two major types of cholesterol, HDL and LDL cholesterol, the more important parameter is the level of HDL cholesterol.  HDL, or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, is responsible for clearing out the LDL cholesterol that sticks to arterial walls. Exercise, vitamins, minerals, and other antioxidants, particularly the bioflavonoid and olive polyphenol antioxidants, increase HDL cholesterol levels and protect the LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage, and therefore may do more to reduce your risk of heart disease than medications.

LDL cholesterol is not inherently bad. It is necessary for life. It is important for many cellular functions, hormone production, cellular repair, brain function, etc. LDL cholesterol only becomes “bad” when it is damaged, or oxidized by free radicals. Only the damaged, or oxidized form of LDL cholesterol sticks to the arterial walls to initiate the formation of plaque. So, rather than focusing on lowering the level of LDL cholesterol, wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on lowering the OXIDATION of LDL cholesterol?  If LDL cholesterol is not oxidized, or damaged, then it will not stick to the arterial lining. 

Cigarette smoke releases so many toxins and free radicals which excessivley oxidizes LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and arterial walls in proportion to the amount that is smoked.  Homocysteine, which itself oxidizes these same structures, is further increased in the blood because cigarette smoking induces its release from the liver.  Now there is a combined effect of toxic free radicals from cigarette smoke AND higher levels of homocysteine all oxidizing and significantly damaging LDL cholesterol and the arterial lining.  The more and longer one smokes, the more oxidative damage he (or she) sustains, and the greater his risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and cancer.  

If this has confused you, then think of it this way:  There are two opposites: cigarettes and antioxidants!  Everything that cigarette smoking would do to harm you, and HOW it harms you, is exactly the opposite of everything antioxidants do to protect you and HOW they protect you.  If cigarettes increase the risk of heart disease, antioxidants do the opposite ...they promote and help maintain heart health.  If cigarettes increase the risk of cancer, antioxidants do the opposite, ....they help promote and maintain healthy cells.  If cigarettes increase the risk of wrinkling of the skin and aging of the body, antioxidants help promote and maintain healthy skin.  I am continually updating my blog on the benefits of various nutritional supplements at: Dr. McNamara's Nutritional Supplement Updates.

Homocysteine is second only to cigarette smoking in its oxidative damage of arterial walls.  Thyroid hormone controls the level of homocysteine, but numerous factors play a role in the elevation of homocysteine. Normal aging, kidney failure, smoking, some medications, and industrial toxins all elevate homocysteine levels.

Homocysteine becomes elevated in the blood with a deficiency of the B vitamins—B6, B12 and folic acid. Genetics also play a role. About 12% of the population has an undetected defect requiring higher levels of folic acid than the rest of population to help maintain homocysteine levels in a safe range (below 6.5).  Therefore if you have high homocysteine levels (> 7.0) even though you are taking supplemental B complex vitamins, then you may be among the 12% who need more than 1,000 mcg of folic acid per day.  In addition, betaine, also known as trimethylglycine (TMG) lowers homocysteine.

The response to damaged LDL cholesterol lodged within the damaged arterial lining is inflammation, a normal immune system response to clear out damaged fat and protein.  Within the arterial wall, the immune system’s macrophage cells gobble up damaged LDL cholesterol.  They gobble up oxidized, sticky cholesterol until they are so full of oxidized fat that under the microscope they appear to be full of foam, and thus are termed “foam cells.”  They fill until they burst, spilling thickened, solidified fat—lard, if you will—into the arterial wall.  This is the beginning of plaque formation.  Plaque becomes calcified, builds up, constricting the flow of blood within the small arteries, and clots form, along with spams of the vessel.  This is the development of atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke.  In other words, it is the most common cause of death.  Whether this means anything to you or not, will determine whether you wish to find out more about a quality nutritional supplement program that we use, sell, and recommend.


Vitamins, Minerals, Antioxidants and Essential Fatty Acids: The Real Way to Maintain CardioVascular Health

The answer to lowering the life threatening risk of arteriosclerosis, heart disease and stroke is to reduce the oxidative damage to the LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and the arterial lining so that inflammation and resultant plaque does not form.  Oxidation and inflammation are effectively neutralized with the use of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids; and the medical studies show that less oxidative damage and chronic inflammation in the body translates into less incidence of nearly all chronic diseases.   However, we must do MORE than take nutritional supplements to protect ourselves from heart disease; we must eat right, exercise, get adequate sleep, and reduce chronic stress as much as possible.  And, it is my opinion that the answer to the prevention of heart disease does NOT lie in statin drugs.

The pharmaceutical companies claim that cholesterol-lowering drugs lower the risk of heart disease by 16 - 25%.  In fact, statin drugs have been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks, and death from heart attacks ...but not in by the mechanism by which they were designed to work!  Statin drugs do in fact significantly lower LDL cholesterol, and in the process they happen to also lower some of the oxidized LDL cholesterol. Also, statin drugs have a modest antioxidant effect.  As a matter of fact, cholesterol-lowering statin drugs appear to reduce the risk of heart disease and death from heart disease NOT by lowering the LDL cholesterol per se, but through their anti-oxidant / ant-inflammatory effect!  To me, if you want an antioxidant effect, use the natural and SAFE antioxidants, which are much more potent and powerful at neutralizing free radicals and quenching oxidation and inflammation than statin drugs.  The "benefit" of statin drugs (in my opinion) does not outweigh the incredible long term risks of using them vs. all the benefits derived from vitamins, minerals, other antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. Compare the claimed effective rate of statin drugs (16-25% of reduced risk of death from heart disease) to the benefits of vitamins, minerals, fish oil, and other antioxidants, such as bioflavonoids and olive phenols in reducing the risk of heart disease, as well as many other chronic diseases, which individually may reach as high as 50-70%, and together may exceed that ...without ANY toxic side-effects!

Considering the “side effects” of vitamins and minerals, which are all good—a reduced risk of nearly all chronic diseases, increased energy, slowing down of the aging process, less wrinkling, and extended life— it’s obvious everyone should be taking vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids daily.

I have had patients come into my office and place a bag containing 20 or more bottles of vitamins and minerals on my desk.  The thought of taking numerous pills every day can be quite daunting for many people.  Therefore, when I practiced medicine, and even now, my recommendations are for people to take a full spectrum, pharmaceutical brand vitamin and mineral supplement that contains all the essentials that one needs on a daily basis.  Of course, there will be other supplements you will want to add to those essential vitamin and mineral foundation, such as omega-3 fatty acids, grape seed extract, and co-enzyme Q10.  However, if your essential vitamin and mineral program is broad sectrum and fully balanced, like the one I have been using for more than a decade, then you will be getting most of the supplements (and more) that I have touched on in this short article.

The point is, to maintain heart health it is critical to eat right, exercise, reduce stress, obtain adequate sleep, and supplement your diet with the correct nutritional supplements.  Most supplements that people are buying do not even contain the quantity or purity of the ingredients that are listed on the bottle.  The nutrients they are swallowing may not even dissolve, or be abosrbed, and if they are, they may not be in the most bio-available condition for the cells to utilize.  You need to trust the company that is producing the supplements that you expect to help you maintain your health for a lifetime.  You need to trust that potency, purity, and bio-availability.  We are here to help you with such suggestions.  You must discuss all medical conditions with your physician, however, you may need guidance in regard to finding a quality nutritional supplement brand.  We have third party verification showing that the products we represent set the gold standard for nutritional quality.  Get healthy, and then stay healthy in order to live a long, active life.  It is our belief, is our mission to help others live their lives in both happiness and in health.  



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