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I have been a registered nurse, nurse practitioner and most importantly a patient advocate for over 20 years. I have worked in hospitals, homes and as a private consultant, always teaching patients how to speak up for themselves and to make well informed healthcare decisions that are right for them and help them to avoid all types of Medical Errors. The many things I have seen in healthcare led me write "What Did the Doctor Just Say." In it are all the steps every patient needs to take to remain safe in the healthcare system and avoid medical errors. My personal goal is help to save 100,000 people from the horrors of a medical error and I wrote What Did the Doctor Just Say? to help make that happen.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It Heart Healthy Month: Lets Talk About Natural and Conventional Treatments for Coronary Artery Disease

Heart disease is not one disease, it is a category or group of diseases that when treated by natural therapies is considered in many cases reverseable, when treated by traditional medicine heart diseases are considered progressive, chronic and debilitating over time.

Some of the types of heart disease are; genetic heart disease, coronary artery disease, heart failure, valvular disease and conduction or electrical disorders.  In todays post I will be talking specifically about Coronary Artery Disease or CAD also know as having high cholesterol, blocked or hardening of the the arteries. Coronary Artery Disease is a major type of heart disease as it takes in excess of 400,000 lives per year. In this video you will see an animation of CAD that make the disease process very easy to understand.


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Coronary Artery Disease occurs when the elastic smooth lining inside the cornary arteries becomes hard, stiff, cracked and swollen allowing cholesterol plaques to attach to the damaged vessel linings and clog them. 

When the vessels have plaques, which can be a big as a very large pimple, its hard for blood to get through and carry oxygen to the heart. When the heart doesn't get enough oxygen from the blood it starts to scream at you. You call that screaming chest pain. When you have CAD you might have one or two plaques or an entire vessel might be clogged and unable to pass blood through to the heart.  

The signs and symptoms of CAD are angina which is pain and or a heaviness in the chest, that may or may not radiate to the jaw and down the left arm. These symptoms could be accompanied by shortness of breath, dizziness and lightheadedness and the inability to do what you used to be able to do like walk up and down a flight of stairs. Any and all of these symptom warrant a trip to the doctor for further investigation.

Here are some of the questions you need to ask your provider about cholesterol medication and the treatment of CAD. If you do not have insurance you will want to go to the emergency room to be checked out immediately if you have the signs and symptoms of angina or a heart attack. While you are there ask to speak with the social worker and discuss charity care, payment plans or other programs your state may have to cover the cost of your care. 

Its important that you are aware of these options and you do not delay seeking help for these symptoms because if the CAD is severe enough it can and will lead to a heart attack, stroke, disabilty and possibly death.

Again if you don't have insurance and you want to monitor your cholesterol levels you can get blood cholestrol screenings for free. These screenings are offered by churches, at health fairs, county, city and state health departments and other organizations. You may also want to contact the American Heart Association, CVS or  Walgreens all which offer free cholesterol screenings.  

Management of CAD disease includes you taking control of your diet, exercise and stress reduction. If you want to be proactive in reversing already diagnosed CAD I highly recommend you at least look at the videos of Dr. Dean Ornish. He is a Harvard Professor who had a heart attack and has since devoted his life to the natural reversal of CAD with great success. You will find his book Reversing Heart Disease by clicking the "diet" link and many videos of him on U-Tube.

Reducing stress is important because stress brings about the release of hormones and other chemicals that cause inflammation and damage to the the lining of the blood vessels. Now remember it is only when blood vessels are damaged that the cholesterol plaques can adhere to them. Having healthy blood vessels is a key and essential component of  preventing cholestrol plaques and managing your stress is an essential part of that process.    

As always I suggest; meditation (see my earlier post on that topic), listening to relaxing music, avoiding stimulating music is a good idea too, yoga is faboulous for relaxation as is exercise. Exercise helps to flush blood through the vessels and to wash away plaque formation in addition to reducing the levels of stress hormones that irritate the blood vessels. Another important benefit of exercise is that it decreases the bad cholestrol (LDL and triglyceride) and increases the (good cholesterol-HDL)

Much of our stress is related to our current relationships and our past emotional hurts.
If you need help with these issues, you may want to journal about your problems, talk to a trusted friend and or seek a therapist to help you deal with and overcome toxic emotions.  

You may find it interesting that when predicting survival from a heart attack the patients level of depression and stress are bigger determinants of survival that is the severity of the heart attack itself, you can quite literally die of a broken heart.

Dietary measures to decrease cholesterol and heal blood vessel linings include a diet that is high in fiber. Fiber helps to pull cholesterol out of the linings of the vessels. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids oils help to heal the lining of the blood vessels. This is important because when the blood vessels are healthy and are free from swelling and disease they will not allow the cholesterol to stick to them. Therefore having a diet that is high in Omega 3, & Omega 6, fiber will help to prevent and reverse CAD. As will decreasing the amount of saturated or animal fats you you take in.

Another treatment for high cholesterol that has been shown to have just as much success as statin drugs without the side effects is Red Yeast Rice, in fact the Red Yeast Plant is where cholesterol drugs were orginally derived from.

One more thing is the diet category. Reducing your sugar intake could help to reduce your cholesterol levels. You see sugar makes the body work very hard for little pay off (nutrition) and that causes a good deal of metabolic (all work and no payoff leaves the body fatigued and stressed out), and the by products of sugar breakdown are harmful to the lining of the blood vessels. In short sugar produces a lot of stress and damages the lining of the blood vessels and that is not a good thing. So it's a good idea to reduce your sugar intake when thinking of treating or preventing CAD.

I hope this post was helpful, if you would like to find out more about your options for the treatment of heart disease this is a link to the American Heart Association which will explain your traditional treatment options.

Please click the links in this post to find out more about each of the topics highlighted and let me know if you have any question or comments about this post. You can post your comments here or share them with me and your friends on facebook or any other of your favorite blogging sites.

Take care and I hope you will look forward to my next post in which I'll talk about other holistic ways to take control of your health and your healthcare the same way I do in my book What the Doctor Just Say?

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/questions/omega-3/index.html
http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20000823/exercise-cholesterol-reduction
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/disorders/cad/cadsymptoms.aspx
http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/redyeastrice.htm
http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1200000

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