The Coastal Post - April, 1999

Heart Attacks Or Self-Defense

By Stephen Simac

Heart disease is the number one health problem in America, killing almost half a million people a year, jet loads of Americans every day. One comprehensive estimate placed the economic costs at $259 billion yearly.

Many Americans are unaware of their progressive heart disease before their first heart attack. Those who don't die from their first heart attack are often disabled with complications and require expensive medical treatment.

Half of Americans over 65 are weakened by the illness which develops over years. Autopsies of adolescent children and young adults who have died in accidents, routinely show hardening and narrowing of their arteries. The known risk factors for heart disease are already common in children.

Reducing the behaviors and risk factors associated with heart disease including lack of exercise, high fat diets, obesity, high cholesterol levels, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, job stress and diabetes would idle those jets full of dead Americans. It would mean enormous improvements in people's health, lifespan and productivity. Still, the number one risk factor for heart disease and most diseases, accidents and crime is poverty, the poorer an American is, the more likely to become a statistic, a ticket to ride.

The Healthy Persons 2000 program of the federal government wanted to reduced cardiovascular disease to less than 100 per 100,000 Americans by the millennium along with other health objectives. They came up with a list of behavioral changes Americans needed to make to improve their health, yet only 1 out of thirteen goals has been met and here comes Y2K. Fried And Greasy Couch Potatoes

These objectives, while noble are seen as the anti-Christ by many Americans who are most at risk Encouraging news is that cardiovascular patients were more likely to want to meet these goals than people with others life threatening illness. Unfortunately diabetics are least likely to change and are in line for a heart attack. The jury votes the heart acted in self defense.

There are beneficial practices which have been shown to affect mortality rates from heart disease which are not given as much publicity as the risk factors. The most beneficial health practice is to maintain close and supportive relationships with friends, family and spouses. That seems to be even more difficult than low fat diets in our society, with its emphasis on time and money, the quality of human relationships suffers. Our interactions with other humans, and pets is important for our health, perhaps more than diet and exercise. Even the number of our acquaintances has been shown to promote health. Social butterflies are healthier than loners and hermits., germs or not. Surgery Or Dohdp The Dean Ornish Heart Disease Program was demonstrated to cause regression of the disease in patients who followed it's strict dietary and lifestyle change guidelines. This program has been accepted by some health insurers as a protocol for treating heart disease. There have been complaints about the difficulty of the lifestyle changes for most Americans especially the extremely low fat diet. The expense of the program, which was about $80,OOO per patient has limited it's utility. This is still less than heart surgery.

In response to these criticisms, some practices are being teased out by Dr. Larry Scherviz, the researcher, as most beneficial. He said that patients who practiced yoga for at least an hour and a half a day, but not less, significantly improved their heart and arteries. An Ounce Of Prevention

The Stanford Life Plan for a Healthy Heart developed at Stanford University Medical Center calls for eating less than 25 grams of saturated fats, 300 mg cholesterol, and 3 grams of sodium daily and eating more than 25 grams of fiber daily quitting smoking, keeping blood pressure, normal, cholesterol below 200 mg/l, exercising a minimum of 30 minutes a day, maintaining ideal weight, reducing stress, and provisionally taking one aspirin, vitamins C, E, beta carotene and calcium daily.

The use of nutritional supplements vitamin C, E or B6, eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fiber have all been shown to reduce heart disease and even many cancers in several large studies.

Taking four or more aspirin a week and drinking one alcoholic drink for women and two for men daily, have been individually found to reduce coronary disease. Mellow Yellow

Several studies have shown that hostility-esp. the frequent expression of anger, cynical mistrust of people, and overt expressions of aggressive behavior are linked to coronary disease. Men given training in reducing hostility had fewer deaths over the next four years than those only given treatment. This calls into question the low cholesterol diet because of its links with increased hostility and violent deaths, especially . in those with genetically low serotonin levels.

Low social support, both in numbers of family, friends and colleagues and how well those people meet your needs are linked to heart disease with the loneliest having a 50% greater death rate. Support groups can lower mortality for heart patients.

Job stress, in particular a high degree of psychological demands with a low degree of decision making authority is linked with heart disease death rates. Waiters are at high risk. Extra Virgin, Please . More recently researchers have looked at the role of various kinds of fats and found some to be much worse. Transfatty acids, the hydrogenated fats in margarines and most processed foods are now classed with saturated fats found in meats, lard, coconut and palm oil as hard on the heart and arteries.

Artemis Simopoulos, MD.. author of the Omega Plan reviews studies showing a relationship between the various kinds of fats in the diet and heart disease. She recommends reducing Omega 6, Essential Fatty Acids found in most vegetable oils and transfatty acids found in most packaged foods and margarines, while increasing Omega 3, EFA's by dietary changes to more cold water fish, like wild salmon, dark green vegetables and leafy greens, walnuts, flaxseed and olive oil.

Drink Water, Walk Daily

A study of 34,000 Seventh Day Adventists found that those who drank 5 glasses of water per day had a 50% decreased rate of heart attack and stroke compared with those who drank two glasses or less. The Honolulu Heart Health Program study found that those men who walked less than one mile a day had twice the death rate of men who walked more than two miles per day.

One recent study used a multi-country approach to determine dietary links to heart disease. This study found that for pre-menopausal women simple sugars, in sweeteners was the primary risk factor, while for post menopausal women and men of all ages lactose or milk sugar is the highest risk factor. They argue against the "myth that dietary fat, especially saturated fat is the primary risk factor for heart disease" based on reviews of recent studies and also claim that cigarette smoking is not a primary risk factor. Japanese and Chinese smoke heavily but have low heart disease.

They recommend reducing the amount of milk products and simple sugars in the diet and increasing fish, fruit and vegetable consumption. Americans would benefit from making any of these recommended changes for a healthier heart, but for the most part they aren't having any of it. Maybe it's their own plan for saving Social Security.

Coastal Post Home Page