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Mediterranean diet more effective than statin drugs in treatment of heart disease

 A recent study has found that the Mediterranean diet is more effective than statin drugs in the treatment of heart disease, and people suffering from cardiovascular problems are 37% less likely to die early if their diet is based on healthy foods such as vegetables, fish, nuts and olive oil.

High cholesterol is a recognized risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It can adhere to the inner lining of the blood vessels and cause them to become narrow and hardened. If a blood vessel supplying the heart muscle becomes blocked completely, this results in a heart attack. Similarly, if a blood vessel supplying the brain becomes blocked, this causes a stroke. However, cholesterol is much more likely to adhere to blood vessels which are inflamed or damaged for other reasons, and many people can have high cholesterol levels without ever suffering from cardiovascular problems.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Crestor, Lipitor, and Zocor, have been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by about 24% in people already suffering from cardiovascular disease. However, they are increasingly being prescribed to otherwise healthy individuals with high cholesterol. A study carried out by researchers in Galway in 2013 showed that statin drugs not only triple the risk of coronary artery disease in otherwise healthy people, but also significantly increase the risk diabetes, cataracts and erectile dysfunction in young people, and increase the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly.

This research, which was published in the Journal of Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases, is only one of a number of studies that question the practice of using statins for prevention of cardiovascular events in otherwise healthy people. There is mounting evidence that people with high cholesterol and other cardiovascular risk factors really need to rethink their approach to dealing with these problems.

The new study has proven that eating a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fish, nuts and olive oil, is by far the best way of reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Fresh fruit and vegetables contain antioxidants that help to prevent damage to the heart and blood vessels, while olive oil and oily fish help to prevent blood clots. 2-3 squares of good quality dark chocolate and a daily glass of red wine have been shown to have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system.

Avoid animal fats such as red meat and dairy products as much as possible; and especially trans-fats, which are found in some margarines and many processed foods. Exercising for at least 30 minutes every day helps to reduce blood pressure and stress levels, prevents obesity and diabetes, and strenghtens the heart and circulation. If you are a smoker then giving up smoking is the single most effective means of reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Stress is another important risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Stress raises blood pressure and increases heart rate, putting greater pressure on the heart and blood vessels. In addition, stress often causes people to engage in more activities which can damage the heart and blood vessels, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol or coffee, eating the wrong foods, and being inactive.

In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, herbal medicine is very efficient in reducing cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.  In many cases, herbs may be used to reduce the dose of orthodox medicines in consultation with the individual’s GP.