Category Archives: Coronary Heart Disease

A Pharmacist Asks: Should we use PCSK9 inhibitors?

PCSK9 inhibitors are a new class of drug that dramatically lowers LDL cholesterol. LDL is the “bad cholesterol” implicated in blocked arteries that cause heart attacks and strokes. PCSK9 inhibitors are injected every several weeks. They are expensive.

Pharmacist Catherine writes:

“We know this drug lowers LDL cholesterol.  But what we really care about (or should care about) is whether this medication lowers the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.  This data isn’t yet available.   From what data I could easily access, it seems that the PCSK9 inhibitors can halve your risk of having heart attack over one year.  This might sound good, but when you look at actual numbers, not so good.  Of the ~4500 people studied, about 2% in the control group had an ‘event’ (heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event) compared to about 1% in the treatment group.  And the difference between the groups was only about 60 people.  The study size just simply isn’t big enough, nor has it run for long enough to really tell if these medications are worth it.  A bigger study is in progress, but we won’t get the results before 2017.   Even then, we may not have the long-term risk/benefit data.  A systematic review on the medications in 2014 concluded that there is currently insufficient data to show benefit.”

Source: Should we use PCSK9 inhibitors? | Lifestyle Before Medication

I also want to know the effect of these drugs on death rates. As they say, “more studies are needed.”

Hey, guess what? The Mediterranean diet prevents heart attacks and strokes, and extends lifespan.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diet books in one

Mediterranean Diet Prevents Cardiovascular Disease

From American Family Physician:

“Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States. One-third of these deaths may be preventable through healthy lifestyle choices including diet and physical activity. The Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced cardiovascular mortality [deaths], whereas the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan is associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease.”

Source: Diet and Physical Activity for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention – American Family Physician

There are at least a couple versions of the DASH diet. The most common one is low in total and saturated fats and cholesterol, moderate in low-fat dairy products, high in fruits and vegetables, low in salt, low in sweetened beverages, moderate in whole grains, and low in animal protein but has substantial amounts of plant protein from nuts and legumes.

The Mediterranean diet also has several versions. My favorite ones are here:

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diet books in one

Forty Years of Dietary Advice Was Wrong

Dr. Axel Sigurdsson is a cardiologist who focuses his blogging on cardiovascular disease and lipid disorders. I bet he agrees with me that dietary saturated fat is not the malevolent force we were taught in medical school.

From his blog:

“The [PURE study] suggests that placing carbohydrates at the bottom of the food pyramid based on their effect on blood cholesterol was a mistake. In fact, the data show that replacing dietary carbohydrates with different types of fat may improve lipid profile.

In an interview on Medscape, Dr. Mahshid Dehghan, the principal author of the abstract said: “To summarize our findings, the most adverse effect on blood lipids is from carbohydrates; the most benefit is from consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids; and the effect of saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are mixed. I believe this is a big message that we can give because we are confusing people with a low-fat diet and all the complications of total fat consumption, and WHO and AHA all suggest 55% to 60% of energy from carbohydrates.”

Today, most experts agree that diets high in saturated fatty acids or refined carbohydrates are not be recommended for the prevention of heart disease. However, it appears that carbohydrates are likely to cause a greater metabolic damage than saturated fatty acids in the rapidly growing population of people with metabolic abnormalities associated with obesity and insulin resistance.”

Source: High Carbohydrate Intake Worse than High Fat for Blood Lipids

PS: A diet naturally high in monounsaturated fat is one you may have heard of: the Mediterranean diet. The Advanced Mediterranean Diet (2nd Ed.) contains both a low-carb Mediterranean diet and a portion-controlled traditional Mediterranean diet.

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diet books in one

Eat Nuts to Improve Your Blood Lipids and Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

natural cashews, cashew apple

Cashews fresh off the tree. They’re actually fruits, not nuts.

Most of the diets I recommend to my patients include nuts because they are so often linked to improved cardiovascular health in scientific studies. Walnuts are associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes in women, and established type 2 diabetics see improved blood sugar control and lower cholesterols when adding nuts to their diets.

Nut consumption lowers total and LDL cholesterol levels, and if triglycerides are elevated, nuts lower them, too. Those changes would tend to reduce heart disease.

Conner Middelmann-Whitney has a good nutty article at Psychology Today.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH; Keiji Oda, MA, MPH; Emilio Ros, MD, PhD. Nut Consumption and Blood Lipid Levels: A Pooled Analysis of 25 Intervention Trials. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2010, Vol. 170 No. 9, pp 821-827. Abstract:

Background  Epidemiological studies have consistently associated nut consumption with reduced risk for coronary heart disease. Subsequently, many dietary intervention trials investigated the effects of nut consumption on blood lipid levels. The objectives of this study were to estimate the effects of nut consumption on blood lipid levels and to examine whether different factors modify the effects.

Methods:  We pooled individual primary data from 25 nut consumption trials conducted in 7 countries among 583 men and women with normolipidemia and hypercholesterolemia who were not taking lipid-lowering medications. In a pooled analysis, we used mixed linear models to assess the effects of nut consumption and the potential interactions.

Results:  With a mean daily consumption of 67 g of nuts [about 2 ounces or 2 palms-ful], the following estimated mean reductions were achieved: total cholesterol concentration (10.9 mg/dL [5.1% change]), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration (LDL-C) (10.2 mg/dL [7.4% change]), ratio of LDL-C to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration (HDL-C) (0.22 [8.3% change]), and ratio of total cholesterol concentration to HDL-C (0.24 [5.6% change]) (P < .001 for all) (to convert all cholesterol concentrations to millimoles per liter, multiply by 0.0259). Triglyceride levels were reduced by 20.6 mg/dL (10.2%) in subjects with blood triglyceride levels of at least 150 mg/dL (P < .05) but not in those with lower levels (to convert triglyceride level to millimoles per liter, multiply by 0.0113). The effects of nut consumption were dose related, and different types of nuts had similar effects on blood lipid levels. The effects of nut consumption were significantly modified by LDL-C, body mass index, and diet type: the lipid-lowering effects of nut consumption were greatest among subjects with high baseline LDL-C and with low body mass index and among those consuming Western diets.

Conclusion:  Nut consumption improves blood lipid levels in a dose-related manner, particularly among subjects with higher LDL-C or with lower BMI.

Dietary Cholesterol Unrelated to Cardiovascular Disease!

…according to this article at American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Heart attack on a plate? Think again

Heart attack on a plate? Think again

This is quite contrary to the  party line spread by public health authorities for the last 40 years.

Enjoy your eggs! (If you can afford them.)

Legumes Linked to Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Ischemic heart disease, specifically. That’s heart attacks, mostly. I had written that in the first edition of The Advanced Mediterranean Diet, but hadn’t seen much supportive evidence since then (2007). Here it is at AJCN.

Kris Gunnars Shows Major U.S. Diet Changes Over Last Century

Alleged medical student Kris Gunnars has an article at Business Insider, of all places, that shows graphically many of the major U.S. dietary changes of the last hundred years or so. In this case, transmogrification may be a better term than mere  “changes.” I suspect much of the Western world has evolved in similar fashion.

You need to read the article and ponder the graphs if you question why we have so much obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and perhaps cancer. You’ll see dramatic increases in consumption of added sugars, industrial seed oils (esp. soybean), soda pop and fruit juice (added sugar!), total calories, and fast food. You’ll see how much we’ve increased dining away from home. Butter consumption is down drastically, but doesn’t seem to have done us much good, if any.

Sugar cane

Sugar cane

 

There’s fairly good evidence that coronary artery disease (CAD; the cause of most heart attacks) was very prominent between 1960 to 2000 or so, but it’s been tapering off in recent years and didn’t seem to be very common 100 years ago. Understand that you can have it for 20 years or more before you ever have symptoms (angina) or a heart attack from it. In fact, the disease probably starts in childhood. I’ve always wondered about the cause of the CAD prevalence trends, and wondered specifically how much of the long-term trend was related to trans-fat consumption. But I’ve never been able to find good data on trans-fat consumption. Kris came up with a chart of margarine consumption, which may be a good proxy for trans-fats. Another of his charts includes shortening, a rich source of trans-fats and probably also a good proxy. Shortening consumption increased dramatically from 1955 until dropping like a rock around 2000.

The timeline curves for trans-fat consumption (by proxy) and prevalence of coronary heart disease seem to match up fairly well, considering a 20 year lag. In the early 1990s, we started cutting back on trans-fats, and here we are now with lower mortality and morbidity from coronary artery disease. (CAD is very complex; lower rates of smoking surely explain some of the recent trend.)

Read the whole enchilada. Very impressive. Highly recommended.

Steve Parker, M.D.