We just heard the news of George Steinbrenner dyeing of a heart attack at 80 years of age. Where it is a sad event and occurrence, it seems that Mr. Steinbrenner has been dealing with health issues for the past few years, highlighted by the fact that he put his sons in charge of daily operations of the Yankee’s organization back in 1997.

Have you ever scratched your head after hearing about someone who seems to be the picture of health; fit, exercises and eats right…but then fall victim to a heart attack?

Add to that the fact that approximately half of all people who do have a heart attack actually have elevated cholesterol…does it make you wonder if we are doing all that we can to assess and prevent any cardiovascular issues?

I believe a lot of this misconception on what we need to do is highlighted by pharmaceutical company’s commercials insinuating that all you have to do is take a medication to keep your cholesterol down, and all will be fine. I remember a particular commercial with a guy named “Dean K”. He began to say how he couldn’t believe that he had a heart attack, and as he was in the hospital all he could think about was his wife. So he said he then began exercising, watching what he eats and started taking a cholesterol lowering medication, Lipitor.

I found it to be a rather powerful commercial. Putting aside that the commercial slants on ‘preventing a heart attack is as easy as taking Lipitor’, and the fact that the makers Lipitor have gotten into hot water in the past when their commercials were slanted to make one believe that Dr. Robert Jarvik, the maker of the artificial heart, was a practicing medical physician, which he was not…with the message in the commercial that “Dean K” almost didn’t make it, and what would his wife do without him… I am sure spread some emotional impact.

What are the risk factors for heart disease and what should we be monitoring?
First of all, I do believe cholesterol does need to be monitored; there are genetic predispositions as well as lifestyle issues, such as an unhealthy diet and hormonal imbalance which can lead to dangerously high cholesterol levels. I also believe that the “the lower the cholesterol the better” mantra that exists in certain practices of medicine is very dangerous. Cholesterol is a pro-hormone, it provides the material for all of our other hormones to be produced and studies have shown that total cholesterol below 140, can actually increase issues of morbidity.

Allow me to share with you brief and comprehensive look at other risk factors for cardiovascular illness.

Triglycerides are the form that fat takes when it is being stored for energy in your body. Triglycerides, liked cholesterol, are vital for human life but unhealthy if at too high a level. Causes of high triglyceride levels can be soft drinks, fruit juice, a high fat diet, white bread, flour and sugar, birth control pills, alcohol, caffeine, and others.

Homocysteine is another very important risk factor to be monitored. Homocysteine is an amino acid that promotes free radical production, as well as elevates triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Studies indicate that high Homocysteine levels are directly related to strokes, peripheral vascular disease, and cardiovascular disease.

Fibrinogen is a clot-promoting substance in your blood. Elevated levels of this molecule can cause a heart attack all by itself.

Lipoprotein(A) is a small cholesterol particle that can cause inflammation and clog blood vessels when present in the body in elevated levels. High Lipoprotein A levels can greatly increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease. An interesting point is that taking statin drugs to lower your HDL and LDL can actually lead to an increase of Lipoprotein A in the body…thus the crucial need for adequate cholesterol and cardiovascular management.

C-Reactive Protein is a protein that is found in the blood. Its levels become elevated when the body detects and infection or need for inflammation (which is often a sign of infection.) C-reactive protein levels can also rise due to a previous infections, obesity, and even depression. Elevated levels may also indicate future problems including cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.

These are all very accurate and reliable tests to assess ones cardiovascular risk factors. Unfortunately they are not generally performed in a regular check up, whether it’s due to a non-reimbursable insurance issue or the physician just chooses not to test for them.

For a complete cardiac profile, in addition you having your cholesterol checked, have your physician check for the above factors as well.
And what if we have these tests drawn and find out that they are in unhealthy levels? Not to worry, there are allopathic and natural remedies that have been shown very successful to pull everything back in line.

If you were to ask me, what are the main nutrients you would take to prevent as well as support my own heart - I would tell you the nutrients that I regularly do take to do this.

Fish Oils- Omega 3 fatty acids most efficiently come in the form of fish oils. They can lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of coronary heart disease. They must be consumed in food or supplements. And if you are looking to supplement with fish oil, quality really matters. Many 'off the shelf' types of fish oil can do more harm than good, possible already being rancid as well as containing toxic heavy metals such as mercury.

Nattokinase- An ancient nutrient through food sources in Japan, Nattokinase is relatively a new kid on the block. This amazing nutrient that has shown to actually dissolve clots - and where one must be careful and let their doctor know if they are on blood thinning medications, this one is my absolute favorite insurance policy. Other benefits found through research are that it can lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure, improve circulation and even support bone density.

CoQ10- Clinical research suggests that using Coenzyme Q10 alone or in combination with other drug therapies and nutritional supplements many help prevent or treat heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Researchers believe that the beneficial effect of CoQ10 in the prevention and treatment of heart disease is due to its ability to improve energy production in cells, inhibit blood clot formation, and act as an antioxidant.

Plant Sterolins- Plant sterollins are a great addition for cholesterol management in addition to fish oils. I have seen tremendous benefits in these knocking down LDL, avoiding possible liver tie ups and even CoQ10 depletions that are often seen with the statin family of medications.

For more information on healthcare, from an integrative point of view, visit www.longevityleague.com, and to have an essential health database in the palm or your hands, check out iHormones in the Apple App Store, which covers everything from hormones, to nutrition, to testing, up to date news and more.

Author's Bio: 

Robert B Kress RPH CCN, also known as the Renegade Pharmacist, educates both wellness clients and other practitioners on the ways of integrative health.

With his wife Amy they have owned their own longevity pharmacy, and now keep in touch with people at their website www.longevityleague.com as well as through their all things health app, iHormones found in the Apple App Store.