Monday, March 06, 2006

Arterial Disease Requires Self-Management

Thinking about common diseases is becoming more sophisticated. Life is a continuing series of interactions between a person and his or her environment. Some of the interactions are healthy and promote long lives. Other interactions are unhealthy and lead to disease. There is a continuum of events that progress from a young healthy body to one with vascular disease, organ dysfunction, organ injury, and finally, death.

No group of diseases has received more attention than diet-related arterial disease. No other diseases have received more public promotion and educational effort both from government agencies and from private fund-raising organizations such as the American and Canadian Heart Associations. When it began, there were two villains in food, cholesterol and salt. Now, we realize that there are many villains, some yet to be discovered. Hyperhomocysteinemia, for example, emerged as an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease. Increased blood concentrations of homocysteine are corrected by supplementation of the diet with folic acid, pyridoxine and optional vitamin B12. Proper mineral intake is protective against high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias.

Drug-based research focuses on lowering cholesterol and blood pressure (CBP). Office-based physicians have been recruited to measure these two parameters and prescribe drugs to move measurements into a predetermined “normal range.” The CBP industry consumes vast sums of money and fills libraries with hundreds of journal articles that are often contradictory and confusing. Some of the confusion is generated by the competition for market share among drug companies, some of the confusion is generated by different versions of the physician’s role, and some of the confusion arises from the complexity of biological mechanisms that no one understands very well.

Cardiologists know that atherosclerosis is a disease caused by eating too much of the wrong foods and exercising too little, but they are primarily interested in prescribing drugs. They earn money and gain prestige from knowing about these drugs. They tend to ignore the advantages of changing disease-causing conditions and focus on treating the consequences.

Your family doctor is supposed to help you prevent the disease, but his or her time is limited and resources may be meager at the doctor’s office. The only person in the whole expensive medical/surgical network that can make sense of whole-body arterial disease is the patient. The patient needs to change disease-causing habits.

Because I am convinced that arterial disease is an effect of eating too much of the wrong foods and exercising too little, I advocate complete diet revision. If you are diagnosed with arterial disease, you can be sure that your food choices are wrong and must be changed. You can also be sure you are walking down the wrong path and its time to stop and find a better path. Imagine that you live in a little cottage by the sea, think quiet thoughts, walk everywhere, tend your organic vegetable garden, cultivate fruit trees (never sprayed), and go fishing once or twice per week. Now you have a perfect setting and a perfect diet for enduring good health.

From the Book of Arterial Disease, by Stephen Gislason MD, an intelligent guide to one the most common and most lethal of health problems.