The Doctor's Heart Cure
Review of The Doctor's Heart Cure by Al Sears, M.D.
Dragon Door, 2004
August 19, 2005
by Chris Masterjohn
The Doctor's Heart Cure Shows What Does Cause Heart Disease
Dr. Al Sears'
The Doctor's Heart Cure
picks up where Dr. Uffe Ravnskov's The Cholesterol Myths left off. Many people after reading The Cholesterol Myths may have been fully convinced by Dr. Ravnskov's thorough and penetrating refutation of the theory that high cholesterol "causes" heart disease, but left wondering: just what does cause heart disease?
Dr. Sears has the answer — rather, several answers. He is the Director of The Center for Health and Wellness in south Florida, and as such has helped over 15,000 of the Center's patients successfully reverse heart disease. With a few minor drawbacks, The Doctor's Heart Cure offers the general reader excellent insight into what she or he can do to ensure a life-long healthy heart.
Most surprisingly, as you'll see below, Dr. Sears also has some very unconventional wisdom to share about exercise, offering an exercise plan that research shows might be up to nine times more effective at producing a healthy heart than what you're doing now.
America's Problem with Reactive Medicine
Nothing demonstrates America's lack of understanding of the cause of heart disease — and of general health — than our reliance on drugs, drugs for those drugs, and then more drugs for those drugs.
Dr. Sears had a friend Roy who survived a first heart attack before the age of 50. His cardiologist first gave him a Nitro patch that made him tired and gave him chronic headaches. The cardiologist then prescribed two blood pressure medications that made him tired and gave him intermittent impotence, despite his blood pressure remaining a high 180/100 while on the drugs.
Since his cholesterol level was a "high" 219, Roy was prescribed Lipitor to help "lower his risk," which resulted in, in Roys words, "...such terrible pain in my back and legs that I could hardly get out of bed. It made me feel like I was 80 years old."
One by one, Dr. Sears worked with Roy to use diet and supplements to replace drugs, and each time a drug was eliminated, more of Roy's symptoms began to disappear.
"All that time I thought I was so damn tired all the time because I had a heart attack," Roy said. "It turns out it was the drugs they started me on in the hospital."
We have become so divorced from a proactive, health-oriented paradigm, that we fail to see that many of the treatments we require are a result of the very "treatments" we use in the first place.
The Doctor's Heart Cure: What Actually Causes Heart Disease
After dispensing with "Cholesterol: The Great Red Herring," in chapter 3, The Doctor's Heart Cure goes on to identify true causes of heart disease:
- elevated homocysteine
- deficiency of CoQ10 and other nutrients
- insulin resistance
- deficient exercise of the right kind
- systemic infection
Heart Disease and Homocysteine
In The Doctor's Heart Cure, Dr. Sears discusses Dr. Kilmer McCully's revolutionary work finding elevated homocysteine to contribute to heart disease. Homocysteine is a natural byproduct of protein metabolism, and is ordinarily metabolized into harmless amino acids.
However, certain B vitamins, found richly in organ meats, shellfish, and unprocessed vegetables, are necessary for homocysteine's metabolism, and a diet high in processed foods and low in B vitamin-rich foods results in elevated homocysteine.
Homocysteine then abrasively irritates the tissues of blood vessels, and causes an inflammatory response. Immune cells, cholesterol, and other lipids come to the rescue, but the rough patchwork done to prevent immediate harm winds up causing obstructed blood vessels down the road.
Heart Disease and Coenzyme Q10
Dr. Sears devotes an entire chapter of The Doctor's Heart Cure to coenzyme Q10, also called CoQ10 or ubiquinone. Coenzyme Q10 synthesis declines with age, and he has found that people with heart disease risk factors who come to his Center often have very low levels of CoQ10.
Among CoQ10's many functions, it is an antioxidant important to blood vessel health, and a vital component of energy production necessary to maintain the strength of the heart. Supplementing with CoQ10 has been shown to be effective in easing the symptoms of angina, treating congestive heart failure, and lowering blood pressure. Over half of the patients who have come to Dr. Sears' Center on blood pressure medications have been able to wean themselves off from these medications by supplementing with coenzyme Q10.
Achieving health independent of drugs doesn't always make conventional pill-pushing doctors very happy. Consider the story of one patient who visited the Center for Health and Wellness on two blood pressure medications and a statin, suffering from constant fatigue and increasing memory loss.
Since statins interfere with coenzyme Q10 synthesis, her blood level was measured, and she was found to have lower CoQ10 status than 95% of the population. After taking 200 mg of CoQ10 daily for a couple of months, she was able to stop both blood pressure medications, felt "energized," and recovered her memory.
"She returned to the cardiologist," writes Dr. Sears, "to tell him the good news. She showed him the remarkable nutrient that normalized her blood pressure better than drugs. Rather than rejoice in her success, he became irate, told her the CoQ10 could not possibly help her blood pressure and threw her CoQ10 in the trash."
The story of CoQ10 is an ironic one. Coenzyme Q10 is primarily found in red meat, and it is highest in liver and heart, cholesterol-rich organ meats that have received the disdain of the mainstream health establishment to an even greater degree than red meat itself. Coenzyme Q10 is also heat sensitive, so, contrary to typical advice, one must cook meat rare to receive maximal CoQ10 benefit.
On top of all of this, Coenzyme Q10 synthesis is directly inhibited by statin drugs, used to treat and prevent heart disease. Statins block an enzyme called "HMG coA reductase" which is responsible for the formation of mevalonate. Both cholesterol and Coenzyme Q10 are derived from mevalonate, so cholesterol-lowering drugs can also be called "coenzyme Q10-lowering drugs."
This is not a "side effect" that occurs in some people who take the drugs. Statins are just as effective at lowering coenzyme Q10 as they are at cholesterol. It is a direct effect of the drugs, and statins have been shown to reduce CoQ10 levels by up to 40%.
According to Dr. Sears, coenzyme Q10 is found to a much greater degree in grass-fed organ meats than in grain-fed organ meats. He recommends supplementing with coenzyme Q10 if you are unable or unwilling to consume (lightly cooked) organ meats from pasture-fed animals.
The Doctor's Heart Cure — A Real Heart-Healthy Diet
Dr. Sears also targets insulin resistance, from excessive high-glycemic starches, and deficiencies in a variety of other antioxidants and amino acids important to blood vessel health, as contributors to heart disease.
As a result, he has put together a dietary plan to prevent heart disease, very different from typical recommendations.
Dr. Sears recommends you "turn the USDA Pyramid upside down." Starchy grains and tubers should be eaten sparingly, while the diet should be based on high-quality red meat, fish, poultry and eggs, preferably from grass-fed animals. He advocates increasing omega-3 oils in the diet, and decreasing omega-6 vegetable oils. He further suggests avoiding low-fat foods, overcooked foods, genetically modified foods, and all trans fats from hydrogenated oils.
Dr. Sears also offers tips about how to eat well on a budget or on the run, advice about water purity, and a discussion of how to healthily consume alcohol.
The Doctor's Heart Cure: Keep Care of Your Teeth!
Dr. Sears discusses the relevancy of being tested for C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation and systemic infection, in numerous parts of The Doctor's Heart Cure.
He discusses the connection between periodontitis (inflammation of the gums) and heart disease, and discusses how poor dental hygeine can contribute to a chronic low-level contribution to the bloodstream of bacteria and their toxins, which damage blood vessels and elicit an inflammatory response.
What's missing from this chapter is a discussion on Weston Price's 25 years of research, concluding in the 1920s, as the first Research Director of what became the American Dental Association, showing that root canaled teeth, wrongly presumed sterile, could contribute to heart disease, as well as many other diseases.
The Doctor's Heart Cure: Conventional Endurance Exercise Doesn't Fit the Bill
Dr. Sears makes a compelling argument that long-term endurance exercise is the wrong approach to achieve a healthy heart.
If heart attacks tend to occur most often when the heart is faced with an intense task, like sex or exercise, he reasons, then the heart must be trained to withstand intense tasks. Your heart already has the ultimate endurance test — keeping you alive, non-stop, through wake and sleep.
Dr. Sears advocates interval training, which is periods of intense exercise broken by periods of rest or moderate exercise. He cites studies that have found interval exercise to be nine times more effective at improving measures of heart health than endurance exercise.
Dr. Sears' exercise plan is also practical. Studies show that interval exercise can benefit the heart with a much shorter duration of workout, allowing you to achieve full benefit with less than 20 minutes per day.
Dr. Sears' arguments appear to support kettlebell training as a superior form of exercise to aerobics for the heart. Those of us who enjoy the intense and fun workout that
offer will be pleased.
For people who are less intensity-inclined than a kettlebell fanatic, Dr. Sears offers his own trademarked plan, PACE — Progressively Accelerating Cardiopulmonary Exertion. Chapter 7 details an 8-week plan for even a sedentary person to safely wean her or himself from an easy workout, gradually to an intense interval training program.
Practical Contributions of The Doctor's Heart Cure
The Doctor's Heart Cure ends with an 8-week program that you can use to integrate both the dietary and supplemental program with the exercise program, and details step by step how to start from ground zero and work your way into a heart-healthy regimen.
Dr. Sears also includes a chapter on individualizing one's use of the book, offering additional advice about lifestyle, diet, and supplements for people with specific needs to address. He supplies as appendices a primer on heart disease for those unfamiliar with general terminology, as well as the abstracts of every study he cites, organized by chapter.
As an additional matter of practicality, the link at the bottom of this page will take you to the publisher's page, where you can not only order the paperback to be mailed to you, but can also buy the book as an electronic file and download it immediately.
This book is an excellent addition to your library if:
- You, a friend, or family member have had heart trouble.
- You are on medications you would like to, with the guidance of your doctor, wean yourself from.
- You are young and want to know what you can do now to prevent yourself from running into heart trouble in the future.
- You take a general interest in what causes heart disease.
If The Cholesterol Myths left you convinced that cholesterol does not cause heart disease, but perplexed as to what does cause heart disease, then this is the next book you should read.
Buy The Doctor's Heart Cure.