Atherosclerosis is basically an autoimmune disease, wherein the immune system is attempting to repair arterial damage. One of the most common causes is periodontal disease which chronically leaks bacteria into the vascular system, infecting the points of the system which are under the most stress, such as the coronary arteries, thereby exciting the immune system to attack the infection using its inflammatory powers. A root-canal gone bad can do the same thing as can any internal source of chronic infection.
The process increases the thickness of damaged areas by laying down plaque, which is a conglomeration of oxidized cholesterol, macrophages that have ingested the cholesterol and swollen into foam cells that crawl under the inner layer of the artery, the endothelium, along with fibrin, fat molecules and calcium and other minerals. The endothelium itself becomes dysfunctional and no longer generates adequate nitric oxide so that section of the artery can no longer dilate when needed and restrictions occur in blood flow.
At the same time the aging process is generally raising the viscosity of blood by increasing fibrinogen production, reducing oxygen to the tissues using that blood supply and making clot formation more likely. These plaques generally harbor latent infections, a lot like a pimple, and if they pop open – bang – you have instant clot, which travels to a narrow spot or stays where formed, and if in a coronary artery, gives you that potentially fatal heart attack.
My case was almost certainly caused by my refusal to get my periodontal infections fixed for over 10 years. And having suffered the need for heart surgery, I finally came to believe that my mouth had to be fixed, got the work done (wisdom teeth pulled, roots planed, some gum tissue grafts, braces to improve spacing) and have had no recurrence in the years since.
So that is step one – find and eliminate any sources of chronic infection that are exciting the immune system to inflame the arteries.
From there, the task is to reduce blood viscosity and propensity to throw clots for no good reason, clear out the plaque, and restore endothelial function. I’ve included links to the products I use. I recommend you follow the links, research the products to understand more fully how they work, and make your own decisions on your own use. These work for me, and have been giving me very positive test results for the last 10 years.
Reducing viscosity and clot likelihood: The key supplement is Nattokinase. NOW Nattokinase – 100mg/120 VcapsThis I use at 200mg/day taken as 100 mg morning and bedtime. Do not let the MDs put you on Coumadin or Plavix, because both cause further damage to the vessels in the long run and assure bigger problems later. Coumadin works by removing vitamin K from circulation. Vitamin K is required for proper use of calcium; with enough K in circulation calcium is marshaled into bones and teeth; with too little, calcium invades soft tissues, calcifying heart valves, arterial plaque, joint tissues and other connective tissues. Nattokinase lowers fibrinogen, lowering the fibrin content of blood and improving flow, while making a random clot very unlikely, and dissolving the fibrin component of plaques as well. I don’t use aspirin, because of the bleeding potential, and nattokinase does a better job.
The next critical product is a Protease Enzyme complex: the one I use is Michael’s Health Products – W-Zymes Xtra-10x Pancreatin, 180 tablets. Take these on an empty stomach at bedtime. For faster results, take them 3 hours after each meal (empty stomach) as well. It has a triple action: it thins blood, giving better circulation and lower blood pressure, reduces clotting potential; reduces inflammation throughout the body and particularly in the arteries; digests the fibrin content of plaques aiding in the topic below. In conjunction with this I use a High Potency Serrapeptase formula to improve the action against fibrin in the arterial system, but also to remove fibrosis from injury sites and to eliminate repetitive motion stress damage. This stuff is magic for tendonitis and similar chronic pain.
Removing the Plaque and restoring endothelial function: Pomegranate juice or extract is clinically proven to remove plaque and reduce artery wall thickness. It clears plaque fairly fast, if we take enough consistently, and improves endothelial cell function while boosting nitric oxide production, restoring the ability of the arteries to relax and dilate. I use several products with pomegranate extract and other synergistic elements to prevent plaque formation and clear out existing plaque. First, Life Extension’s Endothelial Defense. I take 2 softgels first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Next is Wellness Resources’ Leptinal, two softgels with breakfast, lunch and dinner. This product is a powerful combination of marine oils (with DHA and EPA), Sytrinol for lowering LDL and boosting HDL, tocotrienols for preventing oxidation of LDL and reducing vascular inflammation, 200 mg of pomegranate extract, with borage oil for GLA. It is effective at improving insulin resistance and restoring metabolic function (backing us away from eventual type-II diabetes). In one study, pomegranate extract reduced oxidation of LDL by 90% – that is a 5 times better end result than taking a statin to lower lower LDL from 200 to 100 ng/dl, which would roughly halve the potential for plaque formation. I also take their Cardio Helper of which I take one capsule with breakfast and dinner. It has therapeutic amounts of resveratrol, grape seed extract, hawthorn extract and horse-chestnut extract – all of which improve arterial flexibility and function.
Vitamin D is critical in this battle. It is a master regulator of inflammation, making the immune system smarter about what it attacks and taming over-reactions to chronic stressors. We have a test for measuring blood levels, the 25 OH Vitamin D test, and it is cheap and insurance will generally cover it. Get your Dr. to order the test and see where you are. The optimum result is between 70 – 100 ng/ml. Supplement or get enough sun to get in that range and much of chronic inflammation will go away, allowing the arteries to heal. Vitamin K works in union with vitamin D to restore flexibility to arterial walls by removing calcium from plaques. I use these two products from Life Extension to meet this need: Vitamin D3 5000IU with Sea Iodine and Super K with K2 Complex, or get it all in one with this: Vitamin D3 with vitamin K and Sea Iodine
I take a body-building supplement to boost production of arterial nitric oxide (the ingredients increase endothelial nitric oxide synthase or eNOS) before exercise or heavy physical activity. This dilates the vascular system, improving blood flow throughout the body, allowing me to push myself with added strength and energy. This stuff backs 30 years out of the way I feel in the gym, and I never go without it. My current product choice is Intek Evolution Pre-Workout because it has no sugar and really blasts open the blood supply. I tak a dose with my morning supplements to kickstart my day.
Finally, everyone should be taking Co-enzyme Q10 as they age to aid energy production and protect artery health, but especially those on any form of statin drug. Statins, such as Lipitor and others, block production of this essential antioxidant enzyme which is required for heart and vascular function. The often sited “rare but serious side effects” mentioned in the TV ads for these drugs, which are not that rare at all, and have varying degrees of damage which are ignored by drug makers and doctors, are directly caused by reduction of CoQ10 production. Everyone with any use of these drugs should be taking 100 mg/day of the Ubiquinol form. The one I use is Life Extension’s Super Ubiquinol CoQ10 with Enhanced Mitochondrial Support.
This may seem like an expensive and complex approach to heart/vascular health, and it is expensive. But whatever it costs is minute compared to the loss of my fitness and the $70,000 or so to have a second heart surgery or my demise with heart failure. As my recent battery of tests show, my bypass grafts are fine after almost 12 years, and there has been no progression of arterial disease. I never feel chest discomfort regardless of exertion level, which at 72 is a very good thing. And of course the usual caution about discussing all supplements with your Dr. – if you have one who will have a clue about nutritional supplements!
Good Living – Frank