Valentine's Day Heart Health

Q: Happy Valentine’s Day Dr. Liz!
A: Hey, thanks! And to you too. On Valentine’s Day we often think of our “Heart”.

Q: Yes we do. Tell us about our heart Dr. Liz?
A: Heart Health refers to any kind of cardiovascular diseases, not only the “Heart” organ itself. Cardiovascular disease is in fact the #1 killer in America, and it doesn’t have to be. I will give you some tips today on “How Not to Die from Cardiovascular Disease. In Oriental Medicine, the heart known as the “Emperor,” and is considered to be the most important organ. It is more important than the brain because it ‘houses “ the mind. The heart is in charge of the vessels. So, we want to not only make our heart strong and healthy, we want our arteries, veins and capillaries to be strong and healthy too.

Q: So how does that work?
A: All our organs, veins, arteries and capillaries are lined with what is called “Endothelium”. If the endothelium is clogged, then the capillaries, veins and arteries can get clogged too. If the pathways are clogged, then blood cannot get through. This build of plaque is known as atherosclerosis. For most Americans raised on a conventional diet, plaque accumulates inside the coronary arteries, and this is why Heart Disease is our number one killer!

Q: What is endothelium?
A: Endothelium is skin that lines all our organs, and vessels, including all our arteries, capillaries and veins.

Q: Is that what happens when someone gets a heart attack or a stroke?
A: Most commonly, yes.

Q: What is the best thing to do to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease?
A: Stop smoking, get regular exercise and change your diet. It’s best to consume a traditional Mediterranean Diet which includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lentils, beans, nuts. A Vegetarian or Vegan diet may also work too, but it must be accompanied by Vitamin B 12. A gram of fiber a day from whole grains, is associated with lower chance of dying from heart attack and reduces risk of Cancer, Diabetes, Respiratory Diseases and also lowers risk of dying from infection.

Q: Why?
A: Perhaps because of the anti-inflammatory effects from fiber. Stroke kills about 5 million people each year worldwide, and is the top neurological disorder that debilitates people.

Q: Should we all take aspirin to prevent heart disease?
A: The benefits of taking a daily aspirin must be weighed against the risk of internal bleeding.

Q: Is there a natural form of aspirin?
A: Yes. Salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin has been used for thousands of years as an anti-inflammatory and pain killer in the form of Willow Tree Bark extract. Hippocrates originally used this to treat fever and alleviate pain during child birth. It also acts as a blood thinner. For those who have already had a heart attack, the benefits are clear that taking a low dosage of aspirin daily is a good thing to do. However, for those that have not had a previous issue, the studies show differently.

Q: Are there any scientific methods to elongate life through cardiovascular practice?
A: Interestingly, the number of heart beats per lifetime is remarkably similar, whether you are a hamster or a whale or a human. If humans are predetermined to approximately 3 billion heart rates per lifetime, can slowing the cardiovascular system increase life span?

Q: How do we put our fingers on the pulse of Longevity?
A: To maximize lifespan, the target resting heart rate may be one beat per second, or less.

Q: Do people with slower hearts live longer?
A: Yes. A fasting heart rate may lead to a higher death rate, leading to heart disease or heart failure. This information is independent of the level of physical activity. Fast heart rate is not only a marker of risk but a bonafied risk factor. This information is now well recognized. Lowering a heart rate lowers our death rate, this has been shown in at least 8 clinical trials. 1 beat per second is the optimal goal.

Q: Is there any Secret in Medicine?
A: The best kept secret in medicine, it under the right conditions, the body heals itself. Heart Disease is Reversible! Originally researchers blamed the animal fat or animal protein, but attention has recently shifted to bacterial toxins known as “endotoxins”. Certain foods such as meats harbor bacteria, that trigger inflammation. Dr. Ornish reported a 91% reduction in angina attacks within just a few weeks in patients placed on a plant based diet, with or without exercise.

Q: Give us some tips Dr. Liz?
A: Sure! Here are a few key tips based to help you live longer and prevent and or reverse heart disease:

  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic, and cleaned. (Lowers Inflammation)

  • Eat Brazil nuts. (Lowers Cholesterol)

  • Brazil nuts bring down LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol faster than statin drugs, so eat those if you have high cholesterol.

  • Use organic coconut oil. (Lowers LDL)

  • Meditate. (Improves heart health by calming the mind)

  • Practice this each morning and before you go to bed.

  • Mind clearing helps your heart health.

  • Move, walk, do yoga, tai chi, chi gong, bicycle, swim …. (Helps restore endothelium)

  • Prepare your food so it is not cold, including your fruits and vegetables. (facilitates digestion)

  • Drink green tea (lowers LDL and triglycerides)

  • Harmonize your relationships, work environment, and your home. (Improves heart health by lessening stress and mind calming)

  • Incorporate these five things into your diet:

    1. Garlic (antibiotic)

    2. Ginger (aids digestion)

    3. Turmeric (Lessens inflammation)

    4. Cayenne Pepper (stimulates circulation)

    5. Eat onions (cleans blood)

If you want additional information, I highly recommend Michael Greger, M.D.’s book, How Not to Die.

Q: Why did you choose to give us at least “9 “tips?
A: 9 is a symbol of infinity, immortality, or everlasting. So our goal is to live long healthy lives, I thought “9” was appropriate.

Q: What would an Oriental Medical Doctor suggest to someone with a ‘weak’ heart?
A: Eat hearts! Yes, you heard correctly. If you have a weak heart, eat hearts! You can find chicken hearts in Publix, and beef hearts you may need to shop around for. Interesting, but true.

Q: How to eat them?
You can sauté them in a little bit of coconut oil in a frying pan.

About Dr Liz Perry
Dr. Liz is a primary care provider with a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and a Master’s degree in Business Management from Harvard University. For over 22 years, Dr. Liz has worked as an international healthcare consultant, has traveled the world, and has written hundreds of published articles as a health journalist.

Liz Perry