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New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

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New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by phillyheart on Tue Feb 18, 2014 9:45 am

I was diagnosed with heart disease about one year ago through a heart cath. Stenting or surgery of blockages was determined to be a bad option. I really want to get well (or at least, better). I have devoted myself for the last year to eating a whole foods diet with the prescribed beans, greens, nuts and berries, very little sugar, meat or refined carbs, and no processed foods.  ( The Dean Ornish approach.) I learned it makes only a little difference with my cholesterol or angina.

My doc has emphasized statin drugs but I find I have such bad side effects on the desired dose of Lipitor, that the symptoms of the drug are as bad as the symptoms of the disease. Do others feel this way? My only hope now is to eat healthy, take a minimal dose of statin, and try to build heart strength and collateral arteries thru exercise. My doc approves of this.

I have always been a walker--so that obviously isn't enough exercise. I get stable angina (so far) every time I exert myself--walk two flights of stairs, mow a lawn, and I am 63 years old, so I have to be cautious about this.

I am very much interested in others and their experiences with diet, exercise and meds. How, and in what combination, do you combine them for success? Do you feel coronary artery disease can truly be reversed?

I'll be glad to provide info on my experiences as well. I am keeping a notebook on all this, and I would love to write and lecture someday---on how I beat heart disease. But so far, it is fighting me to a draw.

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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by Gary E on Tue Feb 18, 2014 12:33 pm

Thanks so much for joining us, and for letting us know about your condition and concerns. First off, I must congratulate you on the ability to be so vigilant with your diet. I've been trying to reverse my poor dietary choices for decades...but people keep buying me cheese puffs and placing decadent desserts directly in my line of sight!

I truly hope you get the angina issue worked out. I can't imagine wanting to ramp up my exercise and not being able to because of pain. I take a generic statin (simvastatin) because I'm a cheapskate, and because I want the least medication I can get away with and, of course, want minimal side-effects.

I have a double stent and a pacemaker (not to mention that my prostate cancer is no longer in remission) but I'm curious as to why you are not a candidate for such intervention? Not only were the operations relatively easy, but I seldom even think about the fact that I'm "damaged goods" as I constantly go out of my way to enjoy life to the fullest.

Have you considered getting a second opinion on the angina?

GE
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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by phillyheart on Tue Feb 18, 2014 3:36 pm

Thanks for your reply. I was told my situation was not suitable for stenting as it would involve stents behind stents in several critical locations on both sides of the heart, and the danger of an artery collapsing. I am thinking now, of a second opinion for my condition--but I really prefer to treat this through diet, minimal meds, and exercise, if at all possible.
I just wonder though, if the whole concept of natural "heart disease reversal" is realistic.

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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by Marc Thayer on Tue Feb 18, 2014 4:47 pm

Welcome to the Forum (sounds like a Zero Mostel line don't it?)

My situation/condition is somewhat different (valve repair/ aortic graft) but can relate to your quandry.
I would definitely seek out a second opinion..if only to appease your mind. "leave no stone unturned" outlook.

I didn't tolerate my prescription(s) very well either...and tapered off them under supervision (beta -blockers).
Maybe I was just fortunate...hope that you can find a well tolerated balance.

My personal opinion...certainly not a medical one...is that you have a good plan..."diet, minimal meds and exercise"

That is quite a job right there finding the right mix.

Please don't hesitate to post your findings of what works for you.
Sometimes it seems silly or inconsequential, but ya never know if someone else has some experience that might just help.


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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by Dave Tuttle on Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:06 pm

phillyheart wrote:I was diagnosed with heart disease about one year ago through a heart cath. Stenting or surgery of blockages was determined to be a bad option. I really want to get well (or at least, better). I have devoted myself for the last year to eating a whole foods diet with the prescribed beans, greens, nuts and berries, very little sugar, meat or refined carbs, and no processed foods.  ( The Dean Ornish approach.) I learned it makes only a little difference with my cholesterol or angina.


As Gary and Marc mentioned a second opinion might be warranted... Many of us here have had to seek out second and even third opinions before real progress was possible.


phillyheart wrote:My doc has emphasized statin drugs but I find I have such bad side effects on the desired dose of Lipitor, that the symptoms of the drug are as bad as the symptoms of the disease. Do others feel this way? My only hope now is to eat healthy, take a minimal dose of statin, and try to build heart strength and collateral arteries thru exercise. My doc approves of this.

I tolerate 40mg Atorvastatin Calc or Lipitor well but not Crestor.

phillyheart wrote:I have always been a walker--so that obviously isn't enough exercise. I get stable angina (so far) every time I exert myself--walk two flights of stairs, mow a lawn, and I am 63 years old, so I have to be cautious about this.

Have you been through a Cardiac Rehab program? If not I think it would be very helpful in teaching you how to safely increase your exercise within a medically supervised environment. I would be very interested in what your heart care team prescribes for you.

phillyheart wrote:I am very much interested in others and their experiences with diet, exercise and meds. How, and in what combination, do you combine them for success? Do you feel coronary artery disease can truly be reversed?

I am convinced CAD can be halted and even reversed to some extent in many people and I think the research supports that conclusion. I believe a good diet is of course essential to at least stopping the progression of CAD but my impression is that reversal of CAD requires compliance with a very strict diet as well as exercise and many people are unable to stick with that strict of a diet including myself. Stimulating the growth of new collateral vessels through exercise is the only other non invasive way to increase blood flow to the heart that I know of and I think that is a viable alternative for many but it is also a very slow process from my experience. Gains in endurance from exercise and the resultant better overall response to exercise can rack up pretty quickly over weeks and months but I believe collateral growth needs to be viewed more in terms of years rather than months.    

phillyheart wrote:I'll be glad to provide info on my experiences as well. I am keeping a notebook on all this, and I would love to write and lecture someday---on how I beat heart disease. But so far, it is fighting me to a draw.

It sounds to me like you have the desire and the motivation and that's often the hardest part... I hope we can be of value to you and I'm glad you joined us!

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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by Tom price on Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:41 pm

Welcome! I was following you and Dave over on mended Hearts....I am a visitor here in Syracuse. I cannot tolerate any statins, it seems. The muscle pain is too intense. Many of us have gone to at least two, if not more, cardio's to find someone who would consider running (long distances) as part of our recovery. Good luck in your journey!
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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by Gary E on Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:17 pm

Here's a new take on ablations vs meds:

http://cardiobrief.org/2014/02/18/artery-zapping-little-better-than-drugs-in-atrial-fibrillation-patients/
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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by Guest on Tue Feb 18, 2014 7:54 pm

I can't offer any insite but I do want to welcome GE to HEART.  Smile 

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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by Rachel August on Wed Feb 19, 2014 5:21 am

Hey PhillyHeart - my condition is also a little different (valve replacement and aortic graft) - I avoid medications like the plague (unless they are necessary - like the hypothyroid condition I have) - and I don't have any experience with statin drugs - no known CAD and my LDL is really low and HDL is pretty high - (don't know why.....both of my parents have very high cholesterol and are on statins.... but I have been a vegetarian for 25 years - so I don't eat meat at all and except for a few crackers here and there - I shy away from the processed stuff - and I run on a regular basis)

Most importantly - I also just wanted to welcome you to HEART!!! Please post updates on your progress!!!

I agree with the others - finding the right mix (balance of medicine and diet/exercise) plus finding a good doctor is key.



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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by marathonman60 on Wed Feb 19, 2014 9:20 am

No statins for me. Running is like Drano, cleans out the arteries. Unless you are like Gary and hang out at McDonalds!!! The clerks think he owns the place!!!
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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by RoadKillBill on Thu Feb 20, 2014 4:30 am

Welcome, Phillyheart

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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by Sumorunner on Thu Feb 20, 2014 8:05 am

[quote="marathonman60"] Running is like Drano, cleans out the arteries.
Tom C[/quote]

Oh, I dunno. Jim Fixx said something very similar and proved himself wrong.

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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by phillyheart on Thu Feb 20, 2014 9:52 am

That's really a good point. Jim Fixx had the best selling book in America on running for good health --and while it was a best seller, while on a run, he fell over and died.
I sure don't want that to be me.

My understanding is that aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and makes it pump more efficiently, and can in some people, help build smaller collaterals around blocked arteries--but it will not shrink lesions in the main arteries. If one is unstable and breaks, heart attack.

To shrink lesions you need diet and meds to get LDL so low (under 70) that the body hunts for the cholesterol it needs, and pulls it from artery walls. That's what my doc told me.
The problem there is, too little LDL cholesterol and you damage cellular and especially brain function--its a tough balancing act. That's why an arbitrary number (70 LDL) concerns me. Isn't this an individual thing. Why would one number fit all patients?

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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by echoguy on Thu Feb 20, 2014 7:19 pm

I am pretty sure that Jim Fixx lived significantly longer than both his father and grandfather and had known significant risk factors at the time. He also had many warning signs of an impending MI that he chose to ignore.

As far as "one number fits all". I think that the medical community just in the past week has come out with information suggesting that we should not try to reach specific numbers for everyone, but it should be an individual thing. I have followed the Esselstyn diet pretty closely for the past year. I was not able to get my LDL to 70 even with some Lipitor, but I have decided that I can live with being close enough.

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I don't mean to be glib, but...

Post by Gary E on Thu Feb 20, 2014 10:50 pm

phillyheart wrote:That's really a good point. Jim Fixx had the best selling book in America on running for good health --and while it was a best seller, while on a run, he fell over and died.
  I sure don't want that to be me.

Actually, after my wife's parent's (followed shortly after by the parents of our best friend) spent their last year's in an Altzheimers ward, not even able to recognize us, nor able to adequately interact with their professional caregivers during their last years...I can only hope to die instantly while enjoying a run!!!
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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by marathonman60 on Fri Feb 21, 2014 9:22 am

I want to be shot by a jealous husband when I'm 99!
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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by Rachel August on Fri Feb 21, 2014 9:55 am

phillyheart wrote:To shrink lesions you need diet and meds to get LDL so low (under 70) that the body hunts for the cholesterol it needs, and pulls it from artery walls. That's what my doc told me.
The problem there is, too little LDL cholesterol and you damage cellular and especially brain function--its a tough balancing act. That's why an arbitrary number (70 LDL)  concerns me. Isn't this an individual thing. Why would one number fit all patients?

When I found out that people with higher cardiac risk factors needed to get the LDL under 70 - I nearly laughed out loud - yeah right - that's really low IMO!!!! Both my LDL and my HDL levels are in the 80's - and I work hard for that! Plus as you say too little and you damage brain function.....Explains a lot doesn't it.........between that and the heart/lung machine - I've got good reasons for my limited cognitive functioning!!!!  Very Happy LOL

Gary E wrote:Actually, after my wife's parent's (followed shortly after by the parents of our best friend) spent their last year's in an Altzheimers ward, not even able to recognize us, nor able to adequately interact with their professional caregivers during their last years...I can only hope to die instantly while enjoying a run!!!

I'm with you on that one Gary!!!!

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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by twal on Fri Feb 21, 2014 5:02 pm

Welcome, Philly Heart.

I get to Philly occasionally. I'll be in BrynMahr and Exton in a few weks. Where exactly do you live?

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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by Sumorunner on Sat Feb 22, 2014 7:57 pm

In his book, which I devoured back in the day, Jim Fixx made claims like, "once you're in marathon shape, you never again have to worry about heart disease." There was no research or even anecdotal evidence for such claims, but he was proselytizing, not writing a scientific journal. It was the "bible" of the 70s running boom but it was filled with factual errors and supposition. We all ate it up, but despite his and it's flaws it started something big and quite important.

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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by phillyheart on Wed Nov 26, 2014 10:26 am

Hi folks. Thanks for all the good wishes. I haven't been on here for a long time and wanted to give a follow up to my original post.

I spent about 9-12 months on the full Esselstyn, plant-based diet, and felt no improvement--but always felt unsatisfied and hungry. I decided to modify it a bit toward the Med Diet, and added a little bit of fish and chicken, yogurt and nuts. I can live on that. Still, after two years now, only a little progress with angina. I can't get my LDL under 70, as I can only tolerate a very small dose of statin drugs.

I'm now trying to increase my exercise program with more brisk walking and short periods of uphill walking or race walking speeds to push the heart just a little more to build collaterals. My cardiologist supports this approach. Frankly, I don't know what else to do. I'd be interested in hearing how others are doing with their own choice of diet and exercise.

I have another theory that I will explore more in a future post. It has to due with frustration and anger turned inward--which I have a problem with these last few years. I have very little understanding or support from others for my illness, and I feel this situation is also slowing my recovery, and perhaps... even doing further harm to my heart. I think the issue of stress is really critical in heart disease, and in recovery.


Last edited by phillyheart on Wed Nov 26, 2014 10:35 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : clarity)

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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by EugeneRunner on Wed Nov 26, 2014 12:56 pm

Personally I did really poorly on Lipitor, but changing to simvastatin and cutting the dosage in half works fine for me. Not all statins affect everyone the same, so finding the one that works best for you can take some trial and error.

I've seen a far amount of information that indicates that statins reduce the risk of heart problems in spite of reducing cholesterol levels, and very low LDL levels might actually be a bad thing.

Your diet and exercise choices seem reasonable to me. I was absolutely fanatic about my diet after my MI and stent, but I eventually got too skinny, and spent too much time and effort focused on food. I'm loosened up my diet significantly, which might put me at a little higher risk, but it has certainly improved my quality of life.

I agree with your assessment of the roll of stress. I'm convinced my MI was due almost entirely to stress.

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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by Dave Tuttle on Sat Nov 29, 2014 6:50 pm

Interesting, I've always felt my CAD was in a large part due to excessive stress over many years especially my younger years. We know it's a significant factor. I'd like to see it studied in depth.

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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by marathonman60 on Sun Nov 30, 2014 10:27 am

I can't take statins, but I take Chlorestoff, found at Costco, and my numbers are down. As a runner, I need a balanced diet.
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Re: New Member Struggling with Traditional Treatments

Post by HerbW on Thu Jan 22, 2015 3:45 pm

I like your approach and I had luck in the past (when I had some discipline) with food combining and supplements. Back in 2009 I dropped a lot of weight and got off both blood pressure and arrhythmia meds. I need to get back to that. Read a few books by Dr Sherry Rogers. "The Cholesterol Hoax" is one and "Is your Cardiologist killing you" another.

I've been tempted to read some of Dean Ornish's stuff but I'm not into the vegan thing. Vegetarian is actually a Cherokee word. Translated it means Lousy Hunter.
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the vertically challenged has returned

Post by Gary E on Thu Jan 22, 2015 4:36 pm

HerbW wrote:Vegetarian is actually a Cherokee word.  Translated it means Lousy Hunter.

How, Chief Horizon-Tall. It's good to hear from you again. When you get a chance you should post the photos of your various modes of "horizontal" land and sea transportation.
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