The Cardiovascular Cure
How to Strengthen Your Self-Defense Against
Heart Attack and Stroke
by John P. Cooke, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Vascular Medicine, Stanford School of Medicine
There is magic within us. It is a magic that arises from the genetic code, taking form within the complex interaction between cells and tissue. It is a magic that can lengthen your life, a magic that can be strengthened or weakened depending on how you nourish it. What you do with the magic is up to you.
Today, thanks to new research in cardiovascular medicine, we know much more about blood vessels than we did just a few years ago. In fact, we now know that cardiovascular disease affects not only the heart, but also the miles of blood vessels throughout the body. We know that blood vessels are more than passive pipes that get blocked. We also know much more about atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, the disease of the blood vessels that results in heart attack and stroke and is the number one cause of death in this country.
We now recognize that the inflammatory process plays an important role in the buildup of plaque. And that this buildup is more than deposits in a pipe that need to be mechanically removed, dilated with a balloon, or bypassed surgically.
When I was in medical school in the mid-1980s, we were taught that atherosclerosis was an end-stage condition, a disease that everyone would get as they grew older. But that’s just not true. We now know that we have a choice regarding this disease. With a diet and lifestyle that channels the natural forces of the blood vessel, atherosclerosis can be prevented, brought to a halt, and even reversed.
One of the most exciting new findings in cardiovascular medicine involves the molecule nitric oxide, or NO. We now know that our bodies produce nitric oxide in the endothelium, a delicate tissue that is the inner lining of the blood vessel. The endothelium is so significant to blood vessel health that I predict that in the next few years the health of your endothelium will become as important as cholesterol to you and your doctor.
In 1998, three American researchers won the Nobel Prize for their discoveries concerning NO in the cardiovascular system. Previously believed to be a hazardous air pollutant outside the body, nitric oxide was found to provide a host of benefits inside the body. Nitric oxide was hailed as an important molecule not only in the field of cardiovascular medicine, but also in many medical disciplines, including infectious medicine, pulmonary medicine, and oncology. As early as 1992, Science magazine named it the “molecule of the year,” based on the incredible amount of evidence pointing to its importance in the healthy function of our bodies.