Change your heart health

by W. Gifford-Jones M.D. and Diana Gifford-Jones
Common Sense Health


It’s said, “Being wrong is acceptable, but staying wrong is unacceptable.” So think twice if you believe a high fish diet alone is providing you with enough essential fatty acids (EPA and DHA) to decrease your risk of heart attack.

We were shocked when blood tests showed, despite our healthy diets, that our absorption of fish oils was not making the grade. What are people getting wrong? And how can you get it right?

Oil and water do not easily mix, and most oils pass through your water-based body until enzymes in the small intestine break down fats. But it’s a mistake to believe this process is perfect.

We wrote previously about a supplement called Omega3X which uses digestive enzymes to facilitate absorption of essential fatty acids. And we promised to put it to the test and report back to you.

First, we stopped taking any omega supplements but continued a diet rich in fish. Then we tested our blood using the Omega-3 Index.

We both failed. (Giff 5.56% and Diana 5.47%) These scores placed us barely above the “undesirable” high risk zone as measured at 4% or lower on the Index.

Then, for three months, we took Certified Naturals Clinical Omega-3X Fish Oil, a specific product containing MaxSimil that breaks down the hard-to-digest triglycerides of fish oil into more readily absorbed monoglycerides.

Then another blood test. The results were compelling.

The measurement of the two most important omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) was now in the category of low risk for coronary heart disease – a result of between 8-12% on the Omega Index. (Giff 9.64% and Diana 11.64%)

You can visit www.docgiff.com to read the advice shared with readers for years. First, to decrease your risk of a fatal coronary attack, you gain advantage with high doses of vitamin C. Dr. Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize recipient, observed that most animals escalate vitamin C production when confronted with stress, but humans lack this ability.

Then Dr. Sydney Bush, an English researcher, showed that high doses of vitamin C opened clogged arteries, a huge discovery.
Any vitamin C product will do, but we recommend Medi-C Plus because its powdered form makes high doses easier to take and because it includes lysine, which builds strong cell walls.

Second, our experiment shows it is important to supplement with omega 3. But not all omega supplements are equal. MaxSimil, developed by a Canadian company, is a fish oil that is absorbed three times better than typical fish oils. It’s produced from small fish like sardines and anchovies rich in omega-3 fatty acid.

Fatty acids help prevent heart attack by decreasing cellular inflammation. Researchers have reported for years that chronic inflammation is a factor in coronary attack. Now, the Omega-3 Index can accurately measure the amount of these fatty acids in our red blood cells.

Studies also report that people consuming fish oils show decreased blood triglycerides, decreased total cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol, and raises good cholesterol.

These patients also had fewer irregular heartbeats and heart attacks.

Low levels of essential fatty acids have been associated with mood imbalances and joint problems.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has reported that the Omega-3 Index is just as important as cholesterol blood level. It’s alarming that nearly half of all North Americans are in the high-risk category for heart attack.

The message is clear. If you want to be certain that you are absorbing essential fatty acids, get a blood test to measure EPA and DHA. Send a single drop of blood using a test kit provided by OmegaQuant. Your result is mailed to you.

Take it from a 97-year-old, it’s never too late to reduce the risk of a coronary!

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Keep blood pressure under control

by W. Gifford-Jones M.D. and Diana Gifford-Jones

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” Avoiding disease may be the gift of lucky genetics, but it helps to put some work into managing your chances for health and longevity.

Maintaining rubbery arteries is key to the delivery of oxygenated blood to the heart’s muscle that guards against hypertension, stroke, and heart attack. A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that what’s good for the heart may also be good for the brain.

The study involved 9,300 people ages, 50 and older with an average age of 68, with hypertension. They also had one other cardiovascular risk factor, history of stroke, or dementia. It was a huge study involving patients in over 100 carefully supervised medical centers across the U.S.

Half of the patients were provided “Gold Standard” care. This meant they were given medication that lowered their systolic blood pressure (the top number), to less than 120. The other half simply aimed for the standard systolic target of 140 or lower.

What happened? When a study shows after a period that one group is getting the raw end of the deal, it must be stopped for ethical reasons. So, when the gold standard group was winning after a period of three years, the study abruptly ended.

The gold standard of treatment had reduced cardiovascular problems and death by 25 percent. But the study ignited the still on-going debate as to whether normal blood pressure level should be changed from 140/80 to 130/80.

There was another effect. Researchers wondered if a lowering of blood pressure in the gold standard group would have any effect on the risk for dementia. So they followed these two groups further to see if changes in blood pressure had any effect on brain function.

The result? After another two years, researchers found no statistical difference in the amount of “probable dementia” between the two groups. But they did notice a 19 percent lower rate of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in the gold standard group.

MCI is a gray, undefinable area between normal brain function and early dementia. Looking at it another way, 287 of the 4,280 patients in the gold group and 353 of the same number in the standard group, developed MCI over a five-year period. Not a huge difference, but big enough to warrant notice.

Researchers stressed that, although some cases of MCI go on to develop dementia, many others go for years without any problems. Some patients even revert to normal.

So what’s the bottom line? Good sense dictates that controlling hypertension is a sound measure for the brain, but lowering it too much can cause hypotension (low blood pressure), fainting and possible kidney injury. In effect, in the real world, trying to obtain the perfect blood pressure can be questionable.

Researchers say the best option for brain health is to stay physically active and maintain a sense of purpose in life. This is always good for the brain. Weight control, particularly in the abdomen, is essential, as it’s linked to dementia.

But since obesity is so often associated with Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and dementia, it’s difficult to know which is the main culprit.

Since Type 2 diabetes narrows cerebral arteries and decreases oxygenated blood to the brain, this along with hypertension, is a bad combination.

Take Eleanor Roosevelt’s sage advice to heart. You need more than luck to avoid these two killers. Rather, your diet and lifestyle may need to undergo dramatic changes.

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The agony of shingles: how to decrease the risk

by Dr. W Gifford-Jones

“It was like going through hell,” he said. A friend had developed facial shingles, involving his ear, and despite medication the pain continued for weeks. So what is the best way to prevent an attack of shingles? Take action quickly. If you delay, you’ll wish you hadn’t when the pain from hell strikes.

Today, most children are vaccinated against chickenpox. But it was not in the mix of common childhood shots until the mid-1990s. It’s a rare older person who escaped this childhood infection. Unlike other childhood diseases, the varicella zoster virus never leaves the body. Rather, it goes into hiding in nerve cells near the spinal cord. These cells transmit messages from skin to the central nervous system. The virus continually tries to escape and when it does, it surfaces as shingles. This is never good news. Even when its lesions subside, pain may last for months or years.

Dr. Peter N. Watson, a neurologist at the University of Toronto, reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that of 261 patients with shingles 24% suffered lingering pain. This complication results in chronic anxiety, depression, insomnia, and poor quality of life.

The problem is not rare. In North America, every year, over two and a half million people develop shingles, 350,000 end up with post-shingles pain, and 400 die. Living with pain day after day is bad enough, but for some the result can be inflammation of the brain, facial paralysis, or the loss on an eye. Of those over 50 years of age, post-shingles pain can affect up to 40% of patients.
Once shingles strikes, a number of antiviral drugs such as Zovirax, Famvir and Valtrex are available to decrease the severity of the attack. The earlier these drugs are prescribed the better the result.

But prevention is better than cure and the Zostavax vaccine has been available for several years for those who have had chickenpox but not shingles. The vaccine halves the risk of getting shingles and decreases by two-thirds the chance of post-shingles pain. The cost of the vaccine is about $200. But anyone who has had shingles, or its complications, is quick to advise finding the money to avoid hellish pain.

Pregnant women, those breast-feeding, and anyone who has had a reaction to neomycin should not take the vaccine.

What about natural prevention? Lysine, an essential amino acid, possesses antiviral effects which are helpful in fighting the shingles virus. For instance, it’s been known for years that lysine can often decrease recurrent attacks of the herpes virus. The addition of vitamin C can make it even more effective in building up immunity to shingles.

But large doses are essential. This means taking 4,000 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C and at least 2,000 mg of lysine daily. This high-dose combination, available as Medi-C Plus, must be used daily and for years to be helpful. Moreover, this high-dose combination of C and lysine also provides protection against heart attack and viral infections.

The big problem is what to do when the lesions of herpes have faded away and patients are left with unrelenting pain. An ancient Chinese and Middle Eastern medical practice, known as cupping therapy, has helped many people suffering from this debilitating pain.

Needle cupping involves pricking the skin at acupuncture points along the herpes nerve roots. A small cup is heated to remove oxygen and then placed over the pricked area. This creates a suction effect drawing internal blood to the area and diseased blood flushed out.

So now you have some options. As always, the message is, choose prevention before hellish pain occurs.

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Can athletes escape COVID virus?

by W. Gifford-Jones, M.D. and Diana Gifford-Jones
Common Sense Health

Professional sporting events have never been entirely about the game. Team owners, player sponsorships, media contracts, ticket sales, and merchandising licenses are the playgrounds of big business. But the tiniest of offensive players, the novel coronavirus, has upended the sporting world. It has become a matter of great debate whether your grandmother or your favourite sports star should have priority for a vaccine.

Take NHL hockey as an example. A delayed season has started. Only a handful of arenas are allowing limited spectators to attend the games. The league is working hard to keep players safe from COVID-19, but games have been delayed and postponed due to positive tests among players, coaches and staff. As one wise sage remarked, “It’s hard to escape the wind.”

Health officials urge all of us to take precautions against spread of infection. But how can hockey players “social distance” while driving the opponent into the boards?

Teams will take every possible precaution. But this is easier said than done when traveling from game to game. The NHL reports players are being tested daily. But testing is only one step to prevent the spread of the virus.

As this article is being written, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs are preparing to take the field in Tampa, FL. Exhausted health officials are losing more sleep worried that huge sporting events like these will cause another winter surge, once again stretching the healthcare system to the breaking point.

One can hardly blame starved restaurant owners from doing what they can to sell a few meals. But even outdoor seating was a problem for Los Angeles in hosting the NBA finals in October. The L.A. Times reports, “More than 9,000 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in L.A. County since Nov. 1, more than half of the county’s cumulative COVID-19 death toll of 16,127.”

So it has been proven that professional athletes will play on amid this pandemic.

With the amount of money at stake, it should not surprise if there are nefarious ploys to secure vaccine supplies. Stay tuned for a Hollywood thriller!

But what of Olympic athletes? Woe be Tokyo and the still questionable Olympic Games. According to a recent poll, nearly 80% of Japanese think the games should be canceled or postponed again. For many athletes, there is only one chance to compete. So most are understandably keen to partake.

The International Olympic Committee is in a pickle since its revenue is largely dependent on broadcast contracts. The IOC insists the Games are a go. Suggestions that athletes be permitted to jump national vaccine queues have been met with condemnation.
The question remains, should you and your children be playing contact team sports or even games with social distancing?

The answer is a resounding yes, but with a caveat. Just like porcupines making love, engage in these activities very carefully.

Why is there not more commonsense advice from public health experts about the fortification of our natural immune systems as a protective measure against the virus? Athletes may be the healthiest among us, but even they need robust immune systems. How?
Get ample sleep – without it, you will be weakened. Eat a good diet and drink plenty of water, not sugary drinks. Take a daily dose of immune-boosting vitamins C and D – in the high doses required for a good fight with a viral opponent, not the small amounts for general health. Make sure you are getting enough magnesium and zinc.

Then wear a mask. Keep a distance. And enjoy the exercise!

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Depleted soil at the root of poor health

by Dr. Gifford Jones

We recently wrote about the gut microbiome – the remarkable digestive ecosystem that influences how nutrients and bacteria contribute to weight management, organ function, and even our mental health. But did you know there is a soil microbiome, and that this too affects your health? It turns out, we’ve not taken good care of it.

Perhaps you already worry about the air you breathe and the water you drink. You are, at least, choosing healthy foods that deliver the nutrition you need. You don’t buy processed products, don’t drink soda, and limit salt intake. Maybe you are even vegan, feeling good about both your health and your carbon footprint. But you may need to consult with a farmer, not a doctor, to learn about the risks facing your vegetables.

At its best, good soil is home to worms, beetles, bugs, and untold numbers of microscopic organisms that serve important functions. In life and death, they furnish the soil with nutrients. Their busy work helps the soil absorb and retain water. Some of them help control harmful pests. But farming practices have been unkind to these critters. Relentless tilling of fields and applications of fertilizers have lessened the quality of topsoil across North America. It is dry, unable to hold nutrients or water. It blows away. And the water run-off, polluted with nitrate, a common fertilizer, is a major concern.

Regulatory limits determine acceptable levels of nitrate in public drinking water supplies. But the degradation of groundwater from overapplication of nitrogen fertilizers is a major concern to researchers studying human health. A report in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health warns of a relationship between nitrate ingestion and colorectal cancer, thyroid disease, and neural tube defects, including at water nitrate levels below regulatory limits.

The United Nations considers soil degradation one of the central threats to human health in the coming decades.

For now, studies show that farmed vegetables still provide all the necessary nutrients for good health. Your practice should be a diet containing the recommended number of servings per day of vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

But there’s also something to be said for turning to natural supplements when you don’t regularly achieve the daily 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit. Further, there are notable health benefits to natural supplements.

Take Healing Earth, for example, which offers relief for joint pain associated with osteoarthritis. These vegetable capsules contain humic acid, found in healthy soil as a result of microbial decomposition of plant matter, and MSM, another organic compound that contains sulfur. Sulfur is sometimes called “the forgotten nutrient”, although it is essential for a healthy liver, connective tissues and even stress response.

The earliest descriptions of medical uses for humic acid are found in Sanskrit, Roman, and Chinese texts. Its chemical nature was determined in the early 1800s. More recently, the World Journal of Gastroenterology published a study that tested the effects of humic acids on microbial communities of the colon. The results showed a 20-30% increase in concentrations of these healthy colonic inhabitants, suggesting an alternative to fecal transplants or probiotics for restore weakened health gut.

A report in the journal Nutrients notes MSM “may have clinical applications for arthritis and other inflammatory disorders such as interstitial cystitis, allergic rhinitis, and acute exercise-induced inflammation.”

It’s depressing what’s happening to our natural environment. But there is, at least, some hope that scientists are getting better at explaining the health benefits of mystically revered organic substances like humic acid and MSM, and that convenient and safe products are available on store shelves.

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Why doctors must think like Sherlock Holmes

by W. Gifford-Jones, M.D. and Diana Gifford-Jones
Common sense health advice

A 57-year-old woman, receiving physiotherapy for an injured ankle, suddenly suffered a seizure, became unconscious, and was rushed to Emergency. The obvious diagnosis, a sudden stroke.

But as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the English doctor and writer who created the fictional private detective, Sherlock Holmes, wrote, “There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”

A report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows that Doyle was right. Doctors must sometimes think like Sherlock Holmes. The ultimate diagnosis was not a stroke. Rather, a complication from the triple A disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

It’s a problem that doesn’t receive much press. But it killed Albert Einstein, the famous scientist, Lucille Ball, the TV star, and the actor George C Scott. Unless diagnosed early, before it ruptures, AAA is an efficient assassin.

The aorta is the main artery that delivers blood from the heart to the entire body. It’s about the size of a garden hose and after leaving the heart it extends to the neck a short distance, then down the back of the abdomen.

During the last 60 years the risk of AAA has tripled. This is in part due to improved diagnostic methods and an aging population. It’s also more common in males than females, and about five percent of men over age 65 have some degree of aortic aneurysm.

Increased blood pressure is a major risk factor for AAA. It’s also more likely to develop in smokers and those suffering from chronic lung disease. But AAA can result from atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) that gradually weakens the arterial wall and is a major cause of heart attack which ends the lives of so many North Americans.

An aortic aneurysm may be without symptoms until rupture occurs in which case the hemorrhage is so sudden and severe that death is speedy. But today many aneurysms are diagnosed during other diagnostic abdominal procedures.

This provides significant time to decide how these herniations are best treated, particularly since the majority of aneurysms expand at a very slow rate.

Since major surgery is involved to remove an aneurysm, it’s prudent to monitor them every six to twelve months by abdominal ultrasound, CT scans, and MRIs to detect changes in dimensions.

In the final analysis, the decision depends on the size of the aneurysm. Surgery is normally advised when the aneurysm measures 5 to 5.5 centimeters as this is when they’re more likely to rupture. In some cases, a surgical stent is placed inside the aneurysm to decrease the risk of rupturing.

Rather than using an abdominal incision, the stent is inserted through the femoral artery in the groin and then guided up and into the weakened aortic wall.

This operation is more serious than having an appendix removal so surgical expertise is vital. It’s the old story that practice makes perfect, whether a plumber or a surgeon.

For instance, in one study for aneurysms repaired by a vascular surgeon in a university hospital, the mortality rate was 2.2%.

But in hospitals where surgeons were performing fewer cases and were less experienced, the mortality rate was 5.5%.

Remember the common Gifford-Jones recommendation. If you are told surgeon X is the best for the operation and that surgeon has the personality of Dracula, don’t look elsewhere. It’s the hands that do the surgery, not the personality.

The story of the patient with the injured ankle had a happy ending. She was discharged in nine days. It reminds doctors that 30% of AAA have neurological signs, not pain or other symptoms. Like Sherlock Holmes, doctors need to be good detectives.

Questions about the ketogenic diet

by Dr. Gifford Jones

What is a ketogenic diet? How does it differ and is it more effective than other diets? Apart from the hype surrounding this diet, what are the medical concerns about it?

Recent marketing of the ketogenic diet suggests it’s a new one. But a report from the University of California says it’s been used for years to treat medical problems such as epilepsy in children.

But what is it about the ketogenic diet that causes weight loss? A major factor is that it’s low in carbohydrates and high in fats.
Blood sugar (glucose) is normally the body’s main source of energy. But when blood sugar is diminished by eating less carbohydrates, the body is unable to maintain needed levels. To compensate, the body must start burning fat for energy. It also obtains more energy by converting some amino acids from protein in foods. And if this does not suffice, it gets energy from muscles.

The breakdown of fat, and to a lesser extent, protein, creates a condition called “ketosis” which is also used for energy. Hopefully none of us will ever be in a situation where we’re starving. But if that happens, we develop ketosis. It also occurs in uncontrolled diabetes.

Ketosis starts within a few days after carbohydrates are decreased to between 20 and 50 grams a day. This is not much carbohydrate, as two one-ounce slices of bread contain 28 grams of carbs!

How does a ketogenic diet compare with a normal diet? The average North American gets 50-55% of energy from carbohydrates, 30-35% from fats, and 15-20% from protein. The ketogenic diet obtains 5-10% from carbohydrates, 70-75% from fats, and 20% from protein.

A ketogenic diet contains full-fat dairy, eggs, fish, poultry, meat, nuts, non-starchy vegetables and butter. You are allowed to eat as many of these foods until you are full. It eliminates starchy vegetables, most fruits, grains, and sweets.

The British Journal of Nutrition analyzed 13 diet studies and reported that most, but not all, found that patients on a ketogenic diet lost more weight than those on other diets. They also ended up with lower blood pressure and blood triglycerides. And it helped those with type 2 diabetes. The negative of this diet is that it also increases bad cholesterol because of its high content of saturated fat.

Another negative is that the low carbohydrate content makes it hard for people to stick to it. Also, by eliminating most fruits, many vegetables, whole grains, and fiber, constipation is more likely to be a problem. Moreover, it removes ingredients essential for good health. No one should start a ketogenic diet without the help of your trusted family doctor.

It’s unfortunate that most diets wouldn’t be needed if people would follow a sound lifestyle. The first error is not having a bathroom scale that you step on every day. Scales tell it the way it is. Focus on losing any gained weight the same day the scale reports an increase.

This means saying no to high calorie desserts, eating smaller portions on smaller plates, and declining any offered second portions. Healthy weight loss also means an increase in daily exercise. Loss of excess weight and common-sense healthy living significantly reduces the risks associated with the epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. A sustained commitment can add years of longevity.

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