Healthy Heart Facts

[Please note–this document is an archived Webpage from Dr. Rodger H. Murphree’s Website.]


Healthy Heart Facts
From Heart Disease: What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You, by Dr. Rodger H. Murphree


Cardiovascular Disorders
Sixty eight million Americans suffer from some form of heart disease. Over one million Americans have a heart attack each year and almost one million Americans die each year from cardiovascular related illnesses. This number accounts for forty-one percent of all deaths in the United States each year. Cardiovascular disease claims as many lives as the next 8 leading causes of death combined, including cancer, accidents, and AIDS. In fact, one person dies every 33 seconds from heart disease. This adds up to 2,600 deaths a day! Heart disease is responsible for fifty percent of all deaths world wide!

The Cardiovascular System
The cardiovascular system or circulatory system consists of the heart, blood vessels, and lymphatics. This system is responsible for delivering life-sustaining oxygen and nutrients to every cell in the body. It removes metabolic waste products and helps carry hormones from one part of the body to another. The arteries carry blood away from the heart, the veins carry it to the heart, and the capillaries (tiny blood vessels) deliver blood to the tissues.

The Heart
The heart is a small muscular organ about the size of a human fist. It beats more than 100,000 times each day and pumps nearly 2,000 gallons of blood throughout the body’s circulatory system every day. The vast network of blood vessels, including arteries, capillaries and veins, is over 60,000 miles long—more than twice the distance around the earth. The heart is really two separate pumps. The right side pumps blood to the lungs, and the left side pumps the blood to the rest of the body. The heart has four separate chambers. The right and left atrium or top chambers are connected to the lower right and left ventricles. These chambers allow blood to be pumped to the lungs where it becomes filled with oxygen and is dispersed throughout the rest of the body. Used blood returning from the body enters the right atrium. It is then pumped through the tricuspid valve and into the right ventricle. This un-oxygenated blood travels from the right ventricle into lungs where it exchanges carbon dioxide (which we breathe out when we exhale) for life sustaining oxygen. The oxygenated blood returns through the pulmonary (lung) veins and enters the left atrium of the heart. It is then pumped through the bicuspid valve (mitral valve) and into the left ventricle. The left ventricle is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood through out the body. After supplying the body with the needed oxygen and nutrients the used blood once again returns to the right atrium.

The valves discussed above allow blood to flow from one chamber to the next. However, if the valves become damaged as is the case in mitral-valve prolapse (MVP), blood spills back into the atrium. This is known as regurgitation. The backflow of blood through the valve causes the heart to work harder. MVP, which affects 5-10 percent of the population is fairly harmless in most patients. However, a small percentage of patients with MVP may experience angina (chest pain), arrhythmia (abnormal heart beats), and excessive valve leakage that can lead to congestive heart disease. The regurgitation may prevent the heart from getting enough blood to meet the bodys metabolic needs. This can then lead to further problems that compromise the entire cardiovascular system.

Conventional medical treatment for MVP
Conventional medical treatments for MVP typically involve recommending one of the following beta-blockers (Inderal, Lopressor, Tenormin, Toprol, and Blocadren). Beta-blockers slow the heart rate down by blocking the cell receptors for epinephrine (adrenaline). Beta-blockers have several potential side effects including congestive heart failure, shortness of breath, heart block, fatigue, lethargy, drowsiness, depression, insomnia, headaches, dizziness, tingling in the hands and feet, wheezing, bronchospasm, increases severity of asthma or chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, decreased sex drive, muscle fatigue, reduces HDL (good cholesterol), increases LDL and triglycerides.

Nutritional approach
I’ve found that most patients can overcome MVP without the use of beta blockers (Toprol, Tenormin, and Lorpressor). I recommend that my patients take a minimum of 500mg of magnesium citrate (chelate), 100mg of CoQ10, and if needed, Hawthorne berry extract. Magnesium is an essential nutrient for proper cardiac function. It allows the heart muscle to relax between contractions and facilitates normal heart rhythms. Research has demonstrated that the heart is more sensitive to magnesium deficiencies than skeletal muscle. Researchers have also concluded that a magnesium deficiency can cause severe cardiac problems. Magnesium relaxes arterial smooth muscle, which reduces cardiac stress. Magnesium acts like a beta-blocker by inhibiting stimulatory hormones including norepinephrine and epinephrine (hormones that increase heart rate). Fortunately, magnesium doesn’t cause fatigue or the other symptoms associated with prescription beta blockers. Some studies show that those with MVP are deficient in magnesium. Other studies show that magnesium reduces the symptoms of MVP including palpitations, chest pain, and fatigue. CoQ10 has demonstrated that it can return heart function to normal. Patients need to take a minimum of 100mg indefinitely, as symptoms will usually return with in 2 years of discontinuing therapy. Hawthorne berry acts as a natural beta blocker. The normal dose is 200mg 3 times a day. Studies show that hawthorne appears to stabilize heart rhythm and should be considered for patients with valvular insufficiency or heart fibrillations.

Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation occurs when the atria (upper two chambers of the heart) beat faster than the ventricles (lower two chambers of the heart). Over two million Americans suffer from atrial fibrillation. Leaky heart valves (MVP), hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, stimulants (caffeine), medications, and thyroid disorders are all associated with atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation may cause up to a thirty percent reduction in cardiac output, resulting in shortness of breathe and fatigue. Atrial fibrillation causes almost 75,000 strokes each year. Atrial fibrillation is a serious health concern best monitored by your cardiologist. Conventional therapy for managing atrial fibrillation relies on diuretics, calcium channel blockers and ace inhibitor medications. A thorough discussion of these medications is included in the section on conventional medical approaches to cardiovascular disease. The best remedy for atrial fibrillation is prevention. The following nutrients have demonstrated their ability to both prevent and help stabilize atrial fibrillation.

Fish oil (DHA and EPA)
Increases certain hormones (prostaglandin 1) that help relax smooth heart muscle spasms.

Recommended dose is 4-9 grams a day.

A derivative of pineapple, bromelain acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory, reduces blood pressure, platelet clumping, fibrinogen levels, and atrial fibrillation.


Dose is 750mg, 3 times a day on an empty stomach.

Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure occurs when the muscle fibers of the heart become damaged from arteriosclerosis (and blockage), coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, inflammation, faulty vales (regurgitation), or heart infections. The ventricles of the heart become bloated with blood that can’t be properly expelled. The heart fails to pump blood through the 60,000 miles of arteries and veins. This causes increased pressure in the circulatory system. The increased pressure causes fluid to escape from the blood stream and to accumulate in the tissues and organs.
The symptoms of congestive heart disease include fluid retention, shortness of breath, chronic non-productive cough, exertion induced fatigue, and generalized lethargy.

There are two types of heart failure; right-sided and left-sided.
Right-sided heart failure occurs when the right atria and ventricle can’t keep pace with the left atria and ventricle. Left-sided heart failure occurs when the left atria and ventricle can’t keep up with the right side.

Right-sided heart failure
causes blood to accumulate in the vessels leading to the heart. Excess fluid (peripheral edema) and swelling occurs in the legs, ankles and feet. In left-sided heart failure blood accumulates in the veins leading from the lungs and the lungs become filled with fluid (pulmonary edema). The person may experience shortness of breath on exertion or paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea (shortness of breath that occurs after several hours of sleep). Salt intake should be restricted since sodium worsens the symptoms of CHF. Conventional medical therapy for CHF includes diuretics, ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, and calcium channel blockers. Nutritional therapies for managing CHF include the following nutrients: Magnesium may prove to be the most important nutrient in facilitating optimal cardiovascular health. Studies have demonstrated that low magnesium levels decrease the survival rate in those with CHS, by almost 50 percent.13 Individuals with CHF should be taking a minimum of 500mg of magnesium citrate or chelate each day. Hawthorne has been proven in double blind studies to help reduce the symptoms associated with CHF.
The recommended dose is 200 mg 3 times a day.

Numerous double-blind studies have demonstrated the importance of using the amino acid L-carnitine in the management of CHF.
L-Carnitine delivers long chain fatty acids to the heart. These fatty acids provide 70 percent of the energy needed by the heart. Studies involving carnitine replacement therapy have shown that it helps reduce cardiac arrhythmia, angina (chest pain), total cholesterol (by 20%), triglycerides (by 28%), while increasing HDL (by 12%).15-17
Recommended dose is 500mg 3 times a day on an empty stomach.

Arginine, an amino acid, helps dilate (relax and open) blood vessels that have been unresponsive to drug therapy. Studies involving arginine have shown it acts like the drug nitroglycerine, which increases nitric oxide. Because of its vasodiolating abilities, arginine is recommended for the management of angina. It also helps boost blood flow to the extremities (legs) by up to 29 percent. Recommended dose is 1,000-12,000gm a day.

CoQ10 has an impressive track record in regards CHF and should be recommended to those suffering from congestive heart failure.
In one study patients were administered a modest 30mg of CoQ10 a day. All the participants in the study showed improvement and 53 percent were asymptomatic after 4 weeks.19

The largest study to date on CoQ10 involved 2,664 patients with congestive heart failure and was conducted in Italy. The results showed that individuals who took an average of 100mg of CoQ10 a day for 3 months noticed a drastic improvement in their symptoms.20

Percentage of those with improvement follows:

cyanosis- 78% improved
edema (fluid retention) – 78.6%
vertigo -73%
insomnia – 66%
sweating – 79.8%
shortness of breath – 52%
pulmonary edema (fluid on the lungs) – 77.8%
enlarged liver – 49%
heart palpitations – 75%
arrhythmia (abnormal heart beats) – 63%
venous congestion – 71.8%
CoQ10 reduces exercise induced angina (chest pain) by 53% percent.21

Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) causes the loss of oxygen and nutrients to the myocardial (heart) tissue due to poor coronary (main artery of heart) blood flow. Atherosclerosis is the main cause of CAD. Atherosclerosis is a build up of plaque in the artery walls. The walls become fibrous, thick, and calcified. The arterial space narrows and blood flow is restricted.

Atherosclerosis and Arteriosclerosis
These terms are very similar. Atherosclerosis is defined as the build-up of plaque and fatty deposits in the innermost lining of large and medium-sized arteries, particularly the coronary arteries. This process can begin in childhood with development of fatty lesions or artheromas. Over time the artheromas begin turn to a fibrous plaque that then proliferates the lining of the arterial wall. These lesions may become hardened in a process known as arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, is a term used to describe several diseases that involve the cardiovascular system and the many arteries and vessels which make it up. Arteriosclerosis is the thickening, stiffening, and calcification of the artery walls. Arteriosclerosis may also occur in the medium and smaller arteries of the body. Then it is usually referred to as Monckeberg’s, arteriosclerosis. This involves the deposition of calcium in the internal layers of the arteries of the lower extremities (legs). This generally leads to an increase in blood pressure. A third form of the disease is arteriolar sclerosis, which involves both the inner and medial layers of smaller arteries in the arms, legs, eyes, and internal organs. This condition causes decreased blood flow to these tissues which can create circulatory problems, peripheral vascular disease, impaired circulation to the eyes and kidneys causing blindness and kidney failure.

You really should read my book, Heart Disease: What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You. Learn about natural approaches to reducing hypertension, high cholesterol, the risk of using Statin medications (Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor, etc., the role of Inflammation in heart disease,

© 2006 Dr. Rodger Murphree