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Why give up life at 80 or 90? (Sound Off).

"Do not regret growing old, it's a privilege denied to many." -- Anonymous

Following the obituary column, it is noted that many celebrities and dignitaries are dying in their 80s and 90s of heart attacks, heart failure and strokes. Some are noted to have had senile dementia. It is almost a given that if people in their 80s or 90s become ill, they will die, or be "permitted" to die, either of pneumonia or heart failure, given the conventional treatments of such illnesses today! This should not happen with the alternative medical care that is currently available.

Today, scientists have come up with a possible longevity of 125 years if we eat properly and take care of ourselves. If this is so, and we are reading more and more of centenarians living today throughout the world, then we shouldn't give up just because we've made 80 or 90. If you have all of your marbles, or at least most of them, and have strength in your legs, why not aspire to live to be 100+? And if you are missing a few marbles or have slightly weak legs, why not try to fix the condition?! It's amazing what can be done with alternative medical care.

There would be exceptions to merely attaining longevity if a person is paralyzed, unable to cerebrate, and would be totally dependent on machines for his or her survival. Or, if there would be no redeeming potential in curing a seriously disabled person. And yet who is to say that just having someone alive and around is not reason enough to do everything humanly possible for that patient?

About a year ago, there were three post-operative deaths within a period of one month between two local hospitals. These were senior citizens in their late 80s to mid-90s, cases where "the surgery was a success, but the patient died" a few days later. These patients had the usual pre-operative work-up with blood tests, urinalysis, chest x-rays, and electrocardiograms, and had cardiac clearance for their operations. And yet they died!

Today's senior citizens are not 55 or 65 any more, but are living into their 80s and 90s. And because they are living longer, they are more fragile healthwise. They require more than a routine work-up, whether for surgery or any illness. Their nutritional supplementation, cardiac support, and immune system enhancement become most important because age takes its toll in these areas. This is not to slight the psychological and emotional aspects of the aged which should also be given due consideration to help them maintain a positive attitude and a zest for life in their senior years.

Today some of the major causes of death and disability are heart attacks and heart failure, stroke, and pneumonia. Cancer is a major cause of death also, and as devastating as the first news of cancer is, it is not as suddenly fatal as heart attack, stroke or pneumonia in the aged. And yet this need not be.

The old adage, "you are what you eat," is as true today as it was yesterday. But today, with more processed foods with preservatives, color additives, sugar, and sugar substitutes, one must watch what he/she eats. Even organically raised vegetables and non-antibiotic or -hormone-treated animals pose some problems, particularly if they are imported from foreign countries where strict regulations are not enforced. And yet, with little effort, good nutritional requirements can be met.

What causes cardiovascular failure? Yes, we know that hardening of the coronary arteries with blockage brings about heart attacks with its attendant irregular heart rate and eventual consequence, death from heart failure. From as far back as I can remember, cholesterol has been blamed for everything from hardening of the arteries to high blood pressure to heart attacks and strokes! Well, cholesterol is not the culprit! On the contrary, cholesterol is necessary for the production of bile for digestion and sex hormones. It is essential for mental development in growing children, as well as maintaining brain function in the aged and preventing or slowing down the process of senility.

Today, rather than concentrating on high cholesterol, it is more important to have the homocysteine level checked. If this is elevated, it follows that there is probably atherosclerosis and heart disease of one degree or another. What can one do about this? Simple - take vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid. How much should one take? One hundred milligrams of B6 should be taken three times a day. Sublingual B12 should be recommended at 1,000 mcg daily and 800 mg of folic acid daily.

Homocysteine is formed from the amino acid methionine. Homocysteine is found in all protein that we eat when there is a lack of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) normalizes the conversion of homocysteine back to methionine or cystathione which the body can use. Unfortunately, due to food processing, the typical American diet is woefully lacking in this essential nutrient.

Over the past 30 years and especially recently, emphasis has been placed on homocysteine being the cause of everything for which cholesterol has historically been blamed. Dr. Kilmer McCully, a pathologist at Harvard, while doing an autopsy on a two-month-old infant who had died of homocysteinuria, found extensive damage to the arteries with plaque formation as one might see in someone in the later decades of life. He observed that the infant had a high homocysteine level which was the probable cause of atherogenesis. This was not readily accepted at that time. Today, Dr. McCully is internationally recognized as "the father of homocysteine." His original hypothesis that there was a strong relationship between homocysteine levels and heart disease has since been confirmed.

Because of the late acceptance of Dr. McCully's work and the conventional treatment of arteriosclerosis with anti-cholesterol drugs, heart attacks can still occur whether one has high, low, or normal cholesterol levels. Chelation therapy has shown some effectiveness in 20% of those treated, but must be performed before the heart attack occurs.

Linus Pauling, two time Nobel prize laureate, showed that high doses of vitamin C and lysine can prevent atherosclerotic plaque from forming in arteries injured by high homocysteine levels as shown by Dr. McCully. If the arteries are strong and healthy without injuries, then regardless of the cholesterol level, plaque will not form. These important facts are ignored by a large part of the contemporary medical establishment, continuing to rely primarily on the serum concentration of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and treating these with medications not entirely without risk for liver problems, as well as serious hypersensitivity reactions.

More importantly, lowering the serum cholesterol level does not prevent vascular catastrophes - heart attacks and strokes. Vitamin C supplemented in doses of 3,000 mg daily and lysine 500-1,000 mg daily would be far more effective in reducing the cholesterol and plaquing caused by hyperlipidemia. Free amino acid tablets daily will give one a full component of all the amino acid that the body can well put to use.

Dr. Stanley Jacob, a pioneer in dimethyl sulfate (DMSO) research for over 35 years, has shown that DMSO is a better chelating agent than EDTA, currently the agent used by many who do chelation therapy. Of course, it must be stated that chelation therapy is not accepted by the medical establishment, whether using EDTA or DMSO. However, Dr. Jacob has shown that DMSO is safe and when used in the very early stages of a heart attack, is life-saving at a much lower cost than conventional treatment. However, once the heart attack has been checked, the rapid, irregular heart rate must be controlled before congestive heart failure occurs. The usual routine medications used are often times not effective in our octogenarians and nonagenarians. This is the stage at which the poor result of the conventional treatment is blamed on the age of our senior citizens instead of on less than the best treatment being provided.

Why is congestive heart failure so often fatal in our senior citizens? The heart failure that occurs in the older patients is usually due to just that ... aging. As people age, the production of the stabilizing elements of the body diminish, such as the thymic enzyme that has much to do with maintaining the immune system, the thyroid hormone that stabilizes the body's metabolism, the pancreas that produces insulin to control sugar levels and hormones that prevent osteoporosis, etc. The diminishing production of what is called coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ-10) with age also has much to do with the ailing heart.

Coenzymes are vitamin-like supplements that are normally found in the body. They have much to do with keeping the heart functioning properly. These are normally found in foods, such as meat, spinach, and peanuts, yet somehow they can be deficient in the human body. CoQ-10 was first isolated by Dr. Frederick Crane and his associates at the Enzyme Institute of the University of Wisconsin over 40 years ago and was found to effectively relieve the pain of angina pectoris. Blood pressure was also noted to fall in hypertensives when supplemented with CoQ-10. It is the essential nutrient in the production of cellular energy. Why the body's ability to extract CoQ-1O from food sources declines with age remains unknown, but it can result in various medical problems, heart failure being the most serious, many times fatal.

Another factor that may have some bearing on the failure of the heart is a deficiency in L-carnitine, a vitamin-like compound essential in the production of energy for the heart. It is not known if this is found more often in vegetarians, since carnitine is found primarily in meat, although it is also in avocados. Without carnitine, triglycerides cannot be broken down, resulting in elevated triglycerides, in addition to a diminished supply of energy for the heart and elevated cholesterol. Sugar, anything made from refined flour, and especially alcohol elevate serum triglycerides to extreme levels. Thus, drastically limiting in sugar, refined flour products, and alcohol intake is highly recommended.

Hawthorn berry tablets/extracts are important to improving energy production for the contraction of the heart muscle. Hawthorn berry is also noted to help relieve angina, but most importantly, it has been found to be an effective phytosupplement for controlling rapid heart rate, perhaps even more effective than quinidine or digitoxin. Although hawthorn berry had been said to be free of toxicity, I have found that overdosage, can cause a dangerously low pulse rate much like digitoxin. Thus one must be mindful of his/her pulse rate when taking hawthorn berry.

Magnesium deficiency is probably the most overlooked macromineral problem in today's health care practice. When a doctor sees an ill patient, the common practice is to run a blood survey along with other tests, such as an EKG, chest x-ray, and urinalysis. The routine blood survey excludes magnesium. This is probably because there are no reliable tests for serum magnesium. Yet, this is one of the most abundant and important minerals in the human body. It appears that if there are deficiencies in serum calcium and potassium, one should assume that there is a deficiency in serum magnesium as well.

For many years, one of the most recognized uses of magnesium has been for toxemia of pregnancy where the pregnant woman suddenly develops a sky-high blood pressure with imminent gravity to the mother-to-be and her unborn child. The effective treatment of choice is intravenous magnesium which rapidly brings down the blood pressure. If this is so effective, why haven't cardiologists started treating hypertension with magnesium instead of prescription medicine with all the potential and unwanted side effects?

Besides lowering high blood pressure, adequate magnesium produces relaxation of the muscles, be it coronary arteriospasm (Prinzmetal's angina) or otherwise, controls the most unresponsive tachyarrhythmia (rapid, irregular heart rate), can calm nervous tension, and help insomina.

Taurine is another important supplement that supports the function of the heart muscle and helps in diuresis, ridding the body of excess water by facilitating the passage of sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium ions into and out of cells.

Folic acid functions with B12 and vitamin C in the breakdown and utilization of protein for bodily function, as well as aiding in the treatment of senility and gout.

Pyridoxine levels declines with age and this is thought to be the reason that arteries get injured, resulting in plaque buildup, the manifestation of arteriosclerosis. The original injury is caused by homocysteine, but with adequate pyridoxine, homocysteine is unable to do its destructive work, being converted to cystathionine which is safely used by the body.

Now that we've taken care of the heart, the next important function of the body is to maintain its immune system so it can fight off any invasion of infection, heal any wound rapidly, and strengthen the body in general. Proper nutrition plays a very important function here, both from an outwardly physical standpoint, as well as helping to enhance the immune system. Foods that provide this nutrition include green vegetables and colorful fruits (red, yellow, blue and purple). Garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, and tumeric (in curry) are powerful immune stimulators. There are many immune enhancing agents on the market, but one must be careful not to overstimulate the immune system. It is no mystery that our body fails to keep up with its biochemical and physiological functions with the passage of time. Therefore, it is most important to supply that which the body in unable to manufacture, be it through natural or manmade products. However, given the choice, it would seem logical to opt for safer supplements -- mult iple vitamins, antioxidants, immune enhancing agents, and neurophysiological stimulators -- to keep our senior citizens happy and healthy.
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Author:Hayashida, Ted
Publication:Original Internist
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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