|Specific Health Concerns|
Strangling in the Chest
"Strangling in the chest" is the literal meaning of angina pectoris. William Heberden, an English physician, gave the first complete description of this condition in 1768. It was not until thirty years later that Caleb Parry, another English physician, associated this chest pain with coronary heart disease. Even then, the idea that angina pectoris had anything to do with heart disease was not widely accepted until the 1920s. Now we know that the most common symptom of coronary heart disease is angina.
What it Feels Like
Angina pain is not a darting or knife-like sensation. It is most often described as a feeling of tightness, squeezing, burning, pressing, choking, aching, bursting, "gas," or indigestion. The pain strikes anywhere in the upper half of the body, but most commonly is felt in the center of the chest. Mild shortness of breath, nausea, and sweating may accompany the pain. The discomfit is usually of short duration. Rest can relieve the symptoms in just a few minutes. Normal episodes of angina last less than three minutes. Attacks following a heavy meal or brought on by anger often last 15-20 minutes. Attacks lasting more than thirty minutes are unusual and indicate the development of unstable angina or a heart attack.
What Brings it On?
Angina pain is precipitated most commonly by walking, use of the arms, and strong emotion. Cold weather and eating may also bring on angina. Dreams can sometimes initiate chest pains. Angina may occur when a person first lies down at night. These latter two conditions are not explained, however, it is this author's hypothesis that a release of adrenalin is responsible. It is common to have adrenalin released while sleeping (due to stress or low blood sugar). The adrenalin causes more intense dreams. The adrenalin also can cause vasospasms that may induce chest pain. Additionally, it is a common occurrence in those that are experiencing anxiety to have adrenalin releases when first lying down at night. Again, the adrenalin can precipitate chest pain by vasospasm.
What is Happening to the Heart?
The chest pain of angina results when the work demanded of the heart is greater than the blood flow that can be delivered through the coronary arteries. The workload is increased by exertion or emotional upset. If the workload is unchanged and angina occurs, it is indicative that the lack of blood flow is caused by a vascular spasm that clamps down on one or more arteries. A spasm in the coronary artery is a narrowing of the artery. As the muscular wall of a short segment of the artery contracts, the artery narrows to such an extent that the blood flow is restricted, thus the heart muscle is undersupplied. This undersupply of blood can cause angina pain.
Conditions that Mimic Angina
Certain conditions mimic angina pectoris pain. They are in fact not associated with the heart but because of the location of the pain are sometimes mistaken for angina. Herpes zoster (shingles), diabetic neuropathy, cervical or thoracic spine disease, peptic ulcer, chronic gall bladder disease, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, and esophageal spasms may mimic angina pectoris.
What Factors Predispose one to Angina?
Atherosclerosis is the most common factor that predisposes one to angina. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries. High blood pressure is a factor that can contribute to angina. High blood pressure increases the occurrence of atherosclerosis through damage to the arteries. Oxidized fats are more likely to adhere to the damaged areas of the artery than healthy segments. The presence of vasoconstrictive substances also predispose one to angina. As the arteries contact, blood flow is decreased. Congestive heart failure is another condition with which angina is associated. Applying nutritional solutions to help in the control of this disease will help to control angina.
Is it Possible for Angina to Go Away?
Absolutely it is possible for angina to be cured. If we reverse the conditions which cause the angina, we can affect a cure. That is the purpose of this article, to instruct a person as to how to reverse or cure angina. For those persons who have never employed the recommendations that I give in this article, and their angina improves, other factors may have come into play. For instance, when the heart has an increased demand for blood flow and the coronary arteries are not healthy enough to meet the demand, the small arteries of the heart may save the day. These small arteries, called collateral vessels, can develop to the extent that the blood flow can be diverted or rerouted from one artery or part of an artery to another healthier artery. The collateral vessels exist from birth but will not increase in size unless there is the presence of heart disease and a need for their development is manifest.
Healing the Pain of Angina
Reversing atherosclerosis, eliminating substances and circumstances that cause vasospasm, and lowering blood pressure will eliminate angina in almost all cases. Additionally, if the angina is caused by congestive heart failure, addressing this issue becomes necessary.
To reverse atherosclerosis, we must remove the fatty deposits from the arterial walls. This does not have to be done surgically. There is a very simple and very effective nutritional solution. These fatty deposits are directly related to cholesterol. Low density lipoproteins (LDL), also called "bad" cholesterol can be removed even when it has hardened into plaque on the interior of the artery walls. There is a certain digestive enzyme that is made from this very cholesterol. It is called bile. Bile is a digestive enzyme that aids in the breaking down of fats in the intestinal tract. If a person can produce a regular supply of bile, then cholesterol levels will drop as this raw material is converted into a useful tool. However, most people recycle their bile and new bile is not made in amounts sufficient enough to reduce blood cholesterol. Let me explain further.
When a person consumes a meal, the digestive enzyme bile is released into the duodenum, the part of the intestinal tract where the majority of digestion takes place. This bile is used to break down any fatty foods that were eaten. However, we will release more bile than is necessary to break down all the fats and a fairly significant amount of bile will go unused. This bile will be recycled and returned to the liver, where the liver will return it to the gall bladder to be stored until the next meal. The next meal comes and again we have an excess over the need and bile will again be recycled. This pattern can continue to repeat for years.
Now enter into the scene soluble fiber. Soluble fiber binds tightly with bile in the intestinal tract, in fact, so tightly that the bile cannot be reabsorbed through the intestinal tract and return to the liver. Because fiber cannot pass the intestinal barrier, the bile that is bound with the soluble fiber will travel the length of the intestinal tract and be excreted from the body. Now, the liver recognizes that it has no recycled bile to send down to the gall bladder for the next meal. Therefore the liver will be forced to make bile (which it is very capable of doing). Bile is made out of cholesterol and the liver will pull cholesterol out of the blood stream to make this digestive enzyme. Subsequently, cholesterol levels will begin to fall.
Over the course of time, levels will fall to the point of a total cholesterol of 150 or below. Studies show that at a cholesterol level of 150 or below, reversal of atherosclerosis (the fatty buildup on the blood vessel walls) can occur. How does this work? We are not totally sure, however, it is this author's hypothesis that the liver releases an enzyme at this point of 150 and below that literally melts the hardened plaque off the interior of the blood vessel walls, so that the oxidized cholesterol is then available in the bloodstream for the liver to utilize in the making of bile. What is so neat about this is that the cholesterol doesn’t come off in big fat globules or pieces that can travel to another part of the body and cause a blockage. It comes off in molecular pieces so small that a blockage cannot occur and yet the liver can pick up these molecular pieces and convert them to bile.
By the way, if you are concerned about the liver running out of cholesterol raw material, don’t be. After blood cholesterol levels fall below 150, and all atherosclerosis is reversed, the liver will convert vitamin D2 (made from sunshine) to cholesterol and thus supply itself with the raw ingredient necessary for bile production. For those concerned that they may have higher cholesterol levels because they spend time in the sun, let your fears be allayed. We have no evidence that the liver converts vitamin D2 into cholesterol unless there is a need for it.
What are the sources of soluble fiber? Legumes are one of the richest sources of soluble fiber. Fruit pectin, as well as oat bran are other good sources. In lowering cholesterol, a person should consume one cup of cooked legumes daily (pinto, kidney, black, garbanzo, great northern beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, etc.), one cup of cooked oatmeal daily. The legumes are the most important as they carry the most fiber content. Compare one cup of legumes at an average of 12 grams of fiber to one cup of oatmeal at 4 grams of fiber.
Also consider purchasing a soluble fiber product. If you do not feel that you can eat the above, or if you desire the convenience and proven effectiveness of a clinically tested product, then take 3 servings daily of a soluble fiber product. The one that I recommend has several sources of soluble fiber including psyllium husk, pectin, guar gum, and locust bean gum. It has been clinically tested through a series of studies conducted at the Stanford University School of Medicine's Center for Research in Disease Prevention, as well as the Health Research and Studies Center in Los Altos, California. In these studies it was shown that adults with elevated blood cholesterol levels, who added this soluble fiber product three times a day reduced total cholesterol levels by 12% and LDL (bad cholesterol) by 18% over a four-week period.
Vasospasms are the next most common cause of angina after atherosclerosis. Vasospasms can be precipitated by cold, strong emotion, anxiety, caffeine, certain medications, and low blood sugar. Avoidance of these situations is prudent in preventing vasospasms which can cause angina. Additionally, by adding a sufficient amount of calcium to the bloodstream, we can prevent the vascular walls from spasms. Calcium relaxes the blood vessel wall and long has been known for its vasodilation effects. See the Plan for Healing below for specific recommendations.
Lower Blood Pressure
As blood pressure contributes to the development of atherosclerosis, it is necessary to maintain normal blood pressure levels. Controlling vasospasms will also help keep blood pressures normal. Changing the viscosity of the blood and keeping the blood at a healthy thinness will also normalize blood pressures. Additionally, vitamin C helps to lower blood pressure by its anti-oxidant properties as well its role in the health of the blood vessel walls.
Make the Blood Slippery
By changing the viscosity of the blood (making it more slippery) we can help stop angina. The easier it is for the blood to flow through the vessels, the lower the blood pressure. By increasing the high density lipoproteins (HDL) or "good" cholesterol in the bloodstream, the blood can flow through the vessels with less resistance. This is very desirable in preventing angina. The viscosity of the blood is directly affected by the amount of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) a person consumes. EPA is fish oil. The addition of fish oil into the blood stream is extremely effective in altering blood viscosity. See the Plan for Healing below for specific amount of EPA to consume.
Keeping the Blood at a Healthy Thinness
If the blood is thick, it is harder to push through the arteries. Therefore, if we can thin the blood naturally, high blood pressure will be less likely to occur. Garlic and vitamin E are natural blood thinners. They work by not allowing low density lipoproteins (LDL or bad cholesterol) to oxidize. This oxidation process contributes to the thickness of the blood. Consuming garlic and vitamin E will not thin the blood so much as to make the blood too thin. Garlic and vitamin E are safe as blood thinners. See the Plan for Healing below for specific amounts to consume.
As congestive heart failure is one of the causes of angina it is prudent to incorporate measures of healing for this condition. Carotenoids, flavonoids, and OPCs (oligomeric procyanidins) are powerful tools in treating congestive heart failure. These plant substances are potent antioxidants that can protect the blood vessel walls from deterioration. In congestive heart failure, the strength and elasticity of the blood vessels walls is usually compromised. This makes the blood vessel walls more permeable, allowing fluid to cross into the surrounding tissue creating swelling or edema. These antioxidants protect the vessel wall from free radical damage caused by oxidation and can aid in the building of stronger vascular walls. This eases the load on the heart and increases circulation. See the Plan for Healing below for specific recommendations for carotenoids.
There has been some evidence that Coenzyme Q-10 is also effective in treating congestive heart failure. It appears to be a reenergizer of heart cells, working by increasing the output of the mitochondria (energy factories) of the heart cells. Current recommendations for Coenzyme Q-10 is 50 to 150 mg daily, although up to 300 mg a day has been recommended when heart failure is severe.
Plan for Healing
• Consume three ½ cup servings of cooked legumes daily (pinto, kidney, black, garbanzo, great northern beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, etc.). It is important to have three servings spread throughout the day, not just a total of 1 and ½ cups daily. The frequency is the key in lowering cholesterol through the elimination of bile. For those who prefer to supplement with soluble fiber, take three 2 teaspoon servings of the recommended product daily.
• Eat a high protein diet, at least three to five servings of low-fat proteins daily. For those interested in a protein supplement that has no fat, I recommend a soy protein isolate product that has 16 grams of protein per serving. Supplement your diet with one serving of this protein product daily. This additional protein will protect against low blood sugars which can cause a vasospasm.
• Take 2000 mg of vitamin C daily.
• Take 1500 mg of calcium before bed which will allow for best absorption.
• Eat 3 and ½ ounces of one of the following fish each day or supplement with 6 capsules of the recommended EPA product: Salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines, anchovies.
• Eat 2 cloves of garlic daily or supplement with 4 tablets of the recommended garlic product.
• Take 800 IU of vitamin E daily.
• Take a multi-vitamin to ensure the adequate intake of all essential nutrients that will contribute to overall vascular health.
• Take 2 capsules daily of the recommended CoQ10 product.
• Eliminate caffeine from your diet. If you have a fairly high intake of caffeine, I suggest weaning from the caffeine instead of an abrupt withdrawal. Caffeine withdrawal can precipitate angina pain. Wean by reducing caffeine by 25% for two weeks. Then take another 25% reduction for two weeks, and so on until you no longer consume any caffeine.
• Avoid medications that have a vasoconstrictive effect. Over-the-counter medications that contain pseudo-ephedrine or ephedra should be avoided. Herbs containing gotu-kola, licorice root, and green tea should also be avoided.
• Avoid becoming chilled.
• Avoid strong emotion.
• To obtain necessary carotenoids: eat five servings of vegetables daily. Make sure that broccoli, carrots (or winter squash), tomatoes, and spinach are eaten daily. Eat an apple a day. Drink a glass of red wine 2 to 3 times weekly. If you cannot do the above for whatever reason, take a phytonutrient product that includes all of the necessary carotenoids, flavonoids, and OPC's (lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, beta and alpha carotene, grape seed extract, quercetin, broccoli sprouts extract). Take 3 capsules per day (one with each meal).
- A Note About the Plans for Healing -
You will notice that the Plans for Healing on my various articles as published on my web site include the use of supplements (in the majority of cases). I have included them at this time because most of the people that access my web site, I never have the opportunity to speak to personally. Therefore, I cannot address each person's particular situation as it warrants. The supplements will certainly help, however, be aware that food alone can cure, without the use of supplements.
In fact, it is my goal to be able to see healing with food alone. In my private practice, where I counsel clients individually, it is only occasionally that I might recommend the use of supplements. Food is powerful. As Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be food." That is also my philosophy.