Understanding the REAL Cause of Heart Attacks

Cause of Heart Attacks

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Note: The following information is highly controversial, is solely the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the stance at fitFLEX. The article is offered as a new perspective in which to encourage evaluation and debate. As always, please consult a medical professional before embarking on any new diet or exercise regimen.

My clinical observations over a period of more than 50 years, as well as the clinical findings of innumerable other physicians such as Dr. Michael DeBakey (the renowned pioneer heart surgeon), unequivocally show cholesterol is not a factor causing heart attacks. A discussion is not feasible in this article of the exhaustive amount of medical findings that disprove the "high blood cholesterol = heart attack" theory propagated over three decades by the American Heart Association (AHA). However, a few brief rhetorical questions concerning this theory are apropos at this time: Why has the AHA not explained why so many individuals with low blood cholesterol still suffer from heart attacks? Why are clinical findings ignored when they are showing that a vast majority of patients who have "high" blood cholesterol are free of coronary artery occlusion (closure) and are enjoying excellent health?

Just prior to the AHA's advancement of its cholesterol theory in the late 1970s, a blood cholesterol level above 300 mg/dL was considered normal. To make the "high blood cholesterol - heart attack" theory tenable, cholesterol theorists have kept lowering cholesterol norms to the point where now "normal" is declared to be 175 mg/dL or lower; nevertheless, a considerable percent-age of myocardial infarction patients, in whom part of the heart muscle dies because of coronary artery occlusion, have a cholesterol level of 175 mg/dL and lower. Myocardial infarctions are more commonly known as heart attacks.

Cholesterol plays a vital role in bodily functions. Every cell in the human body contains and requires cholesterol for life. If the AHA keeps lowering the level considered to be a normal blood cholesterol level, the incidence of heart attacks won't even matter because life itself will cease without an adequate supply of essential cholesterol.

Meat Good; Tofu Bad

Why do so many individuals and groups of people, who throughout their lives follow diets containing extraordinarily large amounts of cholesterol and fat, live exceedingly healthful lives and never have coronary artery disease? For example, the Eskimo diet consists almost entirely of animal matter -some seaweed is consumed when available. Eskimos, living on their meat and fat (i.e., blubber) diet, never suffer from heart attacks, arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), high blood pressure or diabetes. Only after these native North Americans learned to supplement their diet with American foods have such medical ailments been reported in medical facilities set up by a number of nations to treat and study Eskimos. (Note: The word "Eskimo," translated into English, means "eaters of raw flesh.")

Cholesterol theorists may argue Eskimos live in very cold climates and cannot be com-pared to Americans. Then consider the Masai, a people native to central Africa, whose diet consists almost entirely of meat, milk and blood obtained from their cattle. The Masai do not suffer from arteriosclerosis and are unusually healthy. The Akikuyu are a neighboring tribe that lives side by side with the Masai. The Akikuyu diet consists of no-cholesterol plant foods - corn cereals, legumes, plantains, sweet potatoes, other tubers and green leaves. Unlike the Masai, the Akikuyu suffer from heart disease, anemia, bone deformities and tropical ulcers. Unfortunately, some of the large amounts of money spent by the AHA to propagandize the lethal effects of cholesterol is not used to determine why meat-eating Masai are free of heart disease and why their vegetarian neigh-bors are not.

Cholesterol first became suspect as a cause of coronary artery occlusion following an experiment with laboratory rabbits conducted by Dr. Nikolai Anichkov in the early 20th century. Rabbits were fed copious amounts of cholesterol-rich food, and in time some were found to have an atheroma (a fatty deposit on or within the inner lining of an artery) in the abdominal aorta. From this experiment, some medical authorities concluded that cholesterol is the cause of myocardial infarctions in humans. To date no scientific study has substantiated this so-called causality.

Feeding cholesterol-rich food to caged, herbivorous rabbits to determine cholesterol's effects on humans is analogous to feeding large quantities of hay to laboratory dogs to learn about digestive disorders in horses. A more scientific way to determine cholesterol effects on humans would be to study people actually on high-cholesterol, high-fat diets. The Lewis and Clark Expedition provides such a classic study.

The explorers in the expedition consisted of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, 31 men, a 15-year-old girl named Sacajawea who was married to one of the expeditioners, and her child. The late historian Stephen Ambrose states in his book Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West that the expedition succeeded, and he argues the explorers thrived as a result of their meat-fat diet. Their diet consisted of buffalo, deer, elk, antelope, beaver, bear, wolf, coyote, prairie dog, geese, swans, duck, grouse and all other animals found in the US Northwest at that time. Ambrose writes: "The fowl and mammals were in prime condition, which meant that the buffalo ribs, the venison haunches, the beaver tails, the mallard breasts all dripped fat into the fire as they were turned on the spit, causing a sizzle and a smell that sharpened already keen appetites."

When eating meat exclusively, the explorers thrived and experienced extraordinarily good health. When forced out of necessity to consume plant food (referred to by the explorers as "roots"), their health and well-being deteriorated dramatically. During the two-year, 4000-mile arduous trek through the Northwest, not one of these 35 people experienced a heart attack or other heart ailment, and neither did any (whose history could be followed) suffer heart attacks in later life.

When we look at the expeditioners' discoveries, one that should be included is the inadvertent finding that a high-cholesterol, high-fat diet was associated with excellent health and did not result in any heart attacks. This classic experiment with humans in a real-life setting is not equaled by university laboratory experiments with caged animals.


Though impressed with early 20th-century rabbit experiments, cholesterol theorists ignore Lewis and Clark's finding about which foods were healthy. These theorists might explain the absence of heart problems among the expeditioners by arguing the explorers engaged in strenuous physical activities, and everyone knows exercise is good for the heart and prevents heart attacks. However, a significant number of today's professional athletes suffer from heart attacks and other heart conditions.

Where's The Beef?

In any event, the cholesterol often referred to by the media as "blood goo," "coronary glue" and "blood mud" would be more likely - not less - to cause ischemic heart disease (characterized by inadequate blood supply due to decreased arterial inflow) in hardworking hearts. The truth is biochemistry, micropathology, macropathology and pathophysiology have all proven cholesterol, lipoproteins and fatty acids are not even found in arterial plaques (atheromatous deposits) and are not blood goo.

Some final words about cholesterol: Though there are innumerable individuals, families and groups who live on high-cholesterol, high-fat diets, cholesterol researchers have avoided studying these people. One exception I know of is a study that involved a then 88-year-old man who for at least 15 years had eaten 25 to 30 eggs a day. The author of the study, the late Dr. Fred Kern, describes the elderly man as intelligent, well-educated, with excellent health, and having no history of heart disease, arteriosclerosis, stroke, kidney or liver disease. The man's blood cholesterol and lipoproteins were entirely normal.

Dr. Kern supported the AHA's cholesterol hypotheses and indicated he would have liked to study the man further but was not funded to do so; therefore, he concluded the 88-year-old man's excellent health and normal blood studies were due to some inherent physiology that protected him from cholesterol and bad-cholesterol substances.

The National Institutes of Health, who sponsored Dr. Kern, unfortunately did not provide additional funds needed to complete the doctor's study. Kern's work was allowed to conclude with his unscientific conjecture that the 88-year-old man's excellent health was due to some undetermined physiological fluke.

Today's anticholesterol theory and medical practices are about as scientific and make as much sense as the antiquated belief that evil spirits in blood causes disease, and the bloodletting practices of previous centuries. Cholesterol is so vitally essential that nature equipped the liver to manufacture cholesterol should the human diet become cholesterol-deficient. Billions of dollars' worth of medicine are prescribed in the US each year to rid blood of cholesterol.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs manufactured by major pharmaceutical companies seriously damage the liver, destroying its ability to produce cholesterol; thus blood cholesterol is lowered. Perhaps humankind was better off when physicians removed volumes of blood from people to lower the level of disease-producing evil spirits. Bone marrow can replace lost blood, but a damaged liver is irreplaceable. Today's physicians are now obsessed with removing goo instead of "boo" (i.e., evil spirits) from the blood.

Heart Attacks - The Real Cause

Why haven't the AHA leaders found any-thing other than cholesterol and its associated substances - now referred to as bad cholesterol -to blame for heart attacks? I can only speculate, but perhaps the reason is that the real cause of heart attacks is beyond these leaders' specialty. In truth the cause of coronary disease is not anatomical or biochemical; the cause is mental. An explanation follows.

The preceding conclusion is not based on some mind-over-matter thinking, superstition or some alternative medicine malarkey that seems to be the order of the day. The conclusion is derived from repeatedly substantiated observations in everyday clinical practice and substantiates the fact the mind is connected to the body through some very real mental-physical links that affect body organs, including heart arteries.

An explanation of how the mind causes angina pectoris (recurrent chest pain due to a sudden decrease of blood supply to the heart muscle) and coronary artery occlusion can begin with a brief analogy using migraine headaches. The pain from migraine headaches can range from mild discomfort to the most severe pain, as is the case with angina heart pain. In both cases, pain occurs when respective arteries supplying blood to the brain or heart go into a spasm. The spasm consists of episodes of vasoconstriction followed by vasodilatation. In both cases, arterial spasming occurs because of mental conditions affecting the brain.

Mental stress stimulates the brain to produce nerve energy transmitted from the brain to the brain's carotid artery system in the case of migraine; or to the heart's coronary arteries in the case of angina. The nerve impulses cause the arterial systems to spasm, i.e., constrict and then contract.

The same circumstances that send out nerve impulses to heart arteries, making the latter contract, are at the same time responsible for the brain sending nerve energy to the body's adrenal glands. When thus signaled, these glandular structures produce adrenaline. The effect of adrenaline on body arteries is to cause them to constrict. Strangely, though, adrenaline causes coronary heart arteries to dilate. Thus the coronary arteries are first constricted due to the effects of the mind on the brain and then dilated due to adrenaline. The result is violent spasming.

Emotional effects on the brain can persist for hours, days, weeks or months. Continuous spasms can produce a tear in the thin, delicate lining of the coronary arterial wall. Following the tear, plaque forms to stop bleeding from the torn lining. Plaque narrows the lumen (interior) of the artery, diminishing blood flow to the heart muscle. In some cases the entire lumen is clogged by plaque, and that portion of heart muscle supplied by the artery dies, i.e., myocardial infarction occurs.

One must clearly understand that for atheromatous deposits (plaque) to form, a tear in the coronary artery lining must first occur. Cholesterol is not responsible for the tear or for plaque formation.

Stop Blaming Me!

No scientific evidence shows cholesterol or low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) increase the risk of coronary artery disease. Medical professionals attempt to prove cholesterol causes heart attacks even though chemical, pathology and physiology studies as well as unbiased clinical findings fail to confirm the theory; nevertheless, declarations by medical professionals are used by them to convince physicians and patients that decreasing cholesterol levels is essential for health.

Occasionally, fictitious scientific explanations are offered to prove today's beliefs about cholesterol. No evidence or references are given to support such suppositions. No scientific evidence proves that because cholesterol is present in the blood that cholesterol is any more likely to damage arterial walls than red blood cells carrying oxygen in the blood. However, should medical leaders proclaim, Oxygen in blood causes heart attacks, obedient physicians and a trusting public would most likely agree to lower oxygen levels in the air.

In short: Scientific proof that cholesterol and related substances cause heart attacks is not yet available, and the cholesterol theory has become deeply ingrained in the minds of physicians and laypeople. Many generations will need to pass before cholesterol dogma is overcome. The billions of dollars spent on toxic drugs to lower blood cholesterol will not be given up easily by pharmaceutical companies selling those drugs.

Once again, for plaque to form, a tear must occur in the arterial lining. Plaque forms to stop bleeding from the tear. The first step involves accumulation of blood platelets. Platelets provide a "sticky" foundation to which other blood substances adhere. These blood substances consist of blood cells, proteins (fibrin, thrombin, etc.), calcium and other chemical matter. They combine to form a plaque to seal the tear. The preceding explanation contains scientific facts taught in first-year medical school physiology classes. Only later is cholesterol deposited in the torn lining. Cholesterol is responsible for evoking the connective tissue that "sews up" the lining, and a scar is produced. Connective tissue contains lipid (fats) responsible for its yellow coloration. The scarring and remnants of remaining plaque narrow the diameter of the coronary artery, lessening blood flow to the heart muscle.

Instead of blaming cholesterol, blaming calcium for heart attacks would be much more logical though incorrect. Restricting calcium-rich foods would also be more logical. Calcium is a major component of arterial plaque. Or, if a villain must be named, perhaps it should be the platelets. They entrap all the blood substances that make up the formation of the clot in the first place. Hopefully, cholesterol dogmatists will not turn their attention to removing platelets from the blood - death would occur immediately from uncontrollable hemorrhage.

Of course, totally removing cholesterol from the blood to prevent heart attacks would be just as injurious - or worse perhaps. Not only would life be untenable without cholesterol, but also the very propagation of human life would cease. (Cholesterol is essential to the normal function of testes and ovaries which respectively make sperm and eggs in the first place.)

The Stress Is Killing Me

Patients I've observed who have suffered from angina, coronary occlusions and myocardial infarctions usually have a particular personality. Most are intelligent, conscientious, unduly responsible and constantly tense. Though some do not outwardly show their tensions, inwardly these patients are beset by them. Some of these individuals view the anxiety as part of their temperament and may say, I've always been nervous but I don't know about what. To one degree or another their mental stress affects their brains, which in turn produces nerve energy directed to the coronary arteries.

The above is not to say that other types of personalities prone to emotional disorders are devoid of heart disease. By my experience, the former type of individual typifies the angina/myocardial infarction patient.

Paradoxically, in some patients experiencing mental stress, the brain impulses produced are not directed to the heart but rather to other body organs. For example, instead of affecting the heart, nerve energy may affect the gastrointestinal tract and cause conditions such as peptic ulcers, ulcerative colitis, diarrhea and constipation. In other patients, the muscles and tendons around joints may be targeted, causing arthritic changes such as are seen in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Why different organs are targeted and adversely affected by brain impulses is an enigma. Personality types, various emotions, the intensity of emotions and other mental variables may be the determining factors. In any event, mental stress overload activates the brain that then sends involuntary impulses affecting body organs.

Of course hypertension, depression, obesity and smoking cause strain on the heart and are risk factors in myocardial infarction. However, the primary cause is mental stress. One type of personality - the conscienceless psychopath - does not apparently suffer from coronary occlusions. No evidence of coronary disease has ever been discovered in research of the earliest humans.

The AHA is apparently oblivious to the psychogenic cause of coronary artery occlusion, and psychiatry today offers very little help for this problem. Primary treatment provided by psychiatrists is to prescribe drugs to control anxiety, depression, panic disorders and other emotional problems. Many prescribed drugs affect brain serotonin. Though medicines may change the brain's reaction to mental stress, serotonin-altering drugs kill brain cells, thereby causing memory problems, trouble with reasoning and other adverse effects.

Chemicals can change inherent brain physiology but do nothing to change the patient's natural behavior to life problems. In effect, the medicines make the brain computable and the patient a chemically computerized human being. The patient becomes only a persona of her real self. Dependency on medicines may become lifelong. If they are discontinued, original disturbances -anxiety, panic, depression - frequently return with a vengeance along with drug withdrawal effects.

Today's psychiatrists and doctors respond to the above matters by prescribing another and then yet another drug. Apparently such treatment is easier and more remunerative than hour-long consultations. No wonder alternative medicine, acupuncture, herbal medicines, magnetic devices, chiropractic and other forms of suggestive treatments are becoming immensely popular - better a twist of the back than a chemical disruption of the brain.

Don't Worry; Be Happy

What is the solution? A primary difference between humans and other higher orders of mammals such as gorillas, chimpanzees and baboons is our mind's control over instinctual behavior. Animals behave by instinct alone in response to environmental situations. Their fight-or-flight response immediately disposes of stimuli. In contrast, the instinctual reactions of humans can be altered by their consciences, egos or by society's expectations.

Restraints imposed upon humans by mind and society can delay spontaneous instinctual reactions, modify the reactions or entirely suppress them. These altered responses build up mental tension that subsequently spills over and affects the brain. The brain then converts the mental tension into nerve impulses that affect bodily functions.

Some have said the solution to the conflict between instinctual reactions and deferred responses is the "primal scream" - a return to animalistic, or at least more primitive, behavior. Such advocates seem convinced that if civilized man were to become less restrained, then heart disease, peptic ulcers, migraines and other stress-related illnesses would disappear. Perhaps these people are correct, but these illnesses would not be the only things to disappear - so would the human race.

Unrestrained base sex, vicious violence and direct instinctual responses for all needs is becoming the order of the day. Perhaps the incidence of coronary artery disease will consequently be reduced as a result. Cholesterol-free diets certainly will not play a part.

What is the solution to the aforementioned conflict? Hopefully, humankind will eventually adjust to instinctual controls imposed both by one's conscience and a beneficent civilization - without the mind developing undue tensions. Above all, worry must be stopped by intellectually finding the best solution to a problem and then sticking to it.

Some problems are unsolvable - they have no solution. The way to deal with such problems is to accept them and live with them. To do less - to continue to worry indefinitely -only begets more worry, more problems and a life beset by tension, confusion, unrest and sickness. Accepting a reasoned solution to a problem and sticking to the solution provides a plan of action that removes stress and leads to calmness of mind and emotional stability.

When individuals learn to adjust to the stresses and strains of life without endless worry, and when they learn to rely on reasoned solutions, then heart attacks and other mentally initiated human illnesses will disappear - regardless of what the AHA says the "normal" blood cholesterol should be.





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