Dear Pharmacist: My brother, father, and uncle all died of a heart attack in their early 50’s so I’m getting nervous. How can I help myself now? -- G.H., Decatur, Ill.
I commend you for your enthusiastic quest for wellness. After writing this column 14 years, one point I cannot stress enough: Inflammation is THE primary underlying factor contributing to cardiometabolic risk.
When I say “inflammation” I’m not referring to swollen fingers, I mean full body (systemic) inflammation. Think of it as a fire driving up your insulin (bad), messing your hormone balance (bad), increasing pain-causing compounds called cytokines (bad) and squeezing off blood flow to your major organs, like the brain and heart.
Health care today emphasizes medications to treat symptoms of heart disease, rather than trying to put the fire out. One example is with cholesterol reducing drugs. Fine by me, but medication alone doesn’t put out your smoldering systemic fire. Same thing with insulin resistance, detected easily in a blood test. Take all the blood sugar reducing medications you want to, they won’t put out the fire (inflammation) either. This is covered entirely in my Diabetes Without Drugs book, where I help you avoid becoming a “number junkie,” a person who chases down numbers with medications. The assumption is that it equals good health! It doesn’t.
To adequately reduce your risks, I recommend proper diagnostic testing first. The way we measure blood pressure is wrong. The British are ahead of us, they do 24-hour monitoring as standard procedure. That’s excellent because one office pressure won’t tell you what’s going on centrally, in the brain and heart, it only measures peripheral pressure. You never want your CRP to go over 3 mcg/ml because this blocks the angiotensin II receptor, cranking out enormous amounts of oxidative stress (think fire). The B vitamins reduce CRP so a B-complex is a good idea. Additionally, consider potassium, 3 to 5grams per day (absolutely ask your doctor). Physicians sometimes prescribe beta blockers. As a general rule they don’t do anyone a favor, and are known to increase diabetes by about 5 percent a year.
More simple stuff. Vitamin B6 is a natural calcium channel blocker, mild diuretic and it improves insulin resistance. Awesome, considering it’s $10 a month if you take 100-200 mg per day. Also alpha lipoic acid, about 200mg three times daily. It improves endothelial dysfunction, and insulin resistance; used with Acetyl L-carnitine, it’s a one-two punch. You’ll need a little biotin on board to prevent depletion from the alpha lipoic acid.
My suggestions are intended to shine a flashlight of hope. I hate when people are told “Let’s wait and see.” Wait for what? A heart attack?
If you like how I think, it’s because I attend medical seminars offered by the Institute for Functional Medicine. Find a doctor at their website (functionalmedicine.org) where they ‘speak this language. Just click on “Find a Practitioner” or call 800-228-0622 for more information.