- By Dr. Daniel Chong, ND
Stop what you are doing for a sec and count to 40.
That’s about how long it will take for the next heart attack to happen in this country. This approximate rate will continue non-stop, every hour around the clock, 24 — 7/365, and about every 5th one will result in death. That’s a lot of people and that is way, way too many deaths, even if there was very little we could do about it.
What is particularly shocking is the fact that nearly every single one of the 800,000 heart attacks that occur each year could be prevented.
Okay, now pause again, and think about this number:
That is the approximate value of the cholesterol-lowering drug industry this year, and that many zeros equals a LOT OF PILLS.
‘But, wait a second,’ you say. ‘If high cholesterol causes plaque in arteries, and that causes heart attacks, how can there be that many heart attacks every year if so many people are taking those drugs?’
The short answer is this: Cholesterol-lowering drugs do not sufficiently treat the primary cause of heart attacks.
In other words, until and unless we use an approach that fully addresses the cause or causes of a disease, we should expect that disease process to continue showing up time and again, regardless of how fancy and technologically advanced our band-aids get. Heart attacks are a primary example of this painfully accurate medical dictum.
Let’s look past the ideas above and think about this issue from a different perspective. If cholesterol, in and of itself, was the primary cause of cardiovascular disease, then in every circumstances, this would the true cause and focus. Seems logical right?
Well then, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do people get plaque build up in their arteries, but not in their veins?
- Why don’t other animals in the wild, with similar or higher cholesterol levels to ours, get cardiovascular disease?
If you look at the answers to these questions in more detail, you will see that they call into question the very foundation of the conventional, medication-based treatment approach currently in use. These questions point us towards the need for an additional explanation. More importantly, exploring these questions helps direct us to a more effective solution to this most pressing of medical problems.
Question #1: Why do people get plaque build up in their arteries, but not in their veins?
Have you ever had your cholesterol levels tested? Where was the blood drawn out of? That’s right, your vein, NOT your artery. Think about that. Blood samples for cholesterol levels are always taken out of veins and yet these very blood vessels don’t get plaque in them like the arteries do whose blockages lead to heart attacks.
Simple logic would suggest then that high cholesterol, in and of itself, cannot be the direct cause of plaque forming in a blood vessel, or it would form in veins just like it forms in arteries.
Hold that thought.
Question #2: Why don’t other animals in the wild, with similar or higher cholesterol levels than we have, get cardiovascular disease?
The cholesterol levels of brown bears in the wild vary during the year between about 250mg/dL and 425mg/dL. In other words, most card-carrying cardiologists would prescribe them a fairly hefty dose of a statin at the low end, and at the high end, at least a few would walk them hand in paw, straight to the treadmill for a stress test. That said then, have you ever heard of a bear dropping dead from a heart attack?
In fact, no brown bear in the wild has ever been found to have any plaque in their arteries at all.
Again, simple logic applied here would once again suggest that high cholesterol, in and of itself, cannot be the direct cause of plaque forming in arteries and heart attacks occurring from that.
Why then is the number one therapeutic intervention for heart attack prevention a cholesterol lowering drug?
Why then are so many statin-prescribing physicians using total and LDL cholesterol numbers as the primary means for assessing effectiveness of their statin prescription?
The Cause of Heart Attacks
Please don’t read these statements the wrong way. I am not suggesting that cholesterol has no role in plaque and heart attacks at all. Cholesterol is, of course, a primary ingredient of plaque. However, wood is often the primary ‘ingredient’ of a house. Does that mean the wood caused the house to be built?
The bottom line is this- If, under average circumstances, cholesterol carrying molecules are going to enter into the walls of your arteries and lead to plaque growing there, the conditions in and around those arteries must have allowed for it.
When looked at this way, we can explain both of the above questions.
- Conditions in veins must be different in some way than they are in arteries, which allows for the cholesterol carrying molecules floating around in both vessels to lead to trouble in one, but not the other.
- Conditions in the arterial systems of bears must be different as well, leading to them being apparently resistant to the impact of cholesterol, regardless of how high it is.
The cause of heart attacks must then be considered multi-factorial, with perhaps an equally important aspect influencing resistance to them being the conditions in and around the blood vessels, and not just the level of cholesterol carrying particles in the system.
If then, we are to be as thorough as possible in our efforts to prevent heart attacks, we should not stop at lowering cholesterol. In fact, that should be a secondary focus, with the primary focus instead being the conditions which allow for it to become a problem.