Amid the clamor created by pharmaceutical companies hyping statins, the drugs that lower cholesterol, important information is going unheard.

You need to know: Four natural therapies can protect, and even restore, the health of your arteries—without the dangerous side effects of statin drugs.

These natural substances help to reverse the process of plaque buildup-to dissolve plaque, eliminating the danger it presents. They are available over-the-counter from health foxxl stores, on-line and/or from holistic physicians. Unless otherwise noted, they have no side effects, can be taken indefinitely and are safe for everyone, including people who take statin drugs. Important...

  • If you have atherosclerosis or any other cardiovascular condition, you need to be under a cardiologist's care.
  • If you take blood-thinning medication, such as aspirin or warfarin Coumadin)—typically given to improve blood flow and prevent blood clots—talk to your doctor before using the natural therapies below, because they could affect your medication dosage.
  • If you are pregnant, speak to your doctor before taking these or any other supplements or drugs.
  • Discontinue use of these substances 10 to 14 days prior to scheduled surgery to reduce the risk of excess bleeding. Resume use according to your doctor's instructions (typically 10 days after the procedure).
  • To determine which substance or combination of substances to use, see "The Right Regimen for You" on page 307.

1. Tocotrienols

There are two principal categories of vitamin E, called tocopherols and tocotrienols. Each of these has four subcategories-alpha, beta, gamma and delta.

Some vitamin E supplements contain syn. thetic alpha-tocopherol. If that's what is in your cupboard-indicated on the label as "dl-alphatocopherol"-throw it out! Synthetic alpha-tocopherol leaves less room for the more healthful tocopherols you ingest from food or natural supplements (labeled "d-alpha-tocopherol"). Natural tocopherols reduce free radicals, helping to prevent new plaque, but they have not been shown to reduce plaque that is already present. For that, you need tocotrienols.

Tocotrienols are found in rice bran, Coconut, barley and wheat germ-but only in small amounts. Supplements with mixed tocopherols/ tocotrienols are sold in health food stores but they are not the best for reducing plaque.

Better: A tocotrienol-only supplement. I like Allergy Research Group Delta-Fraction Tocourierols (800-545-9960, www.ullergyreseurub, available from holistic doctors. The dosage is 300 mg per day.

2. Vitamin K

Vitamin K protects against harmful arterial calcification. Forms include phylloquinone (K1) and menaquinone (K2). Vitamin Kl is abundant in dark green leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach and broccoli. However, vitamin K2 is better absorbed and remains active in the body longer than vitamin Kl. Good food sources of vitamin K2 include natto (fermented soybeans) and, to a lesser degree, fermented cheeses (the type with holes, such as Swiss and Jarlsberg), beef liver, chicken and egg yolks. Vitamin K also promotes beneficial bone calcification.

People taking warfarin are at higher risk for atherosclerosis and osteoporosis (brittle bones) due to the drug's effects on calcification. A study in Pharmacotherapy demonstrated the safety and benefit of low-dose vitamin K supplementation in patients taking warfarin. Vitamin K also promotes beneficial bone calcification.

Note: It is vital that a person who takes blood thinners use vitamin K only under the close supervision of a doctor, because the medication dosage may need to be adjusted.

Research suggests that most people get too little vitamin K. I think daily supplementation with 150 mcg to 200 mcg of vitamin K2 is appropriate for all adults-and especially important for those with atherosclerosis. If you take warfarin, the daily dose may be modified, depending on blood tests that indicate how your clotting mechanism interacts with vitamin K A brand I like is Jarrow Formula's MK-7 (800-726-0886,

3. Garlic Extract

Legend tells us that garlic protects against vampires—but its true power lies in its ability to protect arteries. Most beneficial is aged garlic extract (AGE), available in capsule or liquid form. A study from the University of California, Los Angeles, involved 19 cardiac patients who were taking statin drugs and aspirin daily. Participants took either a placebo or 4 milliliters (ml) of a liquid brand called Kyolic AGE for one year.

Findings: Participants who took AGE had about a 66% reduction in new plaque formation compared with those who took a placebo.

Research demonstrates that AGE also can…

  • Reduce LDL cholesterol by up to 12%... total cholesterol by up to 31%...and triglycerides by up to 19%.
  • Protect against the LDL oxidation that can trigger arterial plaque formation.
  • Thin the blood.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Reduce blood levels of homocysteine—the amino acid that, when elevated, raises cardiovascular disease risk.
  • Reduce C-reactive protein, a blood marker of inflammation and a risk factor for atherosclerosis.
  • Combat carotid plaque. I recommend supplementing daily with AGE.

Dosage: 4 ml to 6 ml of liquid AGE or 400 mg to 600 mg in tablet or capsule form.

4. Pomegranate Juice

Once considered exotic, pomegranate juice now is sold in supermarkets and is a proven boon to arterial health. Israeli researchers verified this in a three-year study of 19 men and women, ages 65 to 75, with severe carotid artery blockage. Ten participants drank 50 ml (about two ounces) per day of 100% pomegranate juice, and nine participants drank a placebo.

Results: Among juice drinkers, plaque thickness decreased by an average of 13% after three months and 35% after one year. This is phenomenal-no drug can come close to reducing plaque like this! Placebo drinkers had a 9% increase in plaque after one year.

Pomegranate juice is loaded with antioxidants called polyphenols, which prevent cholesterol oxidation and improve blood flow.

Note: Choose 100% juice with no added sugar. Pomegranate juice contains a lot of naturally occurring sugar, so dilute two to four ounces of juice with an equal amount of water. Drink it with meals to slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and help to maintain stable blood glucose levels. Use twice daily.

The Right Regimen For You

Arterial plaque buildup can be detected and its severity gauged using imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRD scan and/or ultrasound. Results help to determine the appropriate therapy for you. Tests may be repeated periodically to see if your regimen needs to be modified.

The four natural substances described in this article, used alone or in combination (following the dosage guidelines in the main article), can improve the health of your arteries.

Note: If you take blood-thinning medication, talk to your doctor before trying any of these substances.

  • If you do not have atherosclerosis, take one or more of these:
  • Vitamin K
  • Aged garlic extract (AGE) .Pomegranate juice
  • For mild atherosclerosis, take all of these:
  • Vitamin K
  • AGE
  • Pomegranate juice
  • For moderate or severe atherosclerosis, take all of these:
  • Tocotrienols
  • Vitamin K
  • AGE
  • Pomegranate juice
  • Statin medication-but only if you and your doctor are not satisfied with your level of improvement after 12 months of daily use of all four natural substances.

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