A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a section of heart muscle becomes blocked. If the flow of blood isn’t restored quickly, the section of heart muscle becomes damaged from lack of oxygen and begins to die.
Heart attacks are the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide (source: Robert Beaglehole, et al, 2004, The World Health Report 2004 - Changing History. World Health Organization. pp. 120–4. ISBN 92-4-156265-X).
But what causes heart attacks? Conventional wisdom (e.g. Wikipedia) generally says the following: Heart attacks are caused by intense exertion, be it psychological stress or physical exertion. Also, heart attacks can be caused by a severe infection, such as pneumonia, which in turn stresses the body leading to a heart attack. Such stress causes atherosclerotic plaques (the fat in clogged arteries) to become dislodged and this in turn can block blood flow to the heart.
So we have the following sequence of events: clogged arteries and stress combine to block blood flow to a section of heart muscle, causing a heart attack. The question screaming to be answered is: what causes clogged arteries?
Again, conventional wisdom says that clogged arteries are caused by a poor diet and lack of exercise. But this answer is much too vague. Just about any illness can be attributed to a poor diet and lack of exercise.
So the question is: what specifically causes clogged arteries? Is it cholesterol, is it a high fat diet, is it a high sugar diet, is it junk food, is it just lack of exercise?
Speak to nutritionists, doctors, and health gurus and most (but not all) will say it’s a “combination of life-style factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity” that can lead to clogged arteries (what a cop out!). This is no answer.
When you study the research into this area one word keeps popping up: homocysteine. There is overwhelming scientific evidence showing that heart disease is mainly caused by homocysteine.
The link between homocysteine and heart disease/stroke is well known to medical scientists and many studies support this. “A high level of blood serum homocysteine is a powerful risk factor for cardiovascular disease.” (Wikipedia).
The body creates excess homocysteine as a toxic byproduct, i.e. as a result of chemical reactions in the body. Elevated levels of homocysteine in the bloodstream are caused by a shortage of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid (also known as vitamin B9). These B vitamins act to break down homocysteine so that it can be safely eliminated. So when the body has enough B6, B12 and folic acid, the toxic production of homocysteine is minimized.
It has been postulated that Lp(a) is a risk factor in heart disease. But Lp(a), also known as Lipoprotein a, has been shown to become a risk factor only in the presence of homocysteine. The Mayo Clinic states: “Homocysteine is a substance your body uses to make protein [including Lp(a)] and to build and maintain tissue. But too much homocysteine may increase your risk of stroke, certain types of heart disease, and disease of the blood vessels of the arms, legs and feet (peripheral artery disease).”
So when some health professionals talk about Lp (a) being a risk factor in heart disease they would appear to be off the mark. It is more accurate to say that elevated levels of homocysteine are the root cause of heart disease.
India has the doubtful honor of having by far the largest number (per capita) of vegetarians and the largest number (per capita) of deaths from heart disease. This is no coincidence. High levels of homocysteine cause heart disease.
Several studies also show that vegetarians are at greater risk of stroke compared to non-vegetarians. For example, Dr. C.S. Yajnik points out that most Indians are vegetarian for religious and socio-economic reasons. Because of this, he says, “there is a deficiency of Vitamin B-12 among vegetarians that has led to a rise in the incidence of stroke and heart attacks. Deficiency of vitamin B 12 increases the concentration of a chemical called homocysteine in the blood which causes blocks in arteries and veins. These blocks in turn are responsible for heart attacks and strokes."
You would think that a vegetarian diet is going to provide the body with plenty of B6, B12 and folic acid. However, this is not the case. B6 and B12 are more plentiful in animal foodstuffs. Furthermore, folic acid although available from plant foods such as green leafy vegetables, is easily destroyed in cooking. As a consequence, vegetarians can often suffer from a shortage of B6, B12 and folic acid and consequent raised levels of homocysteine.
Furthermore, it is now known that estrogen dominance promotes homocysteine. What happens is that the B vitamins get used up trying to neutralize (break down) the excess estrogen in the liver. As a result, less B vitamins are available for breaking down homocysteine. Elevated levels of homocysteine then act to promote clogged arteries.
And what are the two main dietary causes of estrogen dominance? The answer is simple: dairy and soy products. By just eliminating dairy milk products and soy products from your diet you greatly reduce harmful estrogen dominance. This in turn greatly reduces elevated levels of homocysteine.
For the evidence that dairy and soy products are the two greatest dietary causes of estrogen dominance see The Foolproof Diet (www.the-foolproof-diet.com). Do a search on google for “estrogen dominance” and you will find lots of information explaining why estrogen dominance is so harmful to good health.
A 21 year study of statistics by the OECD shows that homocysteine is responsible for clogged arteries.
“Homocysteine does this by injuring the lining of the coronary arteries and by thickening of the wall of the arteries, regardless of the level of cholesterol in the blood. Homocysteine interferes with the way cells use oxygen, resulting in a build-up of damaging free radicals. These reactive chemical forms can oxidize low-density lipoproteins (LDL), producing oxycholesterols and oxidized fats and proteins within developing plaques. Also, homocysteine stimulates growth of smooth muscle cells, causing deposition of extracellular matrix and collagen, which causes a thickening and hardening of artery walls.” (source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, O.E.C.D., Food Consumption Statistics 1955-1971. Paris, 1973).
So what causes heart attacks? To blame factors such as obesity or a poor lifestyle is a complete cop out and reflects the ignorance of the person saying this. Heart attacks are mainly caused by elevated levels of homocysteine in the body. And how can you best avoid harmful homocysteine? By simply avoiding dairy and soy products you will go a long way to reducing levels of homocysteine in the body and greatly reduce the risk of clogged arteries and heart attacks.
For foolproof evidence that levels of homocysteine can be greatly reduced by simply avoiding dairy milk and soy foods, see The Foolproof Diet (www.the-foolproof-diet.com).