How Not To Die – Dr. Greger’s Anatomy Lesson, Part 2
In Part 2 of How Not To Die — Dr. Greger’s Anatomy Lesson, we continue with the “food as medicine” theme, applied to eight more chronic and potentially debilitating health conditions. The aim is know what to do to prevent the common ills that beset us as we age. Read, watch, learn.
LAST WEEK in How Not To Die –Dr. Greger’s Anatomy Lesson, Part 1, we took a look at specific foods and supplements can act like medicine to help prevent and heal chronic disease, and thereby enhance our healthspan, the measure of chronological years spent healthy.
Between Part 1 and Part 2 of “How Not To Die”, we cover 15 diseases and unhappy health outcomes, all of them correlated with age; meaning, the older we get, the more they happen.
We need to take preventative measures now, and that’s been the objective of this two-part series.
In Part 1 we covered:
- Prostrate cancer
- Colon polyps
- Bladder cancer
- Weight loss
- Liver inflammation
- Pulmonary disease
- Breast cancer
If you or someone you know is wrestling with any of the above-mentioned conditions go to Part 1 and check out the videos, foods and supplements that address each health issue.
In this article, we keep on keeping on by continuing to follow Dr. Greger’s anatomical illustration, from south (prostrate) to north (depression), focusing as before on the medicinal value of particular foods and supplements may help relieve or prevent the following disease states…
- Blood Pressure
- Upper Respiratory Infection
- Esophageal Cancer
… as depicted here:
For a larger depiction, open this pdf file.
The foods reviewed here are those suggested by Dr. Greger, both on his extremely informative research-based website, Nutritionfacts.org, and in his forthcoming book, How Not To Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease.
(Last I looked, the book has been discounted for those pre-ordering it, which I did last week. I heartily recommend that you go here and check it out.)
Most of the videos on each health issue are among those I found on Dr. Greger’s website.
The supplements suggested are mainly from my own research and/or experience.
That said, let’s get cracking, beginning with blood pressure. This condition may be important to you, or someone you know, because there’s nearly a one-in-three chance that you experience high blood pressure, if you’re an American, and even greater worldwide.
Tea Time for Blood Pressure
According to the CDC, about 29% of Americans, or 70 million people, have high blood pressure, costing the U.S. system $46 billion per year. (1) The WHO (not the band) sneers at us with its dominating statistic of 40% — that’s the worldwide percentage of adults aged 25 or more who have high blood pressure as estimated in 2008. (2)
The impression you should have at this moment is that high blood pressure is a significant health problem. The next impression coming your way (hopefully) is that there are some pretty straightforward and effective things you can do to get blood pressure to healthy levels, which by the way has now been determined to be lower than previously thought adequate.
According to Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publications, this is the current standard viewpoint:
- Normal (meaning healthy) blood pressure: a systolic pressure under 120 and a diastolic pressure under 80.
- Hypertension, or high blood pressure: a systolic pressure of 140 or higher and/or a diastolic pressure of 90 or higher.
And this is what the new guidelines recommend:
- Adults age 60 and older with high blood pressure, aim for a target blood pressure less than 150/90.
- Adults age 30 to 59 with high blood pressure, aim for a target blood pressure under 140/90
- Adults with diabetes or chronic kidney disease, aim for a target blood pressure less than 140/90.
Under these new, lower guidelines, those aforementioned statistics for Americans and citizens worldwide become even more startling.
So, can “Hibiscus Tea” really reduce high blood pressure?
That’s what Dr. Greger says, and here’s why:
For those of you who did not watch the video, know this:
Tested head-to-head against a leading blood-pressure drug, Captopril, two cups of strong Hibiscus tea every morning, using a total of 5 tea bags for those two cups, was as effective in lowering blood pressure as a starting dose of 25mg of Captopril taken twice a day.
Those eating a plant-based diet combined with Hibiscus tea had even a more dramatic outcome: their blood pressure dropped an average of 28 points!
Suggestion: If you have high blood sugar, get that cup of coffee down the gullet first thing in the morning, but for the rest of the day, drink Hibiscus tea along with your veggies.
Supplements to check out: I don’t have any experience with Hibiscus tea and don’t have any favorites to suggest, but here are an assortment of Hibiscus tea selections you can peruse. There are also Hibiscus tea (plus other ingredients) supplement concentrates designed for high blood pressure. UltraLife Advanced Blood Pressure Support is one I found with the greatest number of customer reviews with a 4.5 star rating on Amazon.com
Bad Cholesterol (but no “bad apples”)
Cholesterol isn’t the total villain it was once thought, given its link to heart attack, stroke, and other types of cardiovascular disease. We need this type of lipid (a type of fat) to make cell membranes, key hormones (like testosterone and estrogen), bile acids needed to digest and absorb fats, and vitamin D.
If we didn’t have cholesterol, we’d die, but nonetheless one type is considered “bad” because too much of it is harmful.
Yes, there still is a villain in this melodrama, and it’s a cholesterol partial called LDL, or low-density lipoprotein. Too much LDL in the bloodstream helps create the harmful cholesterol-filled plaques that grow inside arteries. Such plaques are responsible for angina (chest pain with exertion or stress), heart attacks, and most types of stroke. (3)
Here’s what our old friend the CDC tells us about high LDL in America (4):
- 73.5 million adults (31.7%) in the United States have high low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol.
- Less than 1 out of every 3 adults (29.5%) with high LDL cholesterol has the condition under control.
- Less than half (48.1%) of adults with high LDL cholesterol are getting treatment to lower their levels.
- People with high total cholesterol have approximately twice the risk for heart disease as people with ideal levels.
- Nearly 31 million adult Americans have a total cholesterol level greater than 240 mg/dL.
Just like with high blood pressure, Americans have an LDL problem. A good range to shoot for is between 40 and 50 mg/dL (5)
And you can get there by eating dried apples, says Dr. Greger, which happen to be about the best dried fruit on the planet.
Yes, it does seem too simplistic a solution to a complex and difficult health problem, but consider this from a report released at a nutrition conference (6):
Eating about three ounces of dried apple rings a day for a year dropped bad cholesterol by 23%, and the level of inflammation plummeted as well.
(Read about Dr. Andrew Weil’s “inflammation diet” here.)
The people in the study were woman, but beyond their capacity to bring new life into being, they’re not so different than the rest of us that dried apples will drop only their LDL.
So, men, get chewing too.
Suggestion: Don’t eat more than the suggested three ounces of dried apple per day, as they – like all dried fruit – are high in fructose, and most of us consume too much sugar to begin with.
Shroom Upper Respiratory Infection
The upper respiratory tract includes the sinuses, nasal passages, pharynx, and larynx. These structures direct the air we breathe from the outside to the trachea and eventually to the lungs for respiration to take place. (6)
An “upper respiratory infection”, therefore, is a viral or bacterial infection lodged anywhere in that respiratory tract, and the best way to deal with it is not to get it.
That’s how I do it anyway, and it seems that Dr. Greger concurs, because his advice is to use mushrooms to boost your immune system so that it fights off any potential infections.
Check this video about an immune enhancing mushroom called “Ganoderma”, in a coffee solution no less:
Ganoderma is new to me. What I typically advocate on these pages for enhancing the immune system is Turkey Tail Mushroom. As I wrote in Part 1, Turkey Tail mushroom was first brought to my attention by the famous mycologist, Dr. Paul Stamets’ Ted Talk, where he spoke about how his extract of this mushroom beat his 80+ year-old mother’s breast cancer into submission.
Mushrooms are amazing creatures, sorta speak, and I advocate your exploration of their benefits for health.
Suggestion: Experiment with eating every type of mushroom sold as places like Whole Foods. Watch Paul Stamets’ presentation, The Future Is Fungi – (how to save the planet).
Supplements to check out: Déjà vu all over again.. it be Turkey Tail Mushrooms! Paul Stamets’ brand is likely the best: Host Defense. Those on a budget can try the Swanson Brand, though it’s not as potent as Host Defense.
Esophageal Cancer Defeated by a Berry
The esophagus is the tube that carries food and liquid to your stomach, and esophageal cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the esophagus.
The good news is that only about one-half of one percent of the population will be diagnosed with esophagus cancer over their lifetimes. The bad news is that only about 18% survive it over five years. (7)
People with this affliction need to know about strawberries!
Consider a randomized clinical trial of powdered strawberries in patients with precancerous lesions of the esophagus.
For six months they ate one to two ounces of freeze dried strawberries each day (equivalent to more than a pound of fresh strawberries a day), and the progression of disease was reversed in 80% of those in the high dose strawberry treatment.
At the beginning of the study, none had a normal esophagus. They either had mild or moderate precancerous disease. But by the end of the study most lesions either regressed from moderate to mild, or disappeared completely. (8)
Check it out:
Suggestion: Whether you have esophagus cancer or not, it’s a really good idea to eat your berries, strawberries and others, like blackberries and blueberries. The more colors the better.
Supplements to check out: As in the above-cited study, you can high dose your strawberry intake with freeze-dried powders. Check out Whole Spice Strawberry Fruit Powder. Put it in your morning smoothie.
Stroke that Fiber
I’m sensitive to this right now, because today I learned that a high school friend had a stroke and is in the hospital. I expect that eventually I’ll hear about other people I know having strokes. That’s because strokes are the second most common cause of death worldwide. (9)
(The first most common cause of death is heart disease. (10))
A network of blood vessels that reach every part of the brain delivers the constant supply of oxygen and nutrients our brain cells need. If that supply is disrupted, brain cells downstream begin to die, and “a stroke” is imminent.
Our Harvard Health Publications website tells us that:
“Most strokes strike when a blood clot becomes lodged in one of the brain’s arteries, blocking blood flow. In some cases, the clot forms inside the artery, usually because a cholesterol-filled plaque inside the artery breaks open. This is called a thrombotic stroke. In other cases, a blood clot or a solid mass of debris that originates elsewhere travels to the brain, where it blocks a brain artery. This is called an embolic stroke. A third type of stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.” (11)
Given all that, how can something as rudimentary as fiber help?
Well, take a look in Dr. Greger’s video:
Remember, all the best studies to date found that fiber appears to significantly protect against the risk of stroke. Notably, increasing fiber just seven grams a day was associated with a significant 7% reduction in stroke risk. Consuming seven grams is easy; for instance, a small serving of whole grain pasta with tomato sauce and an apple. (12)
Suggestion: Read labels and choose more foods that are high in fiber. Get two for the price of one by eating flax, chia and hemp seeds – they have lots of fiber and the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Consume fiber liberally and daily.
Supplements to check out: Natural Factors PGX claims to be world’s most viscous soluble fiber blend. Dr. Mark Hyman recommends it to reduce appetite, food cravings and maintains healthy glucose levels already within normal range. For a pure and simple fiber, nothing else, consider Psyllium Husk Powder.
Parkinson’s and Peppers
Well, I wish I had a hotline to Dr. Greger at the moment, because I have yet to find a solid source for the contention that, as he says in the anatomy illustration, “Bell peppers have been associated with a significantly lower risk of Parkinson’s”.
Now “peppers” bereft of the “bell” is a different story.
Dr. Joseph Mercola reports that eating peppers may reduce Parkinson’s risk by 19%. (15)
Before we delve into the pepper story, let’s get a handle on Parkinson’s, a disease that afflicts nearly one million people in the U.S. (16)
Parkinson’s disease is a disease of the central nervous system that develops when certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain die, resulting in problems with body motions, including:
- Tremor (shakiness);
- Rigidity (muscle stiffness);
- Slowed body movements;
- Unstable posture; and
- Difficulty walking.
The neurons that Parkinson’s kill off produce a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine helps relay messages between areas of the brain that control body movement. When these neurons die, abnormally low levels of dopamine are produced, making it difficult to control muscle tension and muscle movement. (17)
Back to peppers.
The reason that consuming peppers may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s is stunning, because it’s due to the fact that peppers belong to the same botanical family as tobacco!
I’ve heard of “smoked peppers” before, but this brings new meaning to the term.
Turns out that epidemiological findings repeatedly show that people who have regularly used tobacco have about half the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, says Dr. Susan Searles Nielsen. In 2012, she published a study that suggested that second-hand smoke also might reduce risk of the disease:
It’s possible that people predisposed to Parkinson’s disease simply don’t respond well to tobacco smoke and therefore avoid it. However, if tobacco is actually protective, and if the reason is nicotine as some experimental studies suggest, then our hypothesis was that other plants in the Solanaceae family that contain nicotine might also be protective. (18)
The explanation for such a startling declaration is provided us by a blog post entitled, Parkinson’s Disease, Nicotine, and Green Peppers?, which put this way:
“All tomatoes, peppers of the red, green, yellow, and chili varieties, eggplant, cauliflower, and tomatillos are part of the Solanaceae, or nightshades, family of flowering plants. Tobacco, some teas, some spices, and a whole bunch of weeds are also in the nightshades family. All in the nightshades family contain some nicotine and nicotine, in controlled amounts, has been linked to pretty significant reductions in Parkinson’s Disease and here is why – nicotine stimulates dopamine production and Parkinson’s Disease is directly linked to dopamine production.”
Suggestion: Don’t smoke or put yourself in a closet with a smoker. Do eat peppers and other veggies in the nightshades family.
Supplements to check out: WebMD lists 18 supplements to consider that fights Parkinson’s, several of which have been reviewed in these pages. One not listed comes up in an Amazon.com search that’s called Mucuna, formulated by Dr. Ray Sahelian. Mucuna consists of mucuna pruriens (velvet bean), which contains L-dopa used to make dopamine, the much-needed chemical that Parkinson’s suffers lack.
Saffron Eases Depression
If you suffered from depression, which would you rather take to help, Prozac or Saffron?
Prozac has side effects, some serious. By my count, Drugwatch.com lists about 12:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Dry mouth
- Weight gain (well, that’s depressing)
Side effects from Saffron?
Actually, there are some, and in fact WebMD says that doses of 12 to 20 grams can cause death.
Death is serious.
Twelve-plus grams are quite a lot – you’d have to work at it and have a certain end in mind.
Dr. Greger reports that a double blind, randomized trial of Saffron versus Prozac examined 40 outpatients diagnosed with clinical depression. For six weeks they got capsules containing the spice Saffron—or, identical-looking capsules containing Prozac.
In just one week depression symptoms significantly declined, and patients continued to improve throughout the six weeks.
Check out the video:
Suggestion: If you don’t know what Saffron looks like – well, dried and powdered Saffron — here’s a bottle of it.
Supplements to check out: The Life Extension Foundation has a product called Optimized Saffron that it markets as a weight-loss, satiation supplement, but does say that it’s “prized by traditional cultures since ancient Persia as a way to enhance mood and relieve stress.”
P.S. Ladies, you can treat PMS with Saffron.
Here in Part 2 of How Not To Die – Dr. Greger’s Anatomy Lesson, we continued the examination begun in Part 1 of how food can be our medicine, and how supplements enhance the right foods that improve our health and ward off various chronic illnesses.
This time, in Part 2, we took a look at preventing or alleviating such health issues as Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Upper Respiratory Infection, Immunity, Esophageal Cancer, Stroke, Parkinson’s and Depression.
If you are concerned about a specific health issue, try the suggested foods and supplements, although by no means substitute any of that for what your doctor recommends.
As a preventative measure against chronic, and in some cases, life-threatening diseases, these foods that will help do the job:
- Hibiscus tea
- Dried apples
These are the supplements you can add to the foods that may help:
- UltraLife Advanced Blood Pressure Support
- Nature’s Organic Apples
- Host Defense
- Whole Spice Strawberry Fruit Powder
- Natural Factors PGX
- Optimized Saffron
Between Parts 1 and 2, we’ve covered many of the pernicious diseases and illnesses that beset us, particularly as we age. Surely it makes a lot of sense to take preventative measures, so consider adding the foods we explored to your diet.
If you’re concerned that you may be vulnerable to potentially getting one of the health conditions covered, add the relevant supplement(s) to the your health regimen.
My last suggestion is that you share these two articles (Parts 1 and 2) with those you know who might benefit from the information given their interests and/or health challenges.
They’ll appreciate the help.