Alternative Medicine
Heart Facts

Every year close to 1/2 million Americans die from a heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI). It's the number one killer. About 9 million Americans suffer from angina, chest pain caused by coronary artery disease. Stroke, which is also caused by cardiovascular disease, is the 3rd leading cause of death. Heart attack and stroke account for 35% of all deaths.

Medical Myth

There are two main sets of illusions and half-truths that need to be addressed. Everything you've ever read or seen on TV about the process that leads to a heart attack goes something like this: Plaque (consisting of bad cholesterol, triglycerides and calcium), builds up in our arteries. As plaque builds, arteries narrow. If the coronary arteries are involved in this process of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, those arteries slowly narrow until the flow of blood through the coronary arteries to the heart totally stops. And, then you have a heart attack, which is caused by a sudden drop in blood flow to the heart muscle.

In the above scenario, which is still the accepted, but not scientifically-documented view of heart attack, only the last line in the above paragraph is true. A heart attack is caused by a sudden drop in blood flow to the heart muscle. The process of heart attack I described is the Main Myth for you to keep in mind. On one occasion, I heard a doctor on TV who did not buy into the standard Medical Myth about heart disease.

In general, medicine does not deal with the process of illness. Instead, medicine focuses on narrowly defined diagnoses and risk factors associated with that diagnosis. The 9 main modifiable risk factors for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association, are:

1. Smoking

2. Abnormal cholesterol

3. Diabetes

4. High blood pressure

5. Stress

6. Abdominal obesity

7. Sedentary lifestyle

8. Eating too few fruits and vegetables

9. Abstaining from alcohol

These nine risk factors are believed to account for 90% of heart attacks.

Let me add a few more risk factors:

10. Elevated Fibrinogen

11. Elevated insulin, independent of diabetes.

12. C-Reactive Protein, which reflects inflammation.

There are also risk factors that we can't modify, including:

1. Age. Over 83 percent of people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 years or older.

2. Gender. Men are at greater risk than women.

3. Heredity. If you have a strong family history of heart disease, your risk is greater. Race plays a role, although a complex one. African Americans, Latin Americans, and Native Americans have a greater risk. Part of this is in the genes and part is due to diet and lifestyle that leads to high blood pressure.

There is no cause and effect relationship between heart attacks and risk factors. At least, to date, medicine has not established “how” risk factors “cause” heart attacks. Treatment is based on optimizing risk factors. I do find it interesting, and maybe just slightly bizarre, that drinking alcohol is considered to be protective against heart attacks. I understand the general concept, the idea that alcohol relaxes us, or that certain antioxidant rich phytochemicals in wine may protect the heart. However, in the big picture of this deadly disease, I think it is mis-guided to include a lack of alcohol among the things that cause heart attack.

The Free Radical Connection

A few years ago, I wrote about heart disease in The Light Connection, but I believe my explanation, which evolved through research and consulting with the top nutritional cardiologist in the country, was too complex. I'm going to make this easy.

Over a period of decades, free radicals (also called “oxidants”) strip electrons from our artery wall's lining, called the “endothelium.” Free radicals are positively charged particles that seek to become neutralized by finding a free electron. Free radicals come from 2 sources: 1) exogenous, including:

Toxins, heavy metals, environmental pollutants. In the process of detoxifying toxins, free radicals are created within the body.

2. Endogenous. Free radicals created within the body from a variety of mechanisms:

A. Breathing. One percent of the oxygen we breathe turns into free radicals, totaling about one pound of free radicals per year generated just by breathing.

B. Inflammation. Inflammation is an immune system response in which certain white blood cells spray body tissues with free radicals, called Reactive Oxygen Species, or ROS. It is impossible to calculate the number of free radicals created by the inflammatory response every day, but it's a figure beyond quadrillions.

C. Millions of molecules of oxidants per day are produced by each cell during normal metabolism. Most of these free radicals are created as by-products of the Kreb's Cycle, the reaction that creates ATP, the molecule of energy. This is normal energy chemistry, and millions of free radicals per cell, per day, is a staggering number. That “fire” cannot be put out solely by supplementing with antioxidants.

One at a time, free radicals strip free electrons from the artery wall, and now you understand that, unfortunately, there is a nearly infinite supply of free radicals. Over decades, this stripping away process leads to small tears in the endothelium, the lining of the artery wall. Once you have these tears in the endothelium, the next step in the Process of atherosclerosis sets in. Small particles of LDL (bad cholesterol) slip UNDER the tear in the endothelium. Fibrinogen, a protein involved in clotting, slips under the tear also. Over the years a pile of “junk” builds up UNDER the artery wall, a pile of debris or plaque that includes cholesterol, fibrinogen, bacteria, protein debris, and heavy metals.

As the debris builds up under the endothelium, at first the artery wall gets wider (not narrower). In many areas of plaque buildup calcium builds up ON TOP of the artery wall, on top of the pile of debris. These calcified areas can be seen on x-ray, but these are actually not the ones that are deadly, for the calcium acts like a scar that makes it less likely that that particular pile of debris will escape.

To cut to the quick. Here is how a heart attack occurs. An individual about to have a heart attack has areas of subendothelial debris build up in one or more coronary arteries. These piles of plaque debris are under pressure and finally they blow, spewing decades of unhealthy buildup products right into the coronary artery. This is key to our understanding. These non-calcified areas of atherosclerosis blow, like a bad abscess, instantly closing down the coronary artery. As the plaque debris pours into the artery lumen, clotting factors, like platelets, pour into the area. It's a one-two punch. First the plaque debris spews out. Second, clotting factors instantly arrive on the scene, and in one instant blood flow through the coronary arteries to the heart'– STOPS. When heart muscle suddenly loses blood flow, you have a heart attack.

Think, for a moment, about this model. Get a picture in your mind. Compare this model to the standard Medical Myth about plaque build-up ON TOP OF the artery wall that slowly narrows the coronary artery until, one day, there is no room left for blood flow. That is not a good way to explain the extremely fast process of a heart attack.

Free Radicals and Inflammation

The main process of a heart attack is inflammation, which is the same as oxidative stress and free radical damage; a process that we know is the cause of 80 chronic diseases. The nine risk factors that we've been told account for 90% of heart attacks are not the immediate cause. So, what is a better way to look at risk factors? Why change your diet, take drugs to lower cholesterol, diet to lose weight, and take other drugs to lower blood pressure? Why are we all doing that? There is a reason, so read on.

Free radicals cause the tear in the artery wall. Many of the so-called risk factors are the debris that slips under the tear in the artery, slowly creating large areas of atherosclerosis. It is important to understand the risk factors, and to have some sense of what those risk factors are doing. Once you understand that free radical damage and inflammation are the beginning of the process, everything else will start to make more sense. And once you understand that heart attacks occur when these subendothelial piles of debris burst, you have the total picture.

Using the Health Map

For the last four months, you've read about the 3-Step Health Map I developed. Step 1 is: “What are the Primary Causes?” Step 2 is: “How is the body responding to Primary Causes?” The answer to Step 2 is that the body responds to Primary Causes through the Inflammatory Response and the Stress Response. Step 3 has to do with Total Body Chemistry.

Primary Causes of Heart Disease, Atherosclerosis, and Heart Attacks include: heavy metals, bacterial infection, chronic gum disease (which allows oral bacteria to pour into the blood), smoking, stress, lack of exercise, environmental pollutants, digestive problems that interfere with the balance of essential fatty acids, and cholesterol. Disconnection from the earth's bioelectrical fields leads to a massive buildup of free radicals. In addition the electrical fields in which we live, which includes our computers, create free radicals.

By treating Primary Causes, you remove many of the triggers of free radicals. Level II in the Health Map, the body's response to Primary causes, includes the inflammatory response, which creates gigantic numbers of free radicals every day. As with 80 other chronic diseases, inflammation is the Process of heart disease.

By spending hours a day in direct barefoot contact with the earth or with Earthing products, billions of free electrons per second enter our body, neutralizing free radicals, thereby turning off the main true cause of heart attack and stroke.

Level III of the Health Map has to do with Total Body Chemistry. With illnesses like CFS, fibromyalgia, and chronic digestive disorders (to name a few), Level III turns into Metabolic Chaos. The point I want to make about Total Body Chemistry, as it relates to Heart Attacks is this: Normal biochemistry produces quadrillions (or more) of free radicals every day).


By far the most important thing to treat and neutralize are free radicals. Then you can treat the risk factors with the understanding that none of the risk factors are the CAUSE. The risk factors make up the debris. The risk factors create free radicals. The risk factors also lead to problems with the mechanics of an artery. In other words, risk factors like high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol make the artery less flexible, which is not good, because our arteries need to be able to respond to changing demands for blood flow by being flexible, and not by turning into “rigid pipes.” It is important to grasp that by dieting and lowering your blood pressure, you are not beginning to make a dent in the quadrillions of new free radicals created every day in most of us. Don't stop eating right and exercising, but do look at the big picture, and understand that the main task is to get a handle on free radicals. Get your feet into or onto mother earth as many hours a day as you can!

Also take antioxidant supplements to assist in neutralizing free radicals. In terms of diet, eat fruits and vegetables with color, such as: blueberries, cherries, carrots, and red bell peppers, because they are rich in antioxidants.

Stress is another source of free radicals. Stress increases adrenalin levels, which in turn increases the number of free radicals. So, stress reduction and meditation directly “treat” a Primary Cause, stress, which triggers the Level II response of Inflammation. So, why should you pay attention to “Risk Factors?” Mainly because you can make a major dent in free radicals by minimizing risk factors.

Genova labs has a Comprehensive Cardiovascular Panel, which gives us more information that allows us to drop the risk of heart attacks. Because Free Radical Damage and Inflammation are the most important things for you to remember, I don't want to go too much further. I'll add one more dietary tidbit. The amino acid L-arginine is essential to the health of the endothelium, the lining of the artery wall. Arginine helps the artery wall create Nitric Oxide, which does many things to assist artery health. Nitric Oxide lowers blood pressure, increases elasticity and flexibility of arteries and is involved in the creation of heperans, natural anticoagulants produced by our arteries. Nuts are rich in arginine. So is chocolate. For those of you who move with the ever-changing expert dietary recommendations, feeling guilty when you fall off your plan, I'm giving you some good news. I'm not advocating chocolate as a health food, but when you eat it, enjoy it and know it's helping your arteries. But stick to the blueberries and carrots in terms of more serious recommendations.

It has become clear to me for about a year that when America gets Earthed, spending hours a day in barefoot contact with the earth, heart disease could be a thing of the past in twenty years. You can quote me on that, and review this issue with me in the year 2028.

David Gersten, M.D. practices Nutritional Medicine and Integrative Psychiatry out of his Encinitas office and can be reached at 760-633-3063. Please feel free to access 1,000 on-line pages about holistic health, amino acids, and nutritional therapy at, and information on earthing at


Life's Unfolding

Are you frustrated with the way your life is unfolding? Like many of us, encountering roadblocks on the path to fulfillment in romance, finance, career or health may shake your faith. When things don't happen the way you think they should, you lose your bearings, your sense of direction. You start doubting yourself and your purpose. Finding guidance and strength within becomes a challenge.

Here's the tip. First, go ahead and cry. Rail your fists at heaven if need be. These barriers don't feel good at all. Keep your emotional release short and look for sweetness when done. Once your life force is flowing again, focus on what feels good in your body right here, right now. Breathe. Use your emotions to keep circling back to calm no matter what happens. Take time daily to be still. Listen carefully for that small voice within and notice clearly what you feel like doing.

It may also be time to deepen your quest and align your purpose more completely with spirit. For example, shifting focus from success to service will do wonders to open doors. Furthermore, don't be fooled. Obstacles may be destiny's disguised invitation to move only toward what draws you for its own sake.

Remember, when seeking a life of profound truth, the obstacle is the path. The obstacle is the path. Repeat as needed. ©

See Penelope Young Andrade LCSW at