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Dr. Tori Hudson, Portland, Oregon, Blog Healthline Blog

One of the most eye opening experiences I’ve had in relationship to cardiovascular disease was hearing a lecture and reading an article by John Abramson, M.D. In an interview with Dr. Abramson published in TLFD June 2008, he states that “there is not a single randomized controlled trial that shows that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are beneficial for women of any age or men over 65 who do not already have heart disease or diabetes.” He also sates that even the 2001 National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines admit that clinical evidence for their recommendations regarding statins for women was generally lacking and it was based on extrapolation of the data from men. He also asserts that there’s no evidence for men or women over age 65, who do not have heart disease or diabetes, that statins reduce cardiovascular events.

clip_image002If you’ve not already been alarmed by the push for statins as primary heart disease prevention you will want to know that in 2006, 1.3 million coronary angioplasty procedures were done in the U.S., at a cost of $48,399.00 and 448,000 coronary bypass operations at a cost of $99,743.00. That’s a total of over 104 billion dollars. For those two procedures alone, we spent more than 100 billion dollars in 2006. If these procedures accomplished as much as they cost, that would be one thing, but even the New England Journal of Medicine reported in 2007 that angioplasties and stents do not prolong life or prevent heart attacks in stable patients; stable patients are 95% of those who undergo those procedures. And…. coronary bypass surgery sadly prolongs life in less than 3% of patients. We have good scientific evidence that diet and lifestyle changes can prevent at least 90% of all heart disease. 90%!!!!!! In yet another recent study proving this point, an intervention diet of either low-fat or Mediterranean diet significantly improved cardiovascular event free survival in those who had a previous heart attack.[1]

The well known Lyon Diet Heart Study also demonstrated a survival advantage with the Mediterranean diet.[2]

For both primary and secondary heart disease prevention, we have to step up our game in helping our patients “get religion” about rigorously changing their eating habits, losing weight, exercising a minimum of 30 minutes every day (and for overweight 40 and over women, likely 60 + minutes daily), and of course stopping smoking.

In addition to using nutritional and botanical supplementation to address any lipid or hypertension issues, a diverse approach attending to arterial health and inflammation deserves our attention as well. While questioning statins, we might also want to question our own use of nutraceuticals in treating hyperlipidemia with items such as soluble fibers, soy, red yeast rice, niacin, phytosterols, pantethine, tocotrienols, resveratrol, policosanol, gugulipids or garlic. I have as of yet not abandoned this thinking of improving lipid profiles, but a broader perspective is in order. While of course attending to normalizing blood pressure, (magnesium, potassium, bonito protein, marine omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, lycopene, pycnogenol, hawthorne, L-arginine, carnitine, NAC and more) I have also expanded my attention to arterial health with attention to dilatation, anti-inflammation, reduction of LDL oxidation, platelet function and reducing vascular calcification.

I look more to combination ingredients and product formulations that approach cardiovascular health from the multi-mechanism perspective. While not an exhaustive list, items to consider beyond lipid therapies:

Dilatation: L-arginine, quercitin/flavonoids, vitamin C and E, magnesium, co-enzyme Q-10, taurine, garlic, soy

Anti-inflammation: marine omega 3 fatty acids, flax oil, isoquercitin, quercitin/rutin/ flavonoids, resveratrol

Reduce LDL oxidation: niacin, green tea, garlic, pantethine, resveratrol, policosanol, Co-enzyme Q-10

Anti-thrombotic: marine omega 3 fatty acids, garlic, pomegranate, nattokinase, ginger, resveratrol

Reduce vascular calcification: Vitamin K2, marine omega 3 fatty acids

More than 500,000 women die of cardiovascular-related causes annually in the U.S., with approximately 100,000 prematurely, before the age of 65. Starting at age 50, more women die of cardiovascular diseases than of any other condition and women younger than 55 who have a heart attack have a worse prognosis and higher incidence of heart attack-related death than do men of the same age who have a heart attack, as well as a greater chance of having another heart attack. Disability due to cardiovascular disease is also a major concern, especially in older women. And for African-American women, the risk of heart-related death is even greater- it is twice as high as for Caucasian women.

clip_image004To be successful with our mission of preventing and treating heart disease, and helping women with the difficult challenges of weight loss and lifestyle changes, we must enhance patient education, expand strategies for motivation, improve and broaden plant/nutrient based supplementation prescribing, and continue wise and considered selective/judicious use of pharmaceutical/conventional interventions.


[1] Tuttle K, Shuler L, Packard D, et al. Comparison of low-fat versus Mediterranean-style dietary intervention after first myocardial infarction (from the Heart Institute of Spokane Diet Intevention and Evaluation Trial). Am J Cardiol 2008;101:1523-1530.

[2] De Lorgeril M, Salen P, Martin J, et al. Mediterranean diet, traditional risk factors, and the rate of cardiovascular complications after myocardial infarction: final report of the Lyon Diet Heart Study. Circulation 1999;99:779-785.

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