They probably are, to some degree; you might as well face it. And I’m speaking to everybody who is middle-aged or older. And that includes me, and I’m 66.
I heard from a 60 year old man recently who said he went in for a routine EKG and stress test. He was not having any problems or symptoms or complaints. He had no history of heart disease. And he passed the treadmill test with flying colors. They could find nothing wrong in his readings. But afterwards, his heart didn’t slow back down and “recover” as fast as it should have. After 5 minutes of rest, his heart rate was still well over 100. They didn't like that. They took it as a very bad sign, even though there were no other bad indicators.
So, they sent him to a heart hospital for further testing, and what they found out through scans and other tests is that one of his coronary arteries was almost completely blocked. So, he was immediately treated with angioplasty, and a stent was put in.
Putting aside the question of how effective that is, I want to talk about how silent his heart disease was. If that was true of him, don’t you think that it’s likely that there are thousands of others out there who are like him, who have one or more blocked arteries in their heart and don’t know it? And, don’t you think the number could even be in the millions? I do.
I think it’s best to just assume that everybody who is middle-aged or older has some arterial plaque. And I’m sure that plenty of people who are young have some too. I’m sure there are children who have some as well. Just think of it as a universal affliction to which all humans are heir.
When I was 60, I had a carotid artery ultra-sound done, which measures the thickness of the carotid arteries, which carry blood to the brain. The radiologist told me afterwards, with glee, that I have the arteries of someone 20 years younger, so 40. Well, in that case, I definitely have some plaque because surely the average 40 year old does.
To age without developing some plaque may not even be possible. Or, if it is possible, it may be very rare. And the truth is that the body can tolerate some. I’ve read that an artery can be blocked by 2/3, and yet blood flow can still be considered normal, with little or no reduction in exercise capacity and other things.
My point in telling you all this is to make you realize that heart disease is a disease that you have to fight every day, all the time. Just assume you are heading towards it and have it to some degree already, but your goal is to slow down the progression of it and minimize it as much as possible. Having none is probably not a realistic expectation. But surely, if you do nothing, and just eat the same crap that most people eat, and be as lazy about exercise as most people are, and allow yourself to get fat, as most people do, then you should fully expect to develop heart disease and in a full-blown way. And if you add in some bad habits, such as smoking, then forget about it; it’s time to reduce the deductible on your medical insurance.
It’s true that heart disease is a silent disease- until something bad happens. You have to fight it every single day of your life by eating as healthily as you can, and keeping your body fat as low as possible, and exercising diligently and faithfully, and avoiding all bad habits. And if you do all that, you’re still likely to develop it some, but not to where it will ever cause you any recognizable trouble.
In February 2017, the British Medical Journal published the largest meta-analysis ever showing that Vitamin D does protect against colds and flus. The head of the project, Professor Adrin Martineau, said that they found that Vitamin D was more effective at preventing the flu than flu shots are. I wonder if he thought about how politically incorrect it was to say that.
Fortunately, I have NEVER had a flu shot. I wish I could say I have never had any shots, but I do remember being vaccinated as a child. I remember the polio- vaccine-laced sugar cubes they distributed to us in the 1st grade. I can still see the tray in my mind with those neatly arranged sugar cubes. And I’m sure I had whatever other vaccines were administered in the 1950s, although it was much fewer than they have today.
But, I would never consider having a flu shot- even if I knew in advance that I had to suffer through the flu. I’d rather suffer through it. But, the fact is that I haven’t had the flu in so long, I can’t remember the last time I had it. It’s been a lot of years. Maybe I had it in the 1990s. I definitely haven’t had it in the 21st century.
And for a long time I have been taking 5000 IUs of Vitamin D3 every day. Do I think it’s helped me stay well? Yes, I do.
I am going to have my blood level of Vitamin D tested next month, as I do every April. I do a whole panel of blood tests every April; it’s very comprehensive. And if you’re interested, I order it from the Life Extension Foundation in Florida. It costs about $300, but they check everything, including your hormone levels. It’s called the Male Panel, and their phone number is 800 544- 4440. I do it in April because that’s when they have a sale on it and offer the lowest price.
But usually, in the summer I reduce my frequency of taking Vitamin D to every other day, since there is a lot of sunshine, and I do get out in it.
But, I am a great believer in taking Vitamin D. You always want to take Vitamin D3 and never Vitamin D2, which is a pharmaceutical analogue of Vitamin D and not the real thing.
What else can you do to help prevent colds and flus?
Obviously, there is Vitamin C, which is very important. Eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables is the first and most important step. I think that taking a little more supplementally is fine to do, but I am thinking in the range of 500 mg to 1000 mg a day. I am not in favor of taking mega-doses along the lines of Linus Pauling, who took 20,000 mg a day. And, it’s not because I think it will hurt you but because I’m afraid your body will adapt to it and crank up all its mechanisms to block, degrade, and eliminate Vitamin C. So, you don’t want to condition yourself to a super-high dose. I would settle for the range that I suggested above.
Zinc has also been shown to be helpful in cold and flu prevention. But, I wouldn’t go higher than 30 milligrams a day in zinc. If you temporarily took more, say at the start of a cold or in the midst of a cold, that would be fine. But, on a regular, ongoing basis, I think 30 milligrams should be the top limit. Remember, there is also zinc in the food you are eating. In my case, I eat a lot of pecans which are loaded with zinc. They are one of the highest zinc foods on the planet, and probably the tastiest.
Beta-glucan is a substance that occurs in foods, a polysaccharide that has been shown to activate certain white blood cells known as macrophages. If you would like an example of a food that naturally contains beta-glucan here’s one: oatmeal. And, beta-glucan has been found to have a direct anti-viral effect. And it’s perfectly safe, so I don’t have any problem with anyone taking it. I don’t do it myself (although I do eat oatmeal) because I don’t seem to have much tendency to getting sick with colds and flu. But, if I did, I would take it.
And then finally I’ll mention the immune-boosting power of various medicinal mushrooms, such as Reishi mushrooms. I have been getting into this recently mainly because of the influence of my friend Dr. Joel Fuhrman who is a great believer in the value of mushrooms and has written about it. Keep in mind that the standard button mushroom that you commonly see in the supermarkets doesn’t qualify in this respect.
But, the things I do on a regular, daily basis is take Vitamin D3, and I take zinc, but only as part of my Core Multi from Prothera, not separately. And of course, I am eating a high fruit and vegetable diet and emphasizing other nutritious plant foods like raw nuts and cooked beans. Dark green leafy greens are also very important, such as kale and spinach. This is working for me.
If you supplement with Vitamin D3, you are wise, and that’s true for just about everybody. But, if you do so thinking that it eliminates your need for sun exposure, you are wrong. It has long been suspected that sunlight does more for the human body than facilitate the production of Vitamin D. And now there is some concrete evidence for that.
A new study by Georgetown Medical School researchers and published in Scientific Report discovered that sun exposure has immune-boosting effects that are independent of Vitamin D. They found that blue light specifically activates certain key immune cells and increases their motility. These cells are known as T lymphocytes. The researchers found that the blue light triggered the synthesis of hydrogen peroxide which then activated key signaling pathways that led to increased movement and motility of the T cells.
Blue light is known to reach the dermis, which is the second layer of the skin beneath the epidermis. And the dermis is loaded with T lymphocytes. These T cells can go from the dermis into the blood and get to places all over the body. So, there is a systemic effect from this, where sunlight seems to power-up your whole immune system to help you fight infection.
What does this mean from a practical standpoint? I think it means that if you’re taking Vitamin D, and even if you are taking a lot of Vitamin D, you should still get sun exposure. And this isn’t the first study to suggest sunlight benefits us outside of Vitamin D. For instance, the mood-elevating effects of sunlight are believed to be independent of Vitamin D.
When you consider the extent to which we are solar beings, that our energy, and I mean our very own physical and mental energy comes, in a straight line, from the sun’s energy which showers the Earth, and that are biological cycles, known as circadian rhythms, are timed with the solar cycle, it stands to reason that the effects of sunlight upon us would be vast and not just one thing, Vitamin D.
So, even though we can benefit from pushing the Vitamin D envelope by taking it supplementally, it does not eliminate our need for sunlight exposure.
Men have it easy. If you’re outside, working or playing or just walking, and the sun comes out and it’s warm, don’t be modest; take your shirt off. You can’t get arrested. I do it frequently. Why the heck not?
But remember: you want to avoid tanning because tanning is a sign of damage, plus tanned skin is not as receptive to the sunlight. So, this is a delicate balancing act where you want to get small amounts of sunlight often- never staying out in it long enough to provoke a tanning response.
Sunlight is one of the primary and fundamental needs of life, and unfortunately, people tend to either ignore the need for it or overdo it. With care and caution, you should make it a priority to obtain a healthful amount of sunlight- your solar food.
To Dr. Cinque:
I read your article about diuretics at your website a couple days ago, at just the right moment to prevent me from accepting a prescription and beginning to use the pills instead of implementing optional methods such as you suggested.
Do you have an archive of articles anywhere online? I am particularly interested to know if you have personally written about hypothyroidism and about taking hormone prescriptions (Synthroid, for example).
From Dr. Cinque:
Brenda, I don't think I have written about it, but I agree with the many doctors who say that it's better to take the desiccated thyroid, rather than Synthroid. Either Armour or another brand. Once you reach the point in life that you need it, you need it. And I wouldn't fight it. It is NOT like taking diuretics. There is no comparison between the two. So, find a doctor who will prescribe the natural desiccated thyroid for you, and I really think it is the better alternative. And, I stand by every word I wrote about diuretics. They are terrible drugs that do nothing but hide problems, not fix them. Dr. Cinque
We have it good here in Texas. This time of year- winter- the Texas Ruby Red grapefruit are in season, and they are cheap, plentiful, and sweeter than any other grapefruit you are ever going to eat. Texas grows oranges too, although I don't say they surpass the best California navels. But, I like oranges and grapefruits, and I like other acid fruits, such as kiwis, berries of all kinds, and pineapples. And even apples are quite acidic, being high in malic acid rather than citric acid. And there are plenty of other fruits with rather high acid content, such as plums, mangoes, grapes, and more. Oops, I left out tomatoes.
So, if you are eating a wide variety of these fruits in significant quantity, that's a heck of a lot of acid. Are there any negative consequences to that?
First note that there is no danger of the acid building up in your body and making you acid, that is, your blood acid. These organic acids are broken down very quickly to carbonic acid, and that very quickly gets converted to carbon dioxide, which you automatically exhale. So, you breathe out the acid from these fruits, and the process by which this happens is very efficient. So, that isn't a worry.
The biggest problem from eating acid fruit is the effect it has on your teeth, which is to erode your dental enamel. And, that enamel doesn't grow back. Once it's gone, it's gone. And when it's gone, your teeth look yellow and dingy; they may chip and break more easily; they may become painfully sensitive to heat and cold and sugar, and they may become more prone to tooth decay. So, you want to hold on to your teeth enamel for as long as you possibly can.
Then, the other problem that has been linked to eating a lot of acid fruit is the development of canker sores. These mouth sores, which can form on the inside of the lips or the undersurface of the tongue or the inside of the cheek are the painful ulcers can last for 1 to 2 weeks and making eating, talking, and even sleeping painful and difficult. Acid fruits are known to be a major trigger of canker sores. And that has been true in my experience and the experience of others I know. Someone may have a citrus tree or a plum tree at home, and when they're plentiful, they indulge liberally, and in a little while, they have one or more canker sores. The acid irritates the cells- actually burns them a little- and the body responds with inflammation, and in susceptible people, the inflammation advances to a destructive form. It really is like an auto-immune disease- one that millions upon millions of people have.
The good news is that canker sores, except in rare cases, eventually heal without a trace, leaving no scar and no remnant that they were ever there. No remnant, that is, except the memory of how painful they were.
So, what can you do to prevent them?
First, control the amount of acid fruit you eat. Limit it to reasonable, moderate amounts. Second, if a fruit is unusually acidic, meaning that the orange or the grapefruit or the pineapple or whatever is super-sour, then don't eat it. For instance, you really shouldn't buy navel oranges until January. They rush them to market in the fall, as early as October, but they really aren't ripe yet. You know how tart a fruit should be, and if it's more sour than that, don't eat it. Pass on it. Make that a rule. Third, rinse out your mouth with warm water after eating acid fruits to remove any film of acid that may still be clinging to your teeth. Fourth, for the most part, avoid acidic drinks. If you take your oranges or grapefruit in juice form, it may actually concentrate the acid since the fiber and other solid matter is being discarded. The acid easily passes into the juice. And note also that when you start juicing, you usually wind up consuming more. Once you start juicing oranges, you might go through 3 or 4 to come up with a whole glass, or even more than 3 or 4, depending on how juicy they are. And that's more than you would eat if you were just eating them.
A life without oranges, grapefruits, plums, mangoes, etc.- I'm not sure it would be worth living. So, I am not suggesting that you avoid these foods completely. In one of the largest and longest longitudinal studies ever done, the lifestyle factor that was most associated with living longer was eating fresh fruit. So, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. But, there is a happy medium in which you can enjoy these fruits but not suffer ill-effects from eating them. Be conscious and aware of how much acid fruits you eat, and don't go overboard.
I should also point out that mechanical trauma to the mouth from biting your lip or cheek can trigger the start of a canker sore. So, what can I say except eat slowly and chew your food well, taking small, manageable bites without carelessly traumatizing yourself. Become a conscious eater.