Shortly after arriving at the school during my second year, my father was admitted to the hospital with a heart condition called heart failure. At the time I was not familiar with this condition, but my first education came when my father woke up one night with a feeling of drowning as his lungs filled up with fluid. He was quickly transported to the hospital where the able physicians worked to force fluid from his body through the use of water pills and medication designed to lower blood pressure. Although I was grossly ignorant about this condition at the time, I quickly decided that I would declare war on it after my father was handed a patient pamphlet on the condition that told him that he had a 50% chance of dying from the condition in the five years that would follow. I was angered by the near hopeless expectations of conventional medicine and determined to get to the bottom of why my dad had come down with the condition and what I could do to reverse it. This determination led me to investigate natural alternatives to treating heart failure and led me to a book that changed the course of my life and the life of my father as well…I’ll tell you more in a minute.
The incidence of heart failure is increasing dramatically in our society. So, to what can we attribute this rise? The conventional medical establishment attributes this to these main factors: increased survival fromheart attacks, advances in emergency medicine, and the fact that people are living longer, the presupposition being that heart failure is a natural condition that occurs with advancing age. Although, these factors may play a role, I think that they only scratch the surface of the underlined cause of heart failure.
What is heart failure?
Heart failure is a condition where the heart is not able to meet the needs of the organs of the body. There can be many causes of heart failure, however, it all amounts to an inability to circulate enough blood to feed the tissues of the body. This can result in organ failure, difficulty breathing, dizziness, fluid buildup in the lungs and ultimately death.
What really causes heart failure?
My father had had a heart attack many years prior to his heart failure diagnosis, at which time he was also diagnosed with diabetes. However, he had enjoyed many years of heart health and circulation appeared to be normal in the blood vessels of his heart. So, a good question to ask at the onset of any symptoms (which I would later learn in pharmacy school is a cardinal question in medicine) is “why now?” If his heart attack had happened many years prior and his heart circulation was good, why was he just now developing signs of heart failure. Here are 4 factors that I feel are significant causes of our near epidemic incidences of heart failure in our society. This list is by no means exhaustive, however, it should be sufficient for our discussion.
1. Medications. This is medicine’s dark little secret, yes, many medications can increase the risk of heart failure and are likely a significant cause of heart failure. These medications include, but are not limited to, statins and beta blockers. Statin medications are commonly prescribed to heart patients to lower cholesterol. As you will learn shortly, this class of medication inhibits the body’s ability to produce a “miracle nutrient” that ultimately prevents and treats heart failure. Stain medications include: Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor, Vytorin and any generic medication that ends in “statin”, such as lovastatin. Beta Blockers are a class of medication often used to treat elevated blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and other heart problems associated with a fast or irregular heart beat. This medication is commonly prescribed to people who have had a heart attack in order to improve the repair of the heart after the attack. Unfortunately, this medication is notorious for leading to congestive heart failure mainly due to its impact on the ability of heart to beat strongly. It has also been noted that this medication can inhibit the body’s ability to make the “miracle nutrient” that we will talk about shortly. Beta blockers include any medication whose generic name ends in “olol”, such as metoprolol. There are many other medications that can play a role in the development of heart failure so look each one of your medications up to determine if this is a potential side effect. The danger comes in medicine’s lack of acceptance that pharmaceuticals such as statins and beta blockers can be a cause heart failure.
2. Uncontrolled Elevated Blood Pressure – Although I am not a great fan of many medications used to treat elevated blood pressure, that does not mean that you do not have to pay attention to blood pressure. There comes a time when getting your blood pressure down is an important factor in maintaining health. When you want to build big muscles, you go to a gym and you lift weights which cause the muscle to grow larger in order to deal with the extra load that it has to work against. When blood pressure is elevated the heart must pump harder in order to circulate the blood to the organs. High blood pressure is like weights to the heart and the heart, being a muscle, responds to the elevated blood pressure by growing larger. You might think that this is a positive thing, however, many people end up with what is called a “boggy heart”. Much like a muscle bound bodybuilder, the muscles look big but they are not very functional. A boggy heart is no different, it looks big and strong but it is too big and bulky to efficiently push blood through the body. For natural alternatives to elevated blood pressure, see our protocol for hypertension. Hypertension should be treated and monitored by a qualified physician, especially if you are showing complications of the elevated blood pressure.
3. Dysfunctional Valves – If your heart’s valves are damaged, then the heart becomes less efficient at circulating blood. Valvular disorders require proper diagnosis and treatment, however, I will say that there has been some fascinating research showing that a deficiency of this “miracle nutrient” can result in valve damage. Supplementing with this nutrient can help to protect the heart and its valves.
4. Mitochondrial Deficiency and Dysfunction – The mitochondria play a critical role in energy production in the organs and cells of the body. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell where the majority of energy is produced for our body. Without this vital structure we could not have survived as a species and if these structures do not work properly many different diseases can settle in and heart failure is one such condition. For many people who are diagnosed with heart failure, they are suffering from a mitochondrial deficiency and dysfunction that is at the heart of their condition. This is especially true when we cannot find a medical reason for the heart failure. There are many things that you can do to improve the mitochondria of your body.
The Discovery of the “Miracle Nutrient”
As I began investigating and searching for a natural solution to my father’s ailment I came across a small, paperback book called Coenzyme Q10 – The Miracle Nutrient written by Dr. Emile G. Bliznakov, president and scientific director of the Lupus Research Institute. Aside from the hokey title, I was pleased to see how well referenced and researched the information was. The book covered this critical nutrient in great detail, devoting a significant number of pages to heart failure, a hot area of research for this nutrient called Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10 for short). There were many interesting findings presented in the book, here are a few highlights:
1. Researchers named CoQ10, “ubiquinone” when it was discovered because it was ubiquitous in the body, literally being found in virtually every cell.
2. When the body reaches a 25% deficiency, disease begins to settle in and when 75% deficiency occurs…you die. That is how important this nutrient is to the body.
3. Organs and cells that are most active have a tendency to require more coQ10 than other, less active, tissues. These highly active organs and cells are most susceptible to failure when the coQ10 levels begin to drop. These include the: heart, liver, immune system and kidneys.
4. People who have heart failure and valve disorders have a deficiency of CoQ10 in those tissues.
5. CoQ10 supplementation was an effective way to increase blood levels and more importantly to reverse heart failure and other conditions.
6. After the age of 50, supplementation may be necessary to maintain optimal levels of CoQ10.
7. Certain medications and condition may cause deficiency and treatment with CoQ10 can reverse this deficiency.
There were many other findings that were reported in the book, those are just a few. This book has since become outdated, the last version was published in 1995. Since then, there have been hundreds of studies published on CoQ10 that have added to our understanding of this powerful nutrient. Much of this research has led to more and more advanced forms of CoQ10 supplements which enhance the absorption and utilization of the fat soluble nutrient.
It was difficult to find CoQ10 supplements in the US at the time I read the book and when you found, it was quite expensive. Regardless, I hunted it down and after giving up food for a few days was able to afford a bottle for my Dad. He was skeptical at first, but after insisting he agreed to take it. He saw nearly immediate improvements. It is now 14 years later and he still takes his CoQ10 every day and both he and my dear mother attribute his survival and heart health to CoQ10 and that little book that still sits on my book shelf to this day.
Tonight I will, unfortunately, be attending a wake of the father of a friend of the family. It wasn’t until after his passing that I was informed that he had suffered with heart failure and ultimately passed due to complications of a failing heart. Although I realize that something always gets us in the end, I can’t help but feel a bit of outrage about someone who was taken before his time by such a condition as heart failure. Although, I can never be sure, I believe that had one of his doctors been familiar with and recommended some of the natural products that can help to improve the mitochondria of the heart, he may be alive today. Below I list some of these recommendations:
What to Do to Normalize a Failing Heart:
1. Ubiquinol – Ubiquinol is a newer, activated form of CoQ10 and may provide even more benefit than the standard CoQ10 (ubiquinone). The activated CoQ10 can go to work immediately to enhance energy production and energize the heart. It also has a tendency to absorb better and enter the mitochondria more readily resulting in high blood levels and improved results. Take 100 mg two to three times daily. (Higher doses may be used. If you are using standard CoQ10 (ubiquinone) then you will need to use higher doses 200 mg two to three times daily.
2. Mitochondrial Energy Optimizer – This formula contains a number of nutrients that are known to support the mitochondria and optimize their energy producing function. Included in the formula are Acetyl-l-carnitine to enhance the utilization of fat for energy, alpha-lipoic acid to protect the cell and the mitochondria from free-radical damage, Rhodiola to stimulate the production of energy in the mitochondria as well as other compounds to protect the cell and enhance energy production. Take 2 capsules twice daily.
3. Taurine – Taurine is an amino acid-like nutrient that helps to regulate and strengthen heart beat. Take 2,000 mg three times daily.
4. Corvalen (D-Ribose) – Ribose is a sugar compound used in the production of energy within the cell. This special sugar can help to increase the production of energy in the mitochondria and improve the strength of the heart. 5 grams twice daily.
5. Magnesium – Magnesium deficiency is common, especially in people with heart failure. Many medications are known to deplete the body’s magnesium and potassium and these medications such as water pills, are used by many with heart failure. We recommend magnesium aspartate 75 mg capsules 2 capsules twice daily.
6. Omega-3 fatty acids – There is no doubt that omega-3 fatty acids can work to protect the heart and enhance circulation. Although, omega-3 fatty acids have not specifically been studied in heart failure, by protecting the circulation and decreasing inflammation, this supplement will no doubt provide benefit. Recommended dosage: Carlson’s Finest Fish Oil 1 Tablespoon daily or Your Prescription for Health Super Omega-3 Fish Oil Capsules 3 Capsules twice daily.
7. Aerobic Exercise – Aerobic exercise has been shown to increase the number and size of mitochondria found in the cells of the heart and throughout the body. This is a crucial component of any comprehensive heart failure treatment plan. The key is to do only a little more than your body is used to at each exercise session. You want to make slow and consistant progress whenever you have been diagnosed with heart failure as it may be quite easy to overwhelm the heart. Talk to your cardiologist about supervised exercise programs that may be offered in your area. Do not underestimate the importance of aerobic exercise in strengthening your heart.