Cardiovascular Risk and Pathology

Paul L. Reller L.Ac. / Last Updated: August 03, 2017

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Additional Information and Information Resources with Links to Scientific Studies

  1. A 2012 study at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, in Taiwan, China, found that deficiency in numbers and function of circulating Endothelial Progenitor Cells, produced in the bone marrow, were responsible for poor cardiovascular repair and maintenance, and that this problem is highly associated with Metabolic Syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22359630
  2. A 2013 study at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, North Carolina, U.S.A., found that statin drugs to lower cholesterol actually impairs the benefits of aerobic exercise for patients with Metabolic Syndrome and obesity, reducing gains in muscle mitochondria and cardiorespiratory fitness. Half of the patients in this study did not take statins during the 12 week aerobic fitness routine, and increased cardiorespiratory rates by 10 percent and skeletal muscle development by 13 percent, but those who took statin drugs achieved only a 1.5 percent increase in cardiovascular fitness and a 4.5 percent increase in muscle growth and function: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23583255
  3. A 2015 study at McMaster University, in Ontario, Canada, found that muscle strength as measured by a simple grip test was a very accurate predictor of cardiovascular risk in a 17 nation long-term population study involving 142,861 patients between the age of 35 and 70. Grip strength was a better marker of cardiovascular risk than systolic blood pressure: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2814%2962000-6/abstract
  4. A 2012 NIH study at the University of California San Diego, authored by Dr. Beatrice Golomb, associate professor of medicine, showed that statin drugs were associated with significant fatigue, and she expressed the opinion of a growing chorus of experts that the widespread use of statin drugs should be reevaluated, as the benefits do not outweigh the risks for most patients: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_126137.html
  5. A 2012 FDA update on statin drug consumer advice concerning reports of memory loss and cognitive impairment, increased risk of diabetes, rise in blood sugars and A1C, and the increased risk for muscle damage: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm293330.htm
  6. A July 31, 2010 article in the New York Times outlines recent findings of the dangers of CT or CAT scans commonly used to evaluate the patients with strokes. This is an ongoing series in the New York Times that explores the dangers and harm from excess routine radiation in radiology tests in the U.S. that was initiated after the 2009 President's Councel on Cancer found that medical radiology radiation was now a very significant cause of cancer in the U.S.: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/health/01radiation.html?_r=2&th=&emc=th&pagewanted=all

Much evidence is accumulating to help guide the modern herbalist and acupuncturist (TCM physician) in the best course of therapy for the patient with cardiovascular risk. Use of a double boil water extract of Dang gui, Astragalus, Rhodiola and American Ginseng has been proven highly beneficial, as has the alcohol extract of European olive leaf, Gingko biloba, Gotu Kola and Siberian Ginseng. Red Rice Yeast extract and sytrinol and tocotrienols are also supported by much research to improve cholesterol and lipid metabolism.

  1. In 2013, finally, a large cohort study of 44,561 men and women investigated the effects of a healthy diet on cardiovascular risk. This study, conducted by the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and part of the large European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), found that a predominantly vegetarian diet reduced cardiovascular risk of ischemic heart disease by 34 percent, with significantly lowered non-HDL cholesterol, BMI, and systolic blood pressure. Such evidence points to the importance of improving the overall health holistically to counter cardiovascular disease, not just medicating to blood cholesterol production and high blood pressure. If herbal medicine, acupuncture, lifestyle changes, and nutrient medicine are added to this holistic protocol, the reduction of cardiovascular risk, and incidence of stroke, heart attack, peripheral vascular disease, and cardiac death, could perhaps be cut in half: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23364007
  2. In 2002, the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation released the findings concerning diet and sugar consumption and cardiovascular disease. While large studies do not find a demographic link between sugar consumption overall and ischemic heart disease, many studies have found increased risk for overall cardiovascular disease and stroke, and patients with a high-glycemic load, or frequent consumption of sugars that stimulate increased insulin release, had up to a doubled risk over 10 years, as well as lowered HDL and increased triglycerides, which are strong markers for cardiovascular disease. Intake of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), in the form of processed and fast food that combines sugars, fats and proteins, was also found to contribute to vascular complications, hardening of arteries, and impeded cellular functions, with variable clearance of AGEs consumed (10 percent of AGEs end up in the circulation, but only a third are excreted in 3 days in a health individual, and only 5 percent in a patient with diabetes or metabolic syndrome). High fructose corn syrup and other altered processed sugars were also shown to be contributing to cardiovascular risk, increasing triglyceride levels, stressing liver function, and increases esterification of fatty acids. The strong recommendation was to avoid chronic high intake of sugar, and especially AGEs and processed sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/106/4/523.full
  3. A large cohort study in 2013, by experts at the U.S. CDC, Rollins School of Public Health, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A., and the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. found that sugar consumption continued to rise between 1988 and 2004, and is decreasing a little in recent years, to about 15 percent of the daily calories for the U.S. population. This translates as a doubled risk of cardiovascular disease for the Americans consuming between 10-25 percent of their daily calories from added sugars, especially sugary drinks. With increased sugar, and processed sugars, in these soft drinks and other foods, the caloric intake from even one soda per day is substantial, and could increase cardiovascular risk significantly: http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1819573
  4. A 2015 meta-analysis of all published studies of the association between Chlamydia pneumoniae infection and atherosclerosis, conducted by experts at the Sapienza University Department of Public Health, in Rome, Italy, concluded that this now common bacterial infection may contribute to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease by enhancing the inflammatory state, now considered the key factor in pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, and that blood labs detecting Chlamydia pneumoniae IgA antibody, together with hsCRP (highly sensitive C reactive protein), fibrinogen, and IL-6 is predictive of atherosclerotic cardiovascular risk: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2015/378658/
  5. A 2002 study by the Imperial College School of Medicine and the National Heart and Lung Institute, in London, United Kingdom, found that both neurohormonal and immune status of patients are key to the assessment in chronic heart failure risk, showing that a more holistic approach is needed in medicine for cardiovascular disease: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11821625
  6. A 2014 study at the Binghampton University School of Medicine, in New York, U.S.A. found that bacterial biofilms are found in the innermost layers of almost all arterial athersclerotic plaque, and one type of biofilm studied, formed of Pseudomonas aeruglinosa, dispersed when challenged with free iron, which is released from transferrin in circulation when interacting with sufficient levels of catecholamines such as norepinephrine (adrenaline). When this free iron causes a breaking of the biofilm, enzymes are released that may affect tissues causing atherosclerotic plaque rupture and thromboses and embolism. This study provides proof of a physiological link between the hormonal states and stroke and heart attack, as well as revealing the complex nature of the pathology: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24917599
  7. Study in 2012 at Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China, showed that electroacupuncture at 4 common points improved the levels of a number of key metabolic chemicals in animals with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease induced. The levels of serum leptin, free fatty acids, triglycerides total lipid cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein were significantly lowered, while the levels of adiponectin and high-density lipoprotein were significantly increased with electrical stimulation on needles at ST36, SP6, ST40 and LV3, and less fatty degeneration occurred in the livers of these study animals: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23387211
  8. A 2008 study at Wuhan Chinese and Western Medicine Hospital, Wuhan, China, compared the cardiovascular protections of statin drugs and electroacupuncture stimulation at one point, DU16, in a randomized controlled trial of study animals. The results showed that both therapies effectively regulated triglycerides, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and nitric oxide in animals with induced hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol). Both treatment methods effectively improved the imbalance between endothelin and nitric oxide after 30 days, showing the potential to prevent cardiovascular harm and regulate blood pressure. Endothelins are proteins that constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure, while nitric oxide is a chemical that dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18184553
  9. A 2014 multi-center study in Chinese hospitals of the efficacy of acupuncture therapy integrated with standard care in the treatment of subacute stroke symptoms, involving 126 patients, found that the patients randomly assigned the acupuncture therapy showed more improvement than the patients receiving standard therapy. The point from such study is that an integration of effective acupuncture therapy with standard care is proven to improve the outcomes significantly. In this case, the hospitals administered acupuncture therapy 5 times per week for 8 weeks, utilizing both meridian points on the limbs, and scalp points, individualized for the patients: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24946625
  10. Cardioprotective effects of common Chinese herbs, Dang gui and Huang qi, or Astragalus were confirmed with research in 2006: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16619337
  11. Further information on cardioprotective effects of common Chinese herbs, Dang gui and Huang qi, or Astragalus were confirmed with research in 2007, which showed an increase in glutathione metabolism: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17325989
  12. Cardioprotective effects of European Olive leaf tincture were identified in 2003, preventing high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, while also improving insulin metabolism and providing antioxidant clearing of arteries: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12648829?
  13. A review of the chemicals and activities in European Olive Leaf (Olea Europa) tincture, by the University of Athens School of Medicine, in Athens, Greece, found that many studies now confirm the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti=ishcemic, anti-atherosclerotic, and hypolipidemia effects of the polyphenols in this herbal extract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26018920
  14. Cardioprotective effects of the unique Chinese herb, Rhodiola rosea, or Hong Jin Tian, were reviewed in 2007: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18074810
  15. A 2016 study at the Peking Union Medical College and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, in Beijing, China, found that the Chinese herb Notoginseng, or Siberian Ginseng, containing Notoginsenoside saponin, provides significant cardioprotective benefits, protecting against oxidative stress and endoplasmic reticulum stress (arterial membrane) to prevent ischemic injury. A number of pathways were elucidated to show how this works: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26888485
  16. Cardioprotective effects of Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, were reviewed in Europe in 1999, and have become standard therapy following a stroke or myocardial infarction (heart attack). Krill oil presents the high quality and most concentrated type of this supplement, with a natural preservative, unlike fish oils: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(99)07072-5/abstract
  17. Scientific study in Spain in 2010 found that the quality of fats in the diet explained the low incidence of cardiovascular disease in the population, which consumes a high amount of natural fatty foods with high content of the essential fatty acids DHA, alpha-linolenic, and oleic acid: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20463042
  18. A growing group of medical doctors, researchers, and scientists from around the world are urging a new direction in cardiovascular treatment, with growing evidence that the focus on cholesterol is not producing cardiovascular health or significantly effecting disease, but instead creating ill health by decreasing healthy fats in the diet and prescribing statin drugs with many long-term side effects and widespread deficiencies in CoQ10, steroid hormone precursors, Vitamin D3 hormone, and other beneficial terpenoids: http://www.thincs.org/
  19. A 2005 study at the Hormone Research Laboratory of Milan, Italy found that changing to a plant-based diet over an 18 week period, with a healthy intake of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, resulted in an increase in omega-3 and a significant balancing of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, with a 6 percent decrease in reactive oxygen metabolites (oxidants) and thus a dramatic drop in oxidative stress. This translates into a very dramatic drop in cardiovascular risk, hormonal health, and neurological protection: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16240844
  20. A 2003 meta-review of research of the benefits of a plant-based diet rich in plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (alpha linoleic acid or ALA), conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, notes that abundant evidence points to the significant reduction of cardiovascular risk from the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, unsaturated omega-6 fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber, and plant protein derived from a plant-based diet rich in fresh vegetables, true whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, nut and seed oils, a variety of fruits : http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/544S.full
  21. A 2015 large prospective study of nearly 7000 patients followed over a long period of time, by researchers at the University of Liverpool and the University of Warwick, in the UK, found that patients with a history of prolonged sleep times, or substantial increases in sleep duration, had a very significant increased risk of future stroke, but patients with short duration of sleep did not have a statistically significant increased risk. Such study points to the need to restore sleep quality and correct mood disorders with restorative medicine. Simply taking sleep medications and anti-depressants to achieve more sleep time did not benefit the overall health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25716357
  22. A 2014 study of sleep quality and duration in relation to cardiovascular disease, at the Dharam Vira Heart Institute, in New Delhi, India, also showed that poor sleep quality, not just short duration, was highly associated with heart disease and cardiovascular disease: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25634385
  23. A 2015 study of 16,178 men and and women over 50 years of age, sponsored by the American Heart Association and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, showed that persistent symptoms of depression were associated with a doubling of the risk of stroke. The researchers surmise that both accumulation of vascular damage and the effect on behavior, e.g. less physical activity, increased habits of smoking and drinking, and poor sleep quality, may explain the dramatic increased risk of stroke in patients who suffered a period of persistent depression. Such study shows that simply taking drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure are not enough to protect against stroke occurrence, and that a more holistic approach is needed: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/long-term-depression-may-double-stroke-risk-for-middle-aged-adults/
  24. Herbal research in China has focused on the effects of herbal chemicals on the expression of many genes involved in the ischemic process of stroke, with herbal chemicals proven to reduce the genetic expression of genes that were altered in the hippocampus of laboratory animals with induced ischemic stroke. The effects of the herbal preparations were also found to be modulatory, upregulating genetic expression that were beneficial to brain tissue repair, while downregulating genetic expression that produced negative effects: http://www.sciencedirect.com/
  25. Studies in 2010 at Beijing University found that a common Chinese herbal formula used to reduce inflammation, Huang lian Jie Du Tang, could remarkably inhibit cellular calcium overload after an ischemic stroke to decrease injury to brain neurons: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21046754
  26. A 2014 study at Hebei Medical University in China, exploring the mechanisms of effects of the Chinese herb Dan shen, or Salvia miltiorrhiza, long used to treat and prevent coronary artery disease, showed that chemicals in this herb significantly attenuate L-type calcium ion channels in heart cells to attenuate contractility, but without altering the normal function of ventricular contraction in laboratory animals. This is just one of the studied benefits that explain its traditional use and success: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25446591
  27. Studies in 2010 presented by the American College of Cardiology showed that the array of medications commonly prescribed to reduce risk for patients with metabolic syndrome are not only ineffective, but actually increased cardiovascular risk for most patients: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/15/health/research/15heart.html
  28. Studies have shown significant benefit in correcting the mechanisms of atherosclerotic plaque formation with Chinese herbal formulas. This study, published in the Oxford Journal in 2009 discusses the physiology of atherosclerotic plaque formation and explains how specific Chinese herbs, including Coptis chinensis with berberine, reverse this pathology: http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/nep126v1
  29. A study in 2010 of a specific Chinese herbal formula used in cardiovascular medicine found that this array of phytochemicals exerted significant effects modulating the inflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha that promotes the inflammation central to the formation of atherosclerotic plaque. This study at Dongguk University in South Korea details the study and findings. The herbal formula HMC05, comprised of Pinelliae ternate Ten. Ex Breitenb. (Ban xia), Atractylodes macrocephala Koidz. (Bai zhu), Gastrodia elata Blume (Tian ma), Citrus unshiu Marcow. (Zhi ke), Poria cocos Wolf (Fu ling), Crataegus pinnatifida Bunge var. typica C. K. Schneider (Shan zha), Siegesbeckia pubescens Makio. (Xi xian cao), and Coptidis japonica Makino (Huang lian), is comprised of herbs commonly used in TCM. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3130524/?tool=pmcentrez
  30. Studies in 2009 in Turkey found that the Chinese herb Bai ji li (Tribulus terrestris) was effective both in lowering high lipids as well as reducing atherosclerotic plaque and protecting the endothelial lining of blood vessels: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19269683
  31. Studies in 2009 in Turkey also found that St. John's Wort, or Hypericum, alcohol extract, was effective in lowering high lipids and improving the lipid balance and profile, while also exerting significant beneficial antioxidant effect: http://wwww.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16901489
  32. An overview of recent scientific studies of Red Rice Yeast extract by UCLA found that it was surprisingly effective in lowering high cholesterol and triglycerides, without side effects, and with a balancing or modulating action: http://www.cellinteractive.com/ucla/natural_remedies/chinese_red_rice.html
  33. A 2009 placebo-controlled human clinical trial of nattokinase plus Red Yeast Rice extract in Taiwan showed that 6 months of this regimen produced dramatic improvements in all lipid levels for patients with hyperlipidemia: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19786378
  34. A 2010 study at Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine in China found that 2 of the most common herbs in cardiovascular formulas, Dang gui and Hong hua, exerted significant antithrombotic effects in animal studies, but did not show an additive effect to the common pharmaceutical clopidorgrel: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20176099
  35. A 2001 study at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in Loma Linda, California, found that aged garlic extract is able to clear oxidized LDL (low-density lipoprotein), a major component of atherosclerotic plaque: http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/131/3/1020S
  36. A 2010 study at Henan College in China found that an herbal extract from wild rhubarb root (Da huang), aglycone, when combined with thrombolytic therapy following a stroke, exerted significant protective effects on brain microvascular membranes, reducing the risk of intercranial hemmorrhage recurrence (ICHR) and mortality, when taken after a cerebral ischemic stroke: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21322957
  37. A 2002 study at the Beijing College of TCM showed that a common Chinese herb prescribed to promote blood circulation and inhibit blood stasis worked by inhibiting thrombus formation and platelet aggregation in arteries. The herb Paeonia lactiflora (Chi shao) prolonged the prothrombin time (PTT) and exerted significant antithrombin effects, showing how traditional Chinese herbs are scientifically proven in medical efficacy: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2364461
  38. A 2012 study at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, found that a key chemical in Chinese herbs, tetrahydrocurcumin, significantly reduced high homocysteine levels and exerted significant reduction of oxidative damage in laboratory animals with induced stroke, or cerebral ischemia. Three common Chinese herbs are derived from curcumin, E zhu, Yu jin, and Jiang huang, and optimized curcumin supplements are now available as well, to deliver a more effective dose of tetrahydorcurcumin that is more bioavailable: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22212488
  39. A 2010 study at the University of Hong Kong, China, found that the Chinese herb Lycium barbarum (Gou qi zi berry and Di gu pi), commonly called wolfberry, contained polysaccharides that exerted significant neuroprotective effects on brain cells in the cortex exposed to high homocysteine levels, and homocysteine-induced neurotoxicity: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20157238
  40. A 2011 study at the China Agricultural University and College of Veterinary Medicine, in Beijing, China, found that an active chemical in Lycium barbarum (Di gu pi and Gou qi zi) significantly enhanced outcomes with a vaccine created to protect against Chlamydiphila, or Chlamydia, which is now shown to be associated with inflammatory pathogenesis of atherosclerosis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20942772
  41. A 2009 study at the Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, in Guangzhou, China, found that the common Chinese herbal formula for infection and inflammation, Huang lian Jie Du Tang, may alleviate the infection with Chlamydia pneumoniae, which is associated with atherosclerosis. This randomized controlled study on laboratory animals provides proof that the formula, which consists of Huang lian (Coptis chinensis), Huang qin (Scutellaria baicalensis), Huang bai (Phellodendron chinensis), and Zhi zi (Gardenia jasminoides), improved atherosclerotic damage to the arteries and reduced plaque formation. These herbs are also the source of the active chemicals berberine, baicalein, and wogonin, all studied and shown to effectively prevent cardiovascular disease: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19526793
  42. A 2014 study at Beijing University and the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, in Beijing, China, found that a simple Chinese herbal formua, called Shuang Shen Ning Xin, significantly aids the recovery of heart muscle after a heart attack, decreasing mitochondrial injury and protecting the function of myocardial cells. This formula was composed of an alcohol extract of 23 herbs, including Ren shen (ginseng), Salvia militiorrhiza (Dan shen) and Corydalis (Yan hu suo): http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2014/180965/
  43. A 2010 randomized controlled human clinical study at the Fourth Military Medical University, in Xi'an, China, found that a simple pretreatment with electroacupuncture prior to a heart valve replacement surgery lowered troponin 1 levels and reduced risk of ischemia reperfusion injury, a major contributor to postoperative death from this procedure. Since this treatment, here performed daily for 5 days prior to surgery at the points P6, LU7 and LU2 for 30 minutes, would be simple and inexpensive, and come with no adverse effects, it seems only sensible to seek out this therapy prior to any cardiac surgery. A course of cardiovascular herbs and nutrient medicines stopped before the surgery would also be preventive of risk without any chance of contraindication with blood thinners or other drugs if stopped a few days before surgery: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20172127