The cholesterol myth is difficult to bury (WDDTY, vol 3, No. 1) despite increasing evidence that high cholesterol per se is meaningless as a marker for heart disease risk. A study carried out in Wales in 1990 discovered that the culprit was more likely to be the blood clotting factor fibrinogen than cholesterol. Men with fibrinogen levels in the top fifth were four times more likely to suffer from heart disease than those with levels in the bottom fifth. Smokers, apparently, have high levels of fibrinogen, which would explain the long held concerns about smoking.
Research suggests that free radicals in the body are a major contributor towards heart disease. When oxygen is utilized in the body, it burns food for energy but also burns germs and toxic substances and invaders like pesticides. These little fires give off “sparks”, or free radicals, which can cause damage to cell membranes, chromosomes and enzymes if left unchecked. A healthy diet, together with adequate intake of vitamins A, B2, B3, C, E, and selenium, plus minerals such as copper, zinc, manganese and sulphur (with supplements if necessary) will help put out these fires and protect against the harmful effects of free radicals.Stress is also a significant factor, both in raising cholesterol levels and causing high blood pressure. An easy and effective way to protect yourself against heart disease is to follow a stress reduction programme, whether it be using yoga, autogenic training or some other method. Regular, moderate exercise is another factor.
A research study carried out in Berne, Switzerland, and Edinburgh discovered that vitamin E reduces the risk of angina and blood cholesterol.
A clove of garlic a day can reduce chances of heart attack, according to a study by Dr Jorg Grunwald, head of the medical and scientific department of Lichtwer Pharma (a German based company which manufactures garlic pills).
Men drinking more than two cups of coffee a day are increasing their risk or heart disease, according to a Norwegian study (British Medical Journal, 1 March 1990).
Low levels of magnesium have also been linked to heart disease. A study of 655 men aged 45-59 found that those suffering ischaemic heart disease had a daily magnesium intake 12 per cent lower than those with no heart symptoms (The Lancet, 22 August 1992).
But your best protection is still a highly varied wholefood diet low in sugar and processed foods.