DR. WEIL: Cholesterol just one heart factor
A friend recently had a heart attack a week after tests showed his cholesterol was nearly perfect. How could this happen?
Cholesterol levels are important, but they're not the whole story on heart disease. More than half of all first heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol levels. Some result from spasms of coronary arteries and may be stress-related.
Our single-minded focus on cholesterol -- especially on lowering LDL cholesterol with statin drugs -- has obscured other important risk factors for heart disease. I recommend What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Cholesterol, by Dr. Stephen R. Devries, director of the Integrative Program for Heart Disease Prevention at the University of Illinois at Chicago, an eye-opening book for anyone concerned about heart disease.
You may not know that LDL ("bad") cholesterol comes in two main forms -- small, dense particles and large, fluffy ones. Devries explains that the small ones are the dangerous ones: Because of their size, they're much more likely to get stuck in coronary arteries while the big, fluffy ones roll on through. The size of your LDL particles has a strong genetic basis.
If your LDL particles are small, Devries says you can change their size and number with simple lifestyle changes including weight control, a low-glycemic-index diet (www.glycemicindex.com
), fish oil supplements and regular exercise.
You'll also find a discussion of tests and scans for heart disease and a chapter on supplements that specifies what you need if your LDL is high or low or your triglycerides are high. Devries also emphasizes dialing down the stress that plays a major role in triggering heart disease irrespective of cholesterol.
Reducing stress may have dramatic consequences on heart rhythms and may determine whether arteries go into spasm during acute anxiety.
Other risk factors focus on the tendency for the blood to clot. Regardless of how narrowed arteries are from atherosclerotic plaque, a heart attack cannot occur unless blood clots form within them. Keeping the blood thin naturally, along with stress-reduction training, should be included with advice to lower cholesterol.
For 11 years I have been getting from two to nine sores on my body and finally was diagnosed with a mild case of vasculitis of the skin. I've been on antibiotics for almost a year now. Can you recommend anything else?
Vasculitis, an inflammatory disease of blood vessels, can affect many organs, including the skin. Your sores result from blood leaking from damaged blood vessels. The cause of vasculitis is unknown, but there is probably an autoimmune aspect -- the immune system mistakenly attacking the body's tissues, causing inflammation and damage.
Vasculitis can occur on its own or be a component of other autoimmune disorders such as lupus. Patients with vasculitis also can experience fevers, weight loss, fatigue, and aches and pains.
Because vasculitis appears to be autoimmune in nature and not an infectious disease, antibiotics (which work against bacteria) are unlikely to help. Conventional medical treatments for autoimmune disorders are steroids and other immunosuppressive drugs useful for short- term management, but they can cause terrible toxicity long term.
I recommend these measures for patients with autoimmune disorders.
First, follow my anti-inflammatory diet. In particular:
* Eliminate cow's milk and cow's milk products (substitute other calcium sources).
* Eat more fruits and vegetables (make sure that they are organically grown).
* Eliminate polyunsaturated vegetable oils, margarine, vegetable shortening, all partially hydrogenated oils and all foods (such as deep-fried foods) that might contain trans-fatty acids. Use extra-virgin olive oil as your main fat.
* Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Take two to three grams of fish oil a day.
Supplements can also help:
* Take anti-inflammatory herbs such as ginger and turmeric. Take Zyflamend, a combination of ginger, turmeric and other botanicals with anti-inflammatory properties.
* Consider taking grape seed extract, a source of antioxidant compounds called OPCS (oligomeric proanthocyanidins). Research has shown these compounds make blood vessels more elastic and less likely to leak.
Because autoimmune diseases flare up in response to emotional ups and downs, I suggest some form of mind/body treatment. Hypnosis, psychotherapy, biofeedback and guided imagery are good options.
You might try consulting a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. I have seen this system produce good results with vasculitis and other issues of autoimmunity.