There is a plethera of much overlooked and ignored evidence about how and why we get cardiovascular diseases. How to keep your heart healthy is a post giving details of this evidence and how you can apply it and keep your heart in good fettle throughout the whole of your life. But first some facts:
The Biggest Killer
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cardiovascular diseases killed 17.5 million people in 2012, that’s 3 of every 10 deaths. Of these, 7.4 million people died of ischaemic heart disease and 6.7 million from stroke.
Ischaemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections and chronic obstructive lung disease have remained the top major killers during the past decade. What’s worse is that since the year 2000, deaths have risen, not fallen. Cardiovascular diseases alone killed 2.6 million more people in 2012 than in the year 2000. So much for the super drugs that are supposed to keep the epidemic of cardiovascular disease under control.
Most common heart disease conditions in alphabetical order:
- Angina Pectoris – chest pain caused by a decrease of blood supply to the heart
- Arrhythmias – an abnormal heartbeat caused by faulty electrical impulses
- Atherosclerosis – hardening or blocking of the arteries
- Cardiac Arrest – heart suddenly stops beating
- Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) – heart cannot pump efficiently to the rest of the body
- Coronary Heart Disease* (CHD) – atherosclerosis within the heart arteries
- Enlarged Heart – can present because of another heart condition
- Heart Attack or Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI) – blood flow to heart interrupted
- Heart Murmur – abnormal sounds heard during heartbeat cycle indicating a problem
- Heart Muscle Disease/Cardiomyopathydiseases affecting the heart muscle.
- Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) – pressure exerted by blood flow on the arteries
- Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) – heart valve does not close properly
- Pericarditis – Inflammation of the pericardium membranes that encase the heart
- Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVC) – extra abnormal heartbeats
- Stroke – blood supply to the brain is interrupted due to arterial rupture or a clot
* Also known as Ischemic Heart Disease or Coronary Artery Disease
So what causes heart diseases?
When the medical professionals talk of heart disease, they often talk about atherosclerosis as being the culprit. Atherosclerosis is a condition where the arteries become restricted due to the build up of plaque, a fatty substance sent by the immune system to repair a perceived damaged area. Inflammation is thought to be the precursor to atherosclerosis. So it is believed that heart disease eminates from chronic inflammation which produces atherosclerosis.
But what causes the inflammation?
Inflammation is how your body copes with an injury like a cut, burn, infection etc.. When injured or infected, your body’s immune response is to send healing compounds to the affected area. The area swells, reddens and the blood clots around the damage. With acute or short term inflammation, the response slowly reduces the damage and the healing process will eventually lead to a full recovery. With chronic inflammation however, the immune response fails to heal the affected area.
When an artery is damaged or infected, blood cells, proteins, cholesterol, minerals and other compounds are rushed to the area to protect and eventually heal. These agents fix themselves to the artery wall and form a soft substance known as soft plaque. As this plaque is often easily dislodged and damaged, it is known as vulnerable plaque. If the damage is not healed, the body then treats this unstable plaque as a new invader and the immune response is repeated instigating a fresh load of compounds into the damaged area to fight the invading plaque. The vulnerable plaque can then rupture, spilling all its contents into the blood stream where it can thicken the blood and cause clots which can block the arteries.
Modern treatment of heart disease
Because of this plaque problem, the perceived risk that many doctors focus on is cholesterol which is one of the compounds sent to a damaged area of an artery. Apart from changing life style habits like smoking, excessive drinking, eating junk food, not exercising, obesity etc., it is high cholesterol that your doctor will likely concentrate on. Consequently, statins are being prescribed to an overwhelming number of patients, some of which will gain no advantage from taking them at all and could possible suffer detrimental side effects. This is despite new research which is coming to the conclusion that cholesterol may not be the evil one after all and that statins should not be prescribed to a patient who does not present with heart disease. see my previous post
What are we missing?
So what’s going on. Why are we suffering chronic inflammation. Why is the immune response not working as it should. What is happening inside our bodies to cause such an epidemic of cardiovascular diseases. What are we missing? Why are we dying in such numbers of these dreadful illnesses?
Think of this
Our body is an amazing biological machine. A good analogy would be comparing it to a car. What do you need for a car to go. You need an engine – our heart. You need wiring – our arteries. Oil would compare to our blood. The computerised systems in a car could compare to our brain. The electronics in a car could be our neurological pathways. But still it won’t go. What’s missing? The fuel. Without enough fuel the car will grind to a halt and stop. It will not go, despite all its working parts.
The fuel for the car is obviously the diesel or petrol. This fuel has been refined from oil and it’s the same with us. Our food and water is our fuel but it has to be changed into energy. The energy is produced in the mitochondria of our many trillions of cells. Each cell
(except red blood cells) has mitochondria within it in various numbers, depending on the activity of the cell. Muscle cells need an abundance of energy with our heart needing the most.
What are mitochondria?
Mg is a cofactor for a substance known as ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) which is the energy currency of each cell. ATP is the principal product made by our cell’s energy factories or mitochrondria. The more energy needed by that cell, say a heart cell (cardiomyocyte), the more mitochondria it will have, up to around 2000. Mitochondria occupy 20-30% of the volume of cardiomyocytes. Their numbers can significantly (and should be able to) increase in response to cardiac energy needs. The heart is the hardest working organ in the body and it uses copious amounts of energy. That’s why heart muscle has the highest concentration of mitochondria, our energy factories, within it’s cells. Consequently, this means that the heart has and needs the highest amount of Mg ions in the body to be able to activate the ATP molecule.
When referring to ATP, most scientists and researchers are talking about the activated and magnesium bound combination known as Mg-ATP. Unfortunately, for convenience sake, the Mg prefix of this compound has been dropped which only serves to conceal it as the most important element of ATP production.
If Mg is not present in enough quantites to activate ATP, then energy production will be compromised. The heart will be starved of its energy and problems will ensue. The human heart cycles around 6kgs of ATP per day!! Without Mg to activate this enzymatic process, the necessary energy will not be produced.
This is a simplification of the complicated biochemical mechanism of ATP. Even so, without Mg, this process will not work which makes Mg a vital nutrient for all life and as Mg cannot be made in the body, it has to come from our food and water. Mg is essential for the energy process within each of our trillions of cells. Mg is the spark of life, without it we die. “ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is present in all the living world. You can think of it as life’s batteries – a substance that can store and release energy back and forth like a switch. But to do so, it needs magnesium. Literally every energy consuming reaction in life involves ATP and thus needs magnesium to proceed.” Mildred S. Seelig MD, MPH, Master, American College of Nutrition.
In part 2 of this article we will explore in more detail what actually happens in the process of the heart that is dying from lack of fuel. Please comment if you have anything to say. All your views are important and I will always answer.