If you have ever had a heart attack or a stroke or may have suffered some form of heart disease such as angina, or irregular heartbeat or had any of the thousands of complications that affect your heart in an adverse way, you were given pharmaceutical drugs and instructed to take them for the rest of your life. The fact is that there is a strong possibility that you could reverse your heart disease and get off most of your drugs.
The average person has no more medical knowledge than that acquired in a grade ten science class and thus when we are faced with a life threatening condition such as a heart attack or stroke, we blindly follow the directions of the health professionals who are trying to save our lives.
Twenty-five years ago, when there were a lot less people in this world, your physician would sit down with you, take a complete medical history, and if you were at risk for heart disease or had developed a heart condition, you would get a lecture about quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption and the importance of daily exercise and good eating habits. Today, with waiting rooms full of patients, the pharmaceutical industry has provided our physicians with drugs for any symptom. Can’t sleep? Try these. Depressed? Try these. Got a cold? Here are some new antibiotics. The physician can have the patient in and out in less than 3 minutes and can see 10 patients today in the time he spent with one patient 25 years ago.
The pharmaceutical industry is the engine that drives the medical profession. In the case of heart disease they have convinced physicians that the treatment consists of reducing the workload of the heart and this will increase the longevity of the patient. It just so happens that they have a large number of drugs that achieve this function, ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) Inhibitors, beta blockers and calcium channel inhibitors. If one of these does not work, rather than discontinue the drug and try another, they ADD another and another until you may be taking up to 3 anti-hypertensive drugs, two diuretics and for their side-effects, a drug to reduce stomach acidity and an antidepressant. All these medications drastically reduce the quality of your life.
It is very unlikely that your family physician or your heart specialist have upgraded their education since graduation. However, they feel they are constantly upgrading their education through the pharmaceutical companies that invite them to seminars and visit them with the latest documentation of their newest drugs. In Hamilton the number one drug for hypertension is Altace, not because it is better than any other drug, but because they have an excellent pharmaceutical representative and excellent sales tools. Recently a gentleman in excellent condition, who did the mountain stairs every day, went to emergency with an irregular heart beat. While he waited, his heartbeat came back to normal. When he finally left the hospital he was given a prescription for coumadin (a very powerful blood thinner), three different hypertensive medications to lower his blood pressure, digitalis to regulate the rhythm of his heart, a cholesterol-lowering drug and levothyroxine to increase the metabolism of his thyroid gland. When he presented all these prescriptions to his pharmacist and asked if all this was necessary, the pharmacist felt that they were all appropriate. In this enlightened age many people are aware of the perks given to physicians by the pharmaceutical industry, but you may not be aware of the fact that many pharmacists are targeted just as much as the doctors. When I practiced pharmacy I was regularly invited to private boxes at the Blue Jays games, Maple Leaf hockey tickets, dinners at expensive restaurants and invitations for lunch and golf at private golf clubs. It may be difficult for your pharmacist to act in your best interest when he is being brainwashed by the same forces as your physician.
I once went to a motivational seminar and the speaker wrote an epitaph that could appear on a tombstone.
Born January 6, 1940
Died May 15, 1995
Buried Sept 10, 2010
His message was that after 1995 this man’s life was actually over. He simply remained breathing until 2010 when he was finally buried. This is what happens when you accept all the drugs and resign yourself to taking them for the rest of your life. Nearly every person who has a heart attack or a stroke or almost any heart arrhythmia will be put on coumadin. This drug is so difficult for your liver to detoxify that it causes high and irregular blood levels of all your other prescription medication. The anti hypertensive drugs such as beta blockers slow down your heart rate so much that you are tired all day long and have no energy left for nearly any activity. You lose your ability to exercise, you gain weight, your sex life becomes a thing of the past and you become very depressed. The good news is that you are still alive. The bad news is that you have not learned a thing. The poor diet, stress and lack of exercise that caused your heart condition in the first place still exist. You are now totally dependent on the drugs to stay alive and have resigned yourself to this scenario. You have no quality of life and just like the epitaph, you remain breathing for a number of years until your family finally buries you. There are alternatives to this therapy and if you succeed your quality of life will increase one thousand percent.
About 25 years ago a medical heart specialist, Dean Ornish wrote a book about reversing heart disease through diet and exercise. The three main causes of heart disease are a poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle and stress. Heart disease may be prevented or reversed by a healthy diet with five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and elimination of refined sugars, refined flours and fast food. Cardiovascular exercise such as walking 30 to 40 minutes a day, cycling or swimming once again prevents and reverses heart disease. And finally stress. Too many people alleviate stress by smoking, drinking or over-eating. This is a recipe for heart disease. Prescription drugs such as anti-anxiety medications like lorazepam or clonazepam do not reduce your stress or cortisol levels, they simply mask the symptoms. Anti-depressants such as Zoloft or Effexor act in the same way. They simply fool the body’s response system but the stress is still there. Only exercise, meditation, Pilates, or a similar activity can actually alleviate stress. The longer you have been on drugs, the harder it is to get off your medications, but it is possible.
Before you attempt to reduce your medication, you must establish your good diet and exercise regime. After about 6 months, you should feel a lot better and the average person will have lost between 5 and 20 pounds depending upon how heavy they were when they started. If you are still smoking, either quit immediately or begin to make funeral arrangements. If you have not had any heart incidences since you first started your medications, you may be able to replace your Coumadin with 81mg of Aspirin a day. If you are taking a cholesterol-lowering drug, your exercise and good diet should allow the total elimination of this drug. If you are taking drugs that lower your blood pressure, you must either buy yourself a blood pressure monitor or find a machine in a drug store or mall that you can use each day. In a very methodical manner and keeping accurate records, you gradually wean yourself off these drugs. Start with the beta blocker, atenolol for example, for this is the one that slows down your heart rate the most and zaps most of your energy. As you gradually reduce the dose of your medication, you keep very accurate records and eventually you should reach a point where you have either eliminated all your blood pressure meds or you are maintained on one medication once a day. If you take drugs for an irregular heartbeat, you either continue to take them or get a pacemaker implanted. If you have angina, you must always keep a nitroglycerin inhaler just in case of any emergency, but you may be able to discontinue your nitroglycerin patch or your isosorbide prescription.
I have worked with many people and helped them reduce their medications or stop them altogether. These are people who are willing to work very hard and sacrifice to achieve their healthy goals but not everybody can do this. They must be motivated. Some people are so unhappy that they continue to relieve their stress through alcohol, smoking or eating. Some people have physical limitations that restrict the amount of exercise they can do. Some people have no choice and must take their medications because withdrawal might put their life at risk.
Supplements that are beneficial to heart patients are CoEnzyme Q10, about 100-120mg daily, high doses of fish oil which not only protects the heart but gives you a better ratio of good to bad cholesterol, hawthorn and garlic, two herbs that lower your blood pressure, a high potency multi vitamin and antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E which are heart protective.
February is heart month and the Heart and Stroke Foundation will be glad to sell you a lottery ticket or take money from corporate sponsors of sugar cereals that claim they help heart disease. They have done such a good job with all the money they collected that Heart Disease is still the number one cause of death in North America. The bottom line is that you are responsible for your own health. You have an opportunity to either prevent heart disease or reverse it. If you do not have a heart problem use this information to help someone who does.
Are you going to let the medical profession keep you alive with drugs for the rest of your life, or are you going to take charge of your own health and well-being and improve the quality of your existence and the quality of time spent with your loved ones.