Atrial fibrillation. Afib. Irregular heartbeat. Palpitations. It goes by many names. Regardless of what you care to call it, this condition is becoming more common.
I have addressed Afib in the past, outlining how powerful simple lifestyle changes are to help eliminate this condition, but it seems like word is just not getting out. As a result, the rates of people with irregular heartbeat continues to climb. This particular article gives some numbers to illustrate just how bad the problem has become. Here’s what they found:
• By 2010 there were 33.5 million people worldwide with Afib.
• Lost quality of life, measured basically as years of health lost, increased by 18.8% in men and 18.9% in women from 1990 to 2010.
• From 1990 to 2010, the number of people with AF (per 100 000 population) increased in both men and women.
• Worse, death rates from AFib complication rates increased 2-fold in women and 1.9-fold in men.
The bottom line is that the number of people affected by AFib is going up, while at the same time these people are losing quality of life and dying faster.
Don’t let anyone tell you this has nothing to do with lifestyle. It has everything to do with the choices we make. From stress to lack of exercise to a diet devoid of protective nutrients. If you happen to be one of the lucky ones affected by an irregular heartbeat, AND you’re willing to make some lifestyle changes to make it better, feel free to read through my earlier blog article on this very topic by clicking here.
There is no way that something as simple and uncomplicated as diet can manage the worst-case scenario of epileptic seizures. Not when we have so many powerful drugs to control seizures.
This would seem to be the attitude of most neurologists because diet is usually the absolute last thing they would ever mention, and that is only after every anti-epileptic drug on the planet has not worked. But here’s a scary statistic: In only about 30% of the time does the first anti-seizure medication work to control someone’s seizures. The more medications that are tried, the less likely the next one is going to work. Ultimately, the number of epileptics who do not respond fully to medications may be as high as 40%.
Status epilepticus is a state of perpetual seizures that can be fatal and usually needs some type of emergency treatment to control the seizures. In the ER, treatment usually starts with sedatives like benzodiazepine (Valium, Xanax) or, if that doesn’t work, anesthetic agents like propofol (although recent studies suggest that this actually increases the risk of infections and death) are given via IV. But when a seizure cannot be controlled it is called refractory.
Putting this together makes refractory status epilepticus a very dangerous situation with no options. At least, not until someone thought of using diet to control this most dangerous type of seizure. Specifically, the ketogenic diet. The use of the very low carb diet for seizure control is not new and has been shown, in trial after trial after trial, to possess very potent anti-seizure effects. In the case of status epilepticus, after the patient is locked in the seizure state for a certain period of time, feeding usually switches to a feeding tube (enteral), so switching to a ketogenic-based formula is not a problem.
This particular study looked at the treatment of 10 patients who were locked in status epilepticus. Here are the details:
• 7 of the 10 had encephalitis (swelling of the brain due to the severity of the seizures).
• The average time that the patient was in seizure was 21.5 days.
• The average number of antiepileptic medications used before the diet was 7.
• In the 90% that achieved ketosis, seizures ceased in an average of 3 days.
• 3 had minor complications (transient acidosis, hypertriglyceridemia).
• 2 patients ultimately died of causes unrelated to the diet.
While this is a small group of patients, the outcomes achieved for such a safe intervention are more than impressive. They are lifesaving. So I will ask the same question I always ask: WHY is the ketogenic diet the last tool used when the research is so compelling and the safety is so high?
When symptoms progress far enough with Alzheimers dementia, there are several medications that are used. The most commonly used is Aricept, a cholinesterase inhibitor.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that our brain cells use to communicate between one another, especially those brain cells dedicated to learning and memory. Cholinesterase is the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. If you block the enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter, your brain will have more of the acetylcholine running around to make sure that a message passes from brain cell A over to brain cell B.
Namenda is another commonly used drug that blocks the action at the NMDA receptor, thereby blocking the action of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. This can slow the brain activity down and keeps the brain cells from literally working themselves to death.
Beyond these medications, however, there are few options. My general answer to this concern, however, is that our understanding of what contributes to neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease is quite detailed. While prevention is beyond the scope of this article, you can read previous articles on this topic by clicking here.
This particular article takes a fresh look at an old favorite natural compound for treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia. Ginko biloba. What is interesting here, though, is that researchers used ginko in 828 patients with mild to moderate disease who were already on cholinesterase inhibitors. This makes the results of the study that much more interesting. Here’s the details:
• Patients were followed using the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive (ADAS-Cog) subscale score, and the Activities of Daily Living (ADL) scale.
• There was a stronger response in the MMSE score after 12-months of follow-up in those using the ginko biloba.
• While similar improvements were also seen on the ADAS-Cog, these were not as strong.
While the improvements were not life-changing, the fact that there were definite improvements over the use of the drugs alone is a pretty important fact. The damage done to the brain cells in Alzheimer’s dementia is extensive and begins decades before symptoms are recognized. For this reason, I do not believe we will ever be able to reverse Alzheimer’s dementia—the disease is a freight train running.
However, slowing the damage down I believe is very possible. The same interventions that can help prevent Alzheimer’s dementia can also help slow down the process in the brain and hopefully increase longevity. Never a bad thing, especially when the “cost” is something as simple and safe as ginko biloba.
In honor of heart health month, our office has been running a trivia raffle centered around protecting your heart.
One of the “gimmie” questions is true or false: Dark chocolate is good for your health.
Most of the answers we got from patients were correct. It seems that most of us are aware of the health benefits of chocolate, but seem hesitant to make it a normal part of a daily routine for fear of too many calories and weight gain.
This is the time for me to clarify that many, if not all, of the studies done on chocolate do not differentiate between dark and milk chocolate. I would suggest that this is a huge mistake since milk chocolate is so far removed from the cacao bean that gives it all the health benefits as to be junk food. High cacao content dark chocolate, on the other hand, shines when it comes to protecting our health. This means that, when studies focus on all types of chocolate, any benefits shown in the study is probably non-existent for milk chocolate and much stronger for dark chocolate.
Take that into account as we go over this particular study. In it, researchers looked at a group of 7,802 participants based on chocolate intake and later risk of diabetes. A serving size of chocolate was defined as a 1 ounce portion, or about 1/3 to over half of a typical candy bar, depending on the brand. Here’s the details:
• Groups were broken up into less than monthly, 1–4 times/month, 2–6 times/week and at least daily.
• Those eating chocolate 1-4 times / month had a 13% lower risk of diabetes.
• 2-6 times / week had a 34% lower risk.
• Those eating chocolate at least daily had a 18% lower risk.
Keep in mind that this is one of those studies that did not differentiate between dark and milk chocolate intake, so it’s likely that dark chocolate would have been far more protective if we looked at this study with just dark chocolate intake. Likewise, as far as quantity and frequency, I personally think that an ounce of dark chocolate per day (two decent sized squares or so) is a very good idea.
If the darker chocolates are too bitter for you, consider finding bars that have fruits mixed in like blueberries and pomegranates. Not only do you get the benefit of the chocolate, but you’re also getting the protective factors from these superberries as well. Not too shabby.
Heavy coffee consumption and plasma homocysteine
I know I’ll get shot for this one, but the evidence is mounting that coffee may increase your risk of heart disease through homocysteine. Can’t give up your coffee? Try increasing your intake of whole grains to up your B vitamins to lower that homocysteine level.
AJCN — Abstracts: Urgert et al. 72 (5): 1107
HDL raising effect of orange juice in hypercholesterolemia
There are several ways to lower cholesterol levels safely, and increasing intake of fruits and veggies is such a wonderful way. In addition to helping with cholesterol, it will also lower your risk of many other diseases. Adding exercise will also increase HDL levels, as well as the addition of soy to your diet. Want a great cholesterol fighter? How about a smoothie made at home? Frozen yogurt, toss in some probiotics, filitered water, ice and several servings of fruit. Drink it on your way to work!!
AJCN — Abstracts: Kurowska et al. 72 (5): 1095
Proton pump inhibitor may lead to cancer
Many of the drugs used to treat ulcers today are being used for long periods, although the long term research has never been done. Most patients with ulcers make too little stomach acid, NOT too much. So the use of drugs to reduce this production disrupts an incredibly important process. The acid is needed to absorb many essential nutrients (calcium, Vit B12, iron…), acitivate most digestive enzymes and kill off bacteria in the upper GI tract that aren’t supposed to be there. The use of “acid blockers” in this study confirms the increase in bad bacteria producing acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen, in the upper GI tract.
Probiotics in the management of atopic eczema
Every healing system in the world..Auryvedic, traditional chinese medicine, Indian wise women, shamans….they all relate dermatological disturbances to the GI tract. Every healing system, that is, except Western dermatologists. With the rest of the world’s view, treating a skin disorder with probiotics is a perfectly sane and effective method. I would imagine it would take a long, long time to find a dermatologist practicing this method. Keep in mind the side effects of probiotics vs standard dermatological methods. Probiotics: 0, standard drugs: numerous.
Microflora characteristics in faeces from allergic & nonallergic infants
All this information on normal, healthy flora in the GI tract, and yet neither pediatricians nor gastroenterologists “believe” in them. This article again supports the association between antibiotic use and allergies. The artilce suggests that the presence of bacteria in the GI tract is instrumental in the developing infant’s immune system. It helps to balance out the Th1/Th2 ratio; a very important balance of our immune systems. Without proper balance, the likelihood of atopic diseases and autoimmune disorders is increased.
Antibiotics in early childhood increases risk of asthma/allergic disease
This is yet another research study pointing to this association. It really is not a difficult concept to follow. Antibiotics destroy the normal, developing flora in the infant. These flora are instrumental in protecting the infant from the environment, and also play a key role in regulation of the entire immune system. We have had such incredibly large blinders on when we view the only bad effects of overuse of antibiotics as antibiotic resistance.