Heart Health

How to reverse heart disease? Control the “Big 4” you probably don’t know about!

By Kim Crawford, M.D. Last updated: November 3, 2018
how to reverse heart disease

Intro to how to reverse heart disease: Everyday risk factors

If you are seeking the answer for how to reverse heart disease, you’re in the right place. It is also likely that you or a loved one was diagnosed with heart disease which is why you’re reading this.how to reverse heart disease

First of all, let me establish that we’re talking about coronary artery disease. Many also call it “hardening of the arteries.”

This is the #1 killer in the U.S. but it certainly doesn’t need to be so prevalent nor so deadly.

Many traditionally trained Physicians (as I was) who haven’t “kept up” will tell you that you cannot reverse this process.

On the contrary, I’m here to tell you we have radio-graphic evidence that certain lifestyle changes make a huge difference.

How to reverse heart disease?

By controlling what you know about certain things such as blood pressure, weight, cholesterol (but you don’t know the whole cholesterol story I’ll bet), smoking, exercise, and alcohol intake. Further, by controlling four other highly important factors which influence your “placquing index,” the “stickiness” of LDL cholesterol particles, and the secret to being able to reverse existing soft placquing.

Let’s talk for a minute here about placquing:

Small oxidized LDL cholesterol particles cling to inflammatory nicks on your coronary artery linings called the endothelium. The inflammation is likely a result of the LDL’s sticking to the endothelium. However, some researchers postulate the inflammation occurs first or at least simultaneously. At any rate, we’ll discuss the LDL situation and the inflammation situation separately in a bit.

To resume, LDL’s build on LDL’s and other “bad fats” but mostly more LDL’s. The only salvation we have is they get “chomped off” by helpful HDL particles or just are forced into a physiological state where they cannot be as sticky and inflammatory. That is the “good stuff” we’ll get into here.

Now, after the LDL particles are “hanging around for a while” they tend to collect minerals such as calcium and iron. Once placques are “cemented in,” we can’t get them off. So we have a “window” in which behavioral techniques can work. They work well, but must all be followed together.

Can some degree of placquing that is partially calcified be reversed? Well, we see cardiac calcium scans go down so the answer is likely yes to that as well. The bottom line is you have nothing to lose and everything to gain if you create a physiologic environment which discourages coronary artery placquing. Know that I am going to ask you to make some lifestyle changes that might be hard at first. Also, if you are reading this “for someone else” you can apply what I discuss in this article to yourself to prevent heart disease. First, let’s review the basics that (I HOPE!) you know about already.

How to reverse heart disease? Lose Weight

Unbelievably enough, obesity was recently declared the #1 risk factor for coronary artery disease. You might think smoking is #1, but it was “beaten” by obesity as the deadliest risk factor for heart disease. If this is an issue for you, we can get it under control together.

You may be one of the millions of Americans who has been unable to lose unwanted pounds. Another, more common occurrence is you may have gained back what you lost too. This is sadly typical since most people use organized diet plans which include packaged, overly-processed dry or frozen foods. In fact,  this is one of the reasons it is indeed difficult to lose weight.

metabolism boosters supplementsOrganized “group” weight loss programs set you up for failure due to what is actually in their packaged foods.

They may say “eat your own foods, ” but they make it easy for you to buy their foods and count their points.

Take this industry and marry it to fast foods and you’ve got a recipe for weight gain.

If you do not get this under control, you set yourself up for many risks from osteoarthritis to heart disease to cancer.

New Year, New Plan, New You

So this year, let’s “do this together, healthfully,” and I’ll help you get the weight off for good!

A part of what you need to do eating-wise is to eat healthfully. You don’t need to become a vegan as Bill Clinton famously became, but you DO need to alter your basic eating habits. Consuming some supplements will also help, but more on this to come.

What’s the formula? Clean eating. More on this to come too. Eating “clean” means eating an anti-inflammatory whole foods diet. Next, you need to fix leptin-ghrelin issues with an appropriate supplement. You will benefit from other helpful supplements as well. Often, a cravings-control supplement is useful. Metabolism boosting supplements “help the cause.”

benefits of acetyl l-carnitineA natural appetite suppressant may be in order.

Moreover, fitness is a must.

Further, to start you off with some great recipes, know that egg whites are high in branched chain amino acids which in turn, help you lose weight.

So here you go: Egg white nutrition.

How to reverse heart disease? Don’t Smoke.

Smoking is one of the worst habits you can have. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 toxins. That’s right! Shocking! Smoking causes the blood vessels in the top layers of the skin to constrict, giving smokers more wrinkles and a gray-ish pallor to their complexion. Smoking causes the skin to thin out due to this decrease in microvascular circulation, making lines and wrinkles more prominent. It also reduces the production of collagen, which is required to keep the skin firm.

One study of 25 sets of identical twins (one a lifelong smoker, the other a non-smoker) by British researchers found the skin of the smoker was 25 percent thinner than the non-smokers. In a few cases, the skin was up to 40 percent thinner. Your facial appearance is one of many reasons why you shouldn’t smoke. I’m trying to appeal to your vanity here. First, the weight, next the wrinkles. The look of your face and body reflect what is “going on inside.” I can help you stop smoking. SAMe and L-tyrosine supplements will raise the brain chemical you are low on that is making you cigarette-addicted (dopamine).

How to reverse heart disease? Control your blood pressure.

High blood pressure is quite a common condition and is a major public health problem. The American Heart Association estimates high blood pressure affects approximately one in three adults in the United States or about 76.4 million people. Physiologically, the long-term force of the blood pumping against your artery walls is high enough to eventually cause health problems, such as kidney disease, heart disease or strokes.

Blood pressure is determined by a combination of the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and more constricted narrower your arteries are, the higher your blood pressure. You can have (hypertension) high blood pressure for years with no symptoms. However, damage to blood vessels continues along progressively, added to the placquing and what is called “endothelial dysfunction” of the heart’s arteries and all other arteries as well.

Fortunately, high blood pressure can be quite easily detected. Most cases of hypertension are also easily controlled with weight loss, salt restriction, and medication.  A brief note here about nitric oxide benefits. “NO” helps maintain the “integrity” of our vascular lining, our endothelium. When this endothelium is challenged, as with hypertension, placquing or just diabetes, our intrinsic “NO” levels go down, and supplemental “NO” is required. (Just planting that thought.) Of course, smoking tanks our “NO” levels big time.

Control Diabetes

food is better than a natural appetite suppressant supplement With the overweight/obesity epidemic in America comes the diabetes epidemic.

Diabetes is all-too-prevalent and so is “pre-diabetes.” “Pre-diabetes” is what A4M doctors call having a problem with “glycation.”

I’ll get into “glycation” when I talk about the triad of important “fixes” for coronary placquing. These include oxidative stress, inflammation, and glycation.

Just be aware that having a high blood sugar contributes to vascular issues including small vessel issues and is part of the “placque-friendly” environment we want to avoid. You should know that a ” normal blood sugar ” is lower than you or your doctor thinks it is.

If you have “frank diabetes” you need to achieve your ideal body weight and take medication correctly to keep your blood sugar as close to the normal range as possible. You need to be rather strict about eating a whole foods, healthy diet. I’ll discuss this more in a bit.

Control Cholesterol

Abnormal blood lipid levels increase the risk of coronary heart disease. This has traditionally been taken to mean any of the following would be a risk factor: high total cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides, high levels of low-density lipoprotein or low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

We now know that LDL and HDL are the “major players” with triglycerides “still counting.” However, it is more important that your doctor is “keeping up” with what is now state of the art for a good two years. I’m not just talking about measuring serum lipids, I’m talking about an “NMR lipoprotein profile”. If this is not done, it could be jeopardizing your life.

Take a look:

Be aware of Family history

All of the risk factors in this paragraph are called “non-modifiable risk factors.” Actually, that’s where traditional medicine and functional/integrative medicine part. We KNOW that “you are not your genes” and you can indeed reduce your inherited or genetic risks by doing what I’ll be instructing you to do shortly.

Simply getting old is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Again, this is something we can now modify. Your family’s history of cardiovascular disease is a risk factor you should take into account.  If a first-degree blood relative has had coronary artery disease or stroke before the age of 55 years (for a male relative) or 65 years (for a female relative), your risk will be higher if you “do nothing about it.”

Regarding gender, men are at greater risk of heart disease than pre-menopausal women. Yet those risks equal out for post-menopausal women. If a woman is on BHRT, there are studies suggesting this improves her “cardiac profile.” The whole “hormone thing” is fraught with big pharma manipulated studies and political buy-offs in my opinion. It’s a topic in and of itself, but I believe there are plenty of studies showing that synthetic hormones are harmful while bioidentical hormones are helpful.

Ethnicity comes into play too when we’re talking risks. Persons of African or Asian ancestry residing in the U.S. are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than other racial groups.

Inactivity is yet another risk factor for heart disease. Get active!

Your risk of heart disease goes up a full 50% by not exercising. I have all sorts of articles on this website about types of exercise that can be done to fulfill your exercise requirements. It’s really not all that hard. The first step is to simply “get moving.”

Exercise should be an essential part of everyone’s life. Healthy amounts of exercise are key, though, as too much exercise can cause all sorts of physical damage from free radicals. Free radical damage = oxidative stress. We’ll get into how to get rid of this in the next section.

For those of you who ARE exercising, please be aware that studies have shown that excessive exercise causes oxidative stress created by free radicals. However, if you like being an elite athlete as I also was, all you need to do is add enough anti-oxidant power to combat the excess free radicals. Yes, I’ll tell you exactly how below.

Get medical clearance if needed, but then start a regimen you enjoy. I know that you know this already. I’m just giving you a gentle reminder. Now let’s start with cleaning up those mysterious four things most people and many doctors are not aware of that can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.

Oxidative Stress – the basics (1)

You will have oxidative stress if you don’t eat enough colorful fruits and veggies. Notably, about 12-15 servings per day are needed. You increase your oxidative stress if you fly a lot, are in the sun a lot, and/or are exposed to city-type pollution. Eating processed foods also adds to the problem as does smoking and being overweight or obese.

Oxidative stress – the “fix”:

You need to eat approximately 15 servings of fruits and veggies daily (organic, non-GMO as a big recommendation here) or you need to “juice.” Juicing is when you get whole vegetables and fruits and make blended concoctions several times daily. A third less expensive option is to get a good, pharma-grade supplement containing non-GMO, organic dried veggies and/or fruits that you can make into drinks 1-2x daily. We have this in our store; AWS Red and AWS Green Superfoods.

Inflammation: (2)

Obesity or overweight status causes internal inflammation as do poor eating habits which means eating inflammatory foods. Note, inflammation worsens oxidative stress and vice versa.

Inflammatory eating speeds the aging process in all cells and contributes significantly to the causation of heart disease. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just read up on my anti-inflammatory diet.

There are foods you need to eliminate from your diet. Did you know highly processed foods, junk food, and fast food can all trigger inflammation?  Sugar is another huge problem. It’s so inflammatory that it can damage DNA. Weight also becomes part of the “cycle.” The worse you eat, the more you weigh, the more inflamed you are, and the more weight you’ll then gain!

Let’s go back to processed foods for a moment. Why are processed foods so bad? Well, food companies do not want you to know that they contain chemicals, pesticides, food dyes and colors, artificial ingredients and other harmful compounds; these are all highly inflammatory and toxic. Other inflammatory foods include starches and non-sprouted grains. If you don’t get inflammation under control, you will continue to have progressive coronary artery disease. Most people need supplements such as curcumin and fish oils and, often, more powerful supplements.

Glycation – a little-known issue: (3)

What is glycation? It occurs when you have a fasting blood sugar that is too high; high enough to contribute to coronary artery placquing.  I don’t mean blood sugar which is diabetic type high meaning the level that “ordinary doctors” pay attention to. I mean a fasting blood sugar that is higher than about 80-85 mg/dl. It too is associated with being overweight and eating an inflammatory diet. So, in essence, this toxic triad of OS, inflammation, and glycation all pretty much go hand in hand. You can see that, right?

Glycation is usually controllable with supplements such as chromium nicotinate, alpha lipoic acid and berberine and/or glucomod, along with weight reduction and proper anti-inflammatory eating.

Drink Less: Too much alcohol is bad for your heart

Yes, two drinks per day for males and one drink per day for females reduces your risk of heart disease. Now, after this is where it gets to be “too much”; becomes a bit fuzzy. There have been studies on “heavy drinkers” (more than 5 drinks per day) and heart disease. There seems to be a correlation here. However,”in-between,” the data is just-well-fuzzy. I would recommend erring on the side of caution until we know more.

Learn to relax and get daily stress relief! (4)

All types of stress impact your body and add to your risk of heart disease.

Prolonged stress means an increased level of adrenaline which will constrict blood flow to small blood vessels and eventually medium sized vessels. It also means levels of toxic placque-accelerating cortisol.

Try to fit some type of relaxation into your day. Some examples include exercise or meditation. This should not be as hard to do as it is, right? Please try, and add adrenal fatigue supplements and aromatherapy as needed. This is an important lab value few doctors or people pay attention to. Ever heard the expression “stress kills?” Well, it’s, unfortunately, true.

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 44 percent of Americans say their stress levels have increased over the past five years. What about yours? If you think yours’ have, you need a fasting cortisol, and a plaquing index checked. If your doctor says you do NOT, then email me!

Brief aside:

Many people take probiotics for health but do you know that we seriously need them for weight loss too? Yes, indeed and there’s more. Probiotics will not work well without prebiotics. As a result, you need a pre-pro combo which must be refrigerated. There you go! I needed to make sure you knew that one. It makes weight maintenance a whole lot easier!


If you find all of this a bit over-whelming and think it is impossible, then find yourself a doctor like me for guidance. With the right “life plan” you can absolutely reverse your heart disease and decrease medications for all associated conditions.

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