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7 Safer More Effective Statin Alternatives

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This is the third and final blog in this series written to help you gain a better understanding of how prescription medications are understood and accepted by your doctor, https://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/drug-recommendations-whats-wrong-with-this-picture/, how they work to cause “uncommon” side effects, https://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/doctor-recommendations-why-statins-and-other-drugs-do-and-dont-work/on, and today, how you can achieve target health goals without statins.

You do not need to be a doctor to recognize symptoms that occur after starting a medicine. Trust yourself, do not “live with” symptoms and work towards finding a solution. We all (doctors, patients, family…) need to become better “listeners” to our bodies and more active as health problem solvers.

Statins are just an example (this is true for any prescription drug or over the counter medication) I am using because of their “miracle” drug status.

Natural, non-pharmaceutical statin options are listed below but just because they are natural, does not mean they do not have the potential to be dangerous. They may have interactions with other medications, foods etc… or you may have an individual reaction to any of these. Stick with brands that have the GMP (good manufacturing practice) stamp. So please, I cannot emphasize the importance of working with your doctor if you choose to try any of these.

You do not have to take all of these, one or two should do. You and your physician may need to experiment with statin alternatives based on your individual situation:

  1. Niacin: Vitamin B3 directly and noncompetitively inhibits, a key enzyme (hepatocyte diacylglycerol acyltransferase-2) for TG synthesis. The liver increases the breakdown of apo B and decreases VLDL and LDL particles, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18375237. While its efficacy is hard to dispute, use caution when starting this supplement. Niacin is known for causing the “niacin flush”, a blush color and warm itchy feeling on the cheeks lasting about 20 minutes. To reduce your risk of this side effect, start the dose based on your body weight and sensitivity 150-250 mg increasing gradually to total desired dose as per your doctor. “To raise HDL and correct small LDL, a dose of 750-1000 mg a day usually provides full benefit. Increasing this dose to 1500 mg a day may provide slightly greater benefit. To reduce LDL or Lp(a), higher doses (from 1000 mg up to 4000-5000 mg per day) are often used, with higher doses providing greater effects. However, doses this high should be taken only with a physician’s supervision. Keep in mind that it may take three months or longer to realize the full lipid-optimizing benefits of niacin.”

Life Extensions discusses specific tips on how to use niacin avoiding the “flush”, including just drinking water, http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2007/3/atd/Page-01. Slow release niacin can be toxic to the liver. Try immediate or extended release niacin.

  1. Red rice yeast extract (RRY): Used in Eastern medicine for over 1,000 years, RRY works similarly to a statin via monacolin K and its inhibiting enzyme action of HMG CoA reductase lowering cholesterol production by the liver. Indirectly RRY increases LDL receptors, helps to remove circulating cholesterol from the blood and increases bile acid secretion as well. 1,200-2,400 milligrams helps to maintain normal levels of TC, LDL-C, TG and possibly an increase in HDL-C.  RRY has been found to lower LDL 18-24%.

RRY can be used preventively as an anti-inflammatory and preventive remedy for         those who have a history of heart disease or heart attack. If you are 50-75 years old, the recommended dose is 1000 mg twice daily.

  1. Guggulipid: is the gum resin of the mukul myrrh tree used in Ayurvedic medicine for 3,000 years. Results from one scientific study show its efficacy for lowering LDL and total cholesterol while raising HDL in 60% of participants afrter 12 weeks in volunteers using 500 mg three times a day for 2 months.

 

4. Omega-3 fatty acids: Among many other positive roles in health, benefits for the heart are top of the list.  Omega-3’s help reduce artery plaque, thin the blood to help prevent strokes, reduces triglyceride production in the liver, and have anti-inflammatory properties. Use 1,000-4,000mg.

  1. Pantethine is Vitamin B5: It has been shown to ” lower cardiovascular risk markers in low to moderate cardiovascular disease risk participants eligible for statins according to NCEP guidelines”. In this study, subjects took pantethine (600 mg/day from weeks 1 to 8 and 900 mg/day from weeks 9 to16) or a placebo. Compared with placebo, the participants on pantethine showed a significant decrease in total cholesterol and LDL at 16 weeks. An 11% decrease in LDL from baseline was seen in participants on pantethine, at weeks 4, 8, 12, and 16, while participants on placebo showed a 3% increase at week 16, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3942300/.

 

6. Artichoke leaf extract (ALE): Standardized at 15% or 1800-1900 mg per day of Valverde Artischocke (Novartis Consumer Health) in 2 to 3 divided doses, http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-842-artichoke.aspx?activeingredientid=842, is made from basal leaves of the artichoke plant. It gained popularity for medicinal use in 1850 when a French physician successfully used the extract to treat jaundice. ALE has been found to raise levels of the protective apoA (carrier molecule that supports the increases in HDL cholesterol). Results of a pilot study showed a “significant 19% increase in apoA after 30 days of supplementation; in addition, the ratio of apoA to apoB rose by 19%. Its chlorogenic acid content or luteolin seem to also contribute to cholesterol control. Significant improvements were seen in the total cholesterol/HDL ratio and in the LDL/HDL ratio in supplemented patients, without adverse side effects.

“In a follow-up study, the same researchers found that when patients with mild cholesterol elevations took a daily 200 mg dose of artichoke leaf extract, their total cholesterol fell by nearly 10% after only 30 days.”

7. Curcumin (Curcuma longa): has been used for 4,000 years . In research published in theIndian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1291482, healthy volunteers consumed 500 mg of curcumin per day for 7 days. Blood levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol dropped by 33%, total cholesterol dropped 11.63% , and HDL (“good” cholesterol) increased by 29%. Curcumin may best be absorbed when consumed with fat or “using an extract standardized to a high concentration”.

Statins are not “a miracle cure”, these alternatives are just as effective, if not more effective, and much safer heart healthy options.

 

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Drug Recommendations: Why Statins (And Other Drugs) Do and Don’t Work

Photo credit: ourhealthcaresucks.com

As part of, “Drug Recommendations: What’s Wrong With This Picture?” I am discussing why statins work and why they can cause more harm (side effects that most healthcare professionals do not recognize) then good.

Do not lose sight of the big picture. This scenario is not just true of statins. I am using statins as an example due to their popularity.  Most long term use of pharmaceutical drugs (prescribed or over the counter medications) can have multiple ‘UN common” heath risks that should not be shrugged off lightly by any healthcare professional; especially those who are doing the recommending. Please work with your doctor to find the right treatment(s) for you.

It is important, DO NOT disregard any symptom that occurs after starting any medicine, here’s why.

Statins work by INHIBITING the liver’s ability of an enzyme (HMG-CoA reductase a rate-controlling enzyme that produces cholesterol ) to produce cholesterol. The new injectable drugs on the market (Praluent or Repatha) will work to inhibit PCSK9. PCSK9 is another enzyme involved in different metabolic pathways that may cause a different set of side effects than statins; so be on the lookout. Both, BLOCK the liver’s normal function of making cholesterol.  Simple enough. Cholesterol is high, pop a pill that prevents the production of cholesterol and lower it.

Sounds simple and logical. But is it smart? Is it smart to try to stop a natural body process or to support it by reinforcing biological weaknesses that need help to improve function?

Cholesterol has body benefits. Cholesterol helps hormone balance, nerve signals, cells and cell membranes ward off oxidation and maintain electrolyte balance and it is involved in many other important activities  that contribute to good health.

When you take a statin that inhibits cholesterol there is a “domino effect” that has consequences on not just cholesterol and the liver but every cholesterol related task (enzyme reactions, sex hormones) and organs including your brain, body cells and muscles that work in conjunction with cholesterol.

This domino effect is the reason why so many people experience what are known as “uncommon” statin drug complaints such as muscle weakness and pain, memory loss, erectile dysfunction and much more. The biologic and medical rationale are detailed in the essay “How Statins Really Work Explains Why They Don’t Really Work,” written by Stephanie Seneff from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, https://people.csail.mit.edu/seneff/why_statins_dont_really_work.html.

While statins can and do lower cholesterol, they do so by diverting from its normal working pathway in the liver to the muscles. The muscles are now burdened with doing the liver’s job.

Interestingly statins have been linked to diabetes and the reason maybe because of how it effects the liver, muscles and the resulting handling of fructose, hmmmm.

The heart is unscathed using lactate as a fuel and LDL is lowered.  We THINK we attained our goal of lowered heart disease risk but blood fructose levels are higher which is a risk factor for nerves, diabetes cardiovascular disease… Therefore exchanging one “focus” risk (LDL) for another less known risk (fructose).

More Statin Troubles:

  • LDL cholesterol acts as a bubble that delivers not only cholesterol but fat soluble antioxidants, vitamins (i.e. vitamin D affecting sex hormones including testosterone potentially contributing to erectile dysfunction) and minerals that are not as available to nourish cells.
  • HMG coenzyme A reductase is important for heart health and adequate amounts of cellular CoQ10 (an enzyme responsible for cell growth and maintenance, it functions as an antioxidant too). Statins work to inactivate HMG depleting CoQ10 leading to increased oxidation, muscle pain and memory loss, www.spacedoc.com/articles/statin-associated-memory-loss; see references 36-40.
  • Cells work to maintain fluid balance. Statins can cause changes in the cells sodium-potassium (Na+-K+) pump activity because potassium is more prone to leak from the cell.
  • Glial cells in the nervous system are also negatively affected by statins.

These are just a few possible reasons for statin associated symptoms. With or without a research study that are or are not recognized by a doctor, these are real symptoms that do exist. You are not crazy, I list some statin symptoms in another blog, https://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/?s=statins, but you can find extensive statin side effect lists everywhere.

Are you interested in boosting liver function and supporting natural body processes?  Next week I’ll discuss statin alternatives that you can discuss with your doctor but there are natural alternatives to taking most pharmaceutical drugs.

 

 

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Drug Recommendations: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Image result for doctor

I have written a couple of posts on statins to provide a complete  picture of the costs and benefits of using them. Statins remain very dangerous treatment alternative when compared with natural diet options like diet, exercise and supplements.  Yet the medical community continues to endorse statins despite the warnings.

Today’s blog uses statins as an  example of how health experts have gone wrong when providing prudent messages to the public  about taking medication. This will hopefully open your eyes as to how easy it is to fall victim to the dogma. Experts who speak to the public should be more responsible.

  • When a physician is on television and says ” we know NOW that our patients are not hypochondriacs, because we have results from our study to prove statins cause muscle pain, ” it is very concerning.

One, it gives a research study too much power in terms of how a patient is viewed, in this case a  “hypochondriac”.  Patients should not have to wait for a research study to be done to “prove” that what symptoms they feel are real. If you feel differently after adding a medicine into your daily routine, don’t be convinced, even if it is by your doctor, otherwise. Research is not the holy grail, you are.

Two, for those of you taking prescription medicine has your physician ever explained UNcommon drug side effects that might affect you? Have you tried discussing concerns about a prescription with a doctor and they are dismissed or are handed another pill to lessen  stress (because he thinks you are a hypochondriac)? Do you go with the flow and follow doctor’s orders? Do you use your gut instinct and try to find someone who can help figure out why you have these symptoms? Many people blindly follow doctors orders, they do not question or get a second opinion  then pay the consequences.

  • When recommendations by the government are supported with, ” Patients who aren’t responding to statins alone would continue taking themin addition to Repatha and maintaining a healthy, cholesterol-friendly diet.” – John Jenkins, director of the FDA Office of New Drugs, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/27/health/fda-new-cholesterol-drug-repatha/index.html), ” it makes me question the possibility of underlying motives.

Why would a doctor recommend you take a statin or any medication that does not work on its own and that has been linked to these negative health effects,                       http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm293330.htm? Pharmaceutical companies and politicians make a lot of money with your drug purchases.  Statins have become a $29 billion dollar business a year. Repatha is estimated to cost  14,00 a year/person and it will exceed statin profits by billions easily.

Accepting a doctor who dismisses your complaints, following advice to take medication that causes your body to exhibit negative changes or does not change the targeted blood work is the wrong picture.

The right picture is you, your health and being an advocate for yourself. Use common sense, have educated conversations with your doctor and make decisions together.  Medicine is sometimes necessary but not if it causes more harm than good. Health conditions caused by lifestyle should be cured by lifestyle, not drugs.

Next week I’ll discuss statin alternatives that may work for you.

 

 

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20 Shades of Green

Valerie's Voice: For the Health of It

Photo: http://dawnypoo.blogspot.com/2012/10/tuesday-trend-autumnal-vegetable.html#.VLOCwyvF88w

Whether you are trying to spice things up in the bedroom, “50 shades of grey style”,  or on your plate…variety is key. “Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables(PFV):A Nutrient Density Approach” published by the CDC, http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2014/13_0390.htm, classifies and attempts to define PFV’s based on 17 nutrients associated with health (potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins  A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K).

Fifty percent of  the 41 foods that attain “powerhouse” status were green. Even iceberg lettuce made the cut. They are listed here in order of highest nutrient density score based on CDC criteria:

1.    Watercress
2.    Chinese cabbage
3.    Chard
4.    Beet green
5.    Spinach
6.    Chicory
7.    Leaf lettuce
8.    Parsley
9.    Romaine lettuce
10. Collard green
11. Turnip green
12. Mustard green
13. Endive
14. Chive
15. Kale
16. Dandelion green
17. Arugula

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Posted by on April 4, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Is The Fountain of Youth Within Your Grasp?

You may think that genetics determines how you age but, in fact, you have the power to slow the aging process.

Only twenty to thirty percent of longevity relies on genetics. Genes are like “sub folders”, they are segments of DNA that are responsible for appearance, how your body works and almost everything related to life.

Recently researchers from the Spanish National Cancer Research Center and the Kuakinni Medical Center in Honolulu have identified two genes that seem to influence aging and longevity. These genes are related to cholesterol (APO B: reduce the levels of LDL in the blood) and insulin (FOX03A: participates in insulin growth factor signaling).

In the Lifespan Study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18765803), the FOX03A gene was associated with, “doubling or tripling the odds of living for at least 95-years” and found that the participants who lived had a lower waist-to-hip ratio, lower triglyceride levels, and lower glucose and insulin levels.” Sound familiar? The macronutrient that effects insulin, glucose, triglycerides and belly fat is carbohydrates. Eating excess carbohydrates has a negative effect on all these risk factors and contributes to old age. What you eat is tied into the genetic component of getting older.

If genetics is only partly responsible for the aging process, what then is the largest contributor ? Lifestyle. Yes in one simple word, lifestyle is the key to staying younger. There is no pill, magic bullet or fountain of youth, just eat right (keep carbohydrates low), exercise, follow these 5 additional healthy lifestyle mantras and you will age gracefully by:

  1. Avoiding Smoking
  2. Limiting Alcohol
  3. Reducing Stress
  4. Engaging in Healthy Social Relationships
  5. Exercising Your Mind
  6. Maintaining Adequate Hydration and Avoiding Excess Carbohydrates and Sugar that negatively impacts cholesterol and insulin.
  7. Staying Active especially with Strength training. Melov and Tarnopolsky, from McMaster University Medical Center in Hamilton, Ontario, found that one hour of strength training twice a week for 6 and a half months resulted in anti-aging effects at the cellular level for a group of 70 year olds whose genetic profiles were similar to a group of 25-year-old volunteers. The resistance training was associated with 179 age-exercise related genes. “A 70-year-old active individual is probably younger from a biomarker standpoint – muscle strength, balance, body composition, blood pressure, cholesterol levels – than a 40-year-old inactive individual,’’ Miriam Nelson, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University, http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/health/articles/2012/03/05/stopping_age_related_muscle_loss/?page=2#sthash.uY0JTpEh.dpuf.

Another  main component of aging at the cellular level is oxidative stress, or low anti-oxidant levels, and mitochondrial (mitochondria is considered the power houses of cells converts sugars to energy) dysfunction. Specifically resistance training increases antioxidants and improves mitochondrial function to reverse the aging process, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0000465.

Exercise and strength training has also been shown to reduce stress, build self-esteem, increase metabolism, improve brain function, build muscle and bone along with so many other positive health benefits it is no surprise that there is a strong link to staying young.

The fountain of youth is within everyone’s grasp. Living a healthy lifestyle is the secret. Strength training and lowering carbs have the most effect on turning back the “aging” clock. Try to make the 5 other anti-aging tips part of your life! The secret to staying young may not be as easy as drinking from the fountain of youth but it is right at your finger tips.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Are You Eating Healthy Produce?

2013-Dirty-Dozen-Clean-Fifteen98k (1)

Summer is rounding the corner and you are thinking it’s your chance to eat healthier foods. Seasonal produce is here for the taking and there is no excuse why you can’t eat more fruits and vegetables! But wait, maybe there is.  There is a very good reason why you may want to be picky about the produce you consume.

Fruits and vegetables are sprayed with weed killers (like glyphosphate) and pesticides  (such as organophosphates (OP)). These compounds have a wide range of toxicity levels and are chemically similar to nerve gas. Insecticides inhibit the activity of enzymes in the nervous system leading to overstimulation and dysfunction, excessive perspiration, nausea, diarrhea, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, and fatigue.

We are not only consuming toxins from pesticides in produce but, once sprayed the residue ends up in the air we breathe and in our water system effecting fish too. Believe it or not glyphosphate is used in personal care products containing cotton, including tampons. So all this exposure can add up.

In fact, “We’re exposed to a cocktail of chemicals from our food on a daily basis,” says Michael Crupain, M.D., M.P.H., director of Consumer Reports’ Food Safety and Sustainability Center. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are traces of 29 different pesticides in the average American’s body, http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/health/natural-health/pesticides/index.htm.

Eating produce sprayed with harmful chemicals has been associated with nerve conditions (Parkinson’s disease) and reduced motor skills, cancer, liver toxicity, cognitive decline (Alzheimer’s disease) and memory loss, mood swings, asthma, allergies, digestive issues, obesity, hormone disruption,  reproduction and fetal development issues and even autism. This is true for domestic produce as well as foods that are imported from other countries like Mexico or Chile.

Organic produce are sprayed withe pesticides too, http://www.safefruitsandveggies.com/regulations/organic. So local farmers markets where you can ask the farmers questions about farming practices may be the ideal way to purchase produce.

Certain population groups like children, pregnant women and the sick or aging may be more sensitive to the effects of pesticides than others. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 3 million cases of pesticide poisoning each year and up to 220,000 deaths, primarily in developing countries.

Make sure you rinse your fruits and vegetables with running water. It will help wash away surface residue and bacteria but it is difficult to completely rid produce of their toxic weed killers and insecticides. When you read pesticide residue information, know that the information is provided as you would eat it, for example rinsed and without the peel.

Many of the top 10 fruits and vegetables with the highest amount of residue are those we consume year round. They are:

  1. Apple
  2. Peach
  3. Nectarine
  4. Strawberry
  5. Grape
  6. Celery
  7. Spinach
  8. Bell Peppers
  9. Cucumbers
  10. 10 Tomatoes

Better rated produce options are:

  1. Avocados
  2. Pineapple
  3. Cabbage
  4. Sweet peas
  5. Onion
  6. Asparagus
  7. Mango
  8. Kiwi
  9. Eggplant
  10. Grapefruit

Let’s not forget, when you choose to eat healthy seasonal summer fruits, do NOT forget the watermelon. It is a better option than most, thirst quenching and a perfect way to end the family BBQ!

The full list created by the Environmental Working Group, http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/, is more detailed.

Eat wisely, cherry pick your fruits and vegetables to eat more foods with less toxins.

 

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5 Dirty Little Cellulite Secrets

Image result for image cellulite

Cellulite is a term used to describe fat deposits under the skin that look like cottage cheese, hail damage or an orange peel but no matter what the name is it is not pretty! Cottage cheese thighs affects ninety percent of women (heavy and thin) and only 10% of men.  You can thank the process and amount of fat storage and hormones for the difference.

5 Dirty Little Secrets That Cause Cellulite:

  1. Diet: Excess intake of calories, carbohydrates and fat, salt, and estrogen antagonists like soy and bisphenol-A and not drinking enough water.
  2. Lack of circulation: Exercise gets blood to body parts by keeping blood vessels open, this is important because oxygen and nutrients are delivered to body tissue to keep it strong. Constricted blood vessels tend to lose its function leading to spider veins and cellulite.
  3. Unbalanced estrogen: Excess estrogen stores fat but too little estrogen constricts blood vessels that decrease circulation making fat cells get bigger. So estrogen and hormonal balance is the key.
  4. Lack of collagen: “After age 30 we start to lose 1.5% of our natural collagen stores each year. By age 40 when most people start to notice hormonal and body changes, the body has already lost approximately 15% of its natural collagen stores,” http://www.drvenessa.com/dr-venessa-difference/collagen/. Less skin collagen (A natural type of protein in the body that forms the connective tissues holding the skin together giving it a smooth firm appearance.) allows fat to poke outwards towards the skin making it uneven and dimple.
  5. Genetics and fat storage: You should have picked different parents, lol but you can’t    do anything about this so why not laugh? There are certain body areas that have more layers of fat (women are wired to carry more fat on the hips and thighs for child  bearing and triceps, hips, buttocks, thighs). The more fat, the more fat receptors.         There are alpha adrenergic receptors (stimulate fat) and beta receptors (break down   fat). Unfortunately for women, “for every one beta receptor, there are nine alpha         receptors,” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-cellulite-forever/.

Lotions, creams, snake oils don’t work and neither do the lasers, injections and whatever other magic concoctions are out there. If you are absolutely obsessed with your dimples give this a read, “Why Do I Have Cellulite?, https://www.girlsgonestrong.com/why-do-i-have-cellulite/,” written by a colleague, Cassandra Forsythe, PhD, RD. She is the author of two popular nationally publicized books for women, “The New Rules of Lifting for Women”, and “Women’s Health Perfect Body Diet”.

“Treat” Cellulite with:

  1. Good food and drink: Nourish skin on the inside with water and avoid the items mentioned in diet above. Use a collagen supplement, see above link, and Hyaluronic acid
  2. Microneedling: Helps stimulate natural collagen production, http://www.smartskincare.com/treatments/noninvasive/skin-needling.html
  3. Weight training and being active
  4. Hormone balance

Cottage cheese thighs are nobody’s friend. While it may be near impossible to completely get rid of cellulite, it certainly is not a waste of time to try these skin supporting tips. You can make improvements in your skin’s health and appearance.

 

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