According to the CDC website, over the past 75 years the top 3 killing diseases have not changed. Heart disease, cancer and stroke lead the way and according to a recent information found on their site, the top 5 diseases that are killing Americans are: Heart Disease and Stroke (I combined them into the category of Cardiovascular Disease), Cancer, Lower respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s and Diabetes. What is alarming to me is that the top 3 diseases that cause death have remained the same for the past 75 years. You would think that with all of the new drugs, education and technology that these conditions would have dropped in the ranks. Why? Good question that I will try to offer some answers and help below.
Before we move on, I want to give further explanation about each disease and what it covers exactly. The reason behind this is that most people don’t really seem to understand all of the areas that encompass specific diseases and therefore dismiss them as something to be concerned about. An example would be cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Most people do not think of “just having high blood pressure” as being a form of cardiovascular disease….but it is.
This disease has many components including, heart attack, stroke, heart valve problems, and arrhythmias as the more serious and life-threatening conditions. Elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, poor circulation, varicose veins and even hemorrhoids can also be the beginning stages of cardiovascular disease. We can even dissect these even further with the risk factors, but for that I would suggest buying my book “4 Pillars of Health: Heart Disease”.
There are too many forms of cancer to list here that are life threatening, but the top three are; Lung, Colon, and Breast/Prostate. Granted there are forms of cancer that may never lead to death, but the reality is that you just don’t want to get this dreaded disease. The reason people develop cancer vs. not develop cancer boils down to a weakened immune system or a body that just produces more abnormal cells than the immune system can keep up with. In either case, supporting the immune health is the main are of focus.
Lower Respiratory Disease
Respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and in some cases asthma are what encompass lower respirator diseases. These all belong to a class of diseases called COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The leading causes of COPD are poor air quality, smoking, pollutants, infections and genetics. The CDC estimates that more than 50% of adults with low pulmonary function don’t even know they have COPD and therefore the number of people in this category could be even larger.
This one catches everyone off guard. Most of us may think of this as a memory related disease, but not one that actually kills you. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia that often begins in the 40’s and 50s. Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of 8 years after their symptoms become noticeable to us. To date, there is no known cure.
When I was growing up, diabetes was either something you developed when you were in your youth and required insulin to survive or a condition you developed due to old age. Today diabetes is now the 5th leading cause of death due to a disease and impacts over 60 million Americans. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form and now impacts just about any age. With the rise in consumption of processed foods (starches and sugars), unhealthy beverages and lack of activity, Diabetes has steadily climbed into the top 5 of deadliest disease in America.
If we take a closer look at 4 of the top 5; Cardiovascular, Cancer, Lower Respiratory and Diabetes we know that lifestyle plays a huge role in their development and prevention. I realize that many people may become insulted or offended by this comment because there may be a genetic link, but the reality is that even with a genetic link, proper lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, supplements and spirituality will decrease or even eliminate the chance of developing that disease. Below you will find some quick tips on all four areas and the key supplements to use if you have concerns with any of these diseases. Keep in mind that no one supplement is a “cure-all” and that you can’t just focus on one of my 4-areas of healthy lifestyle. It is a delicate balance of all 4-areas that is required for perfect health.
Diet is simple to me and yet seems so complicated to others. I believe we allow tricky marketing; convenience, price and fads control our eating habits instead of focusing on the root of eating healthy. My approach is simple: Eat only whole foods. If possible they should be organic. For some reason many become confused by the term whole food so think of it as this; food that has not been processed or refined and is free from additives or other artificial substances. Read your labels. Whole means NOT processed or refined! Eating a diet high in fruits, veggies, legumes, lean meats, fish and chicken is the only way to eat if you are concerned with any health challenge. In some cases we can incorporate certain “super foods” into our diet and avoid using these in supplement form. Fruits and veggies that are rich in color (red, green, yellow, orange, blue, purple) are usually very high in antioxidants. Here is a short list of some of my personal favorites (not all are fruits):
- Green tea (beverage form-you have to drink something so why not make it healthy for you)
- Berries of all types
- Brussels sprouts
- Chia Seeds
- Peppers (red, yellow, orange and even the hot versions)
- Again, this is my short list and includes things I use either daily or throughout each week.
I often will add these to smoothies or the foods I am preparing for our family meals. Letting your food be your medicine is a great start to getting well and staying well.
Exercise should be simple too. Based on most research I have read over the past 30 years it boils down to getting out and doing some brisk walking for 30 or more minutes per day. Yes, lifting something (not necessarily weights) daily helps in many aspects too, but brisk walking is the bare-bones minimum activity you should do daily. If you are precluded from doing this activity, consult with your healthcare provider about what type of activity you can do; swimming, biking, yoga, etc. and make sure you include this in your daily routine. Exercise reduces; weight, blood pressure, stress, blood sugar and so much more. Exercise increases; immune function, bone health, mental health, heart health, joint health and so much more.
“Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of their being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop an individual’s inner life; such practices often lead to an experience of connectedness with a larger reality, yielding a more comprehensive self; with other individuals or the human community; with nature or the cosmos; or with the divine realm. Spirituality is often experienced as a source of inspiration or orientation in life. It can encompass belief in immaterial realities or experiences of the immanent or transcendent nature of the world.” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirituality)
Even modern medicine has proven that not only does prayer work for health, but attending an organized service (church/temple/synagogue/etc.) weekly works for health outcomes too. Pick one that works for you and participate weekly. What works for me is; daily reading of the bible, prayer and my belief in Jesus.
Last and definitely not least would be using dietary supplements daily. As I sat down to write this I contemplated 2 different approaches to this section:
- A list of select supplements that would work across all 5 diseases
- A list of select supplements targeting each disease separately
I feel that the list per condition is the best approach since most people either already have the disease or are seeking to “prevent” it. Let’s take a look at some of the supplements I would use for each health challenge and why.
- Omega-3s- Whether from fish or Krill Omega-3s have shown to help with many areas of concern with regards to cardiovascular disease including; cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, arrhythmias and so much more. This is one of my 4 foundational supplements for anyone with cardiovascular disease concerns.
- Ubiquinol- Ubiquinol is the bioactive form of CoQ10. Like Omega-3s it is helpful in multiple areas of cardiovascular disease too; angina, blood pressure, cardiomyopathy and congestive heart issues. It is my favorite heart healthy antioxidant. Ubiquinol is one of my 4 foundational supplements for anyone with cardiovascular disease concerns.
- Hawthorn- Hawthorn is considered a “tonic” for the whole cardiovascular system. Tonic herbs nourish and maintain different systems and/or organs of the body. In this case, hawthorn is the go-to for cardiovascular health. Science has shown a connection with congestive heart issues, angina, blood pressure and arrhythmias. Hawthorn is one of my 4 foundational supplements for anyone with cardiovascular disease concerns.
- Vitamin K-2- also known as menaquinone, I personally use MenaQ7 as my source of K-2. K-2 plays an important role in where calcium goes in your body. Being deficient in it is linked to weak bones and hardening of the arteries due to its ability to drive calcium into the bone and keep in out of the arteries. Since hardening of the arteries is linked to heart attacks and strokes, I have moved this into my top 4 supplement for cardiovascular concerns like the previous three above.
- Garlic- Garlic is one of those supplements that can easily become part of your diet and not taken as a pill. It has shown to be beneficial for hardening of the arteries, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Phase 2- This one may not make sense to some who are reading this due to it’s suggested use as part of a weight loss program. I include this hear as an indirect impact on cardiovascular health due to its mechanism of action: Inhibit the breakdown of starches into sugar. If we can do anything to decrease the amount of sugar absorbed into our bloodstream we can have a positive impact on our weight (being overweight is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease) and lower our cholesterol. Stretching it even further, elevated blood sugar levels also increase inflammation in the blood stream, which is a precursor to plaque buildup in the arteries. Again, this is an indirect approach but should be considered for those who eat starchy foods (breads, pasta, potatoes, rice, etc.)
- Maitake D-fraction- Powerful immune support supplement. Helps activate the immune system while increasing the production of key immune cells.
- AHCC- Powerful immune support supplement. Helps activate the immune system while increasing the production of key immune cells.
- Reishi- Powerful immune support supplement. Helps activate the immune system while increasing the production of key immune cells.
- Green Tea- Drinking green tea throughout the day has shown to improve immune health. I suggest at least 5 cups of fresh brewed green tea daily.
- Turmeric- super-powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This is a great one-two punch for those with cancer concerns.
- Pycnogenol- super-powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This is a great one-two punch for those with cancer concerns
- Flor Essence tea- this is an 8-herb blend that helps in multiple ways: antioxidant and detoxifier. Too often the root of cancer and/or side effect of modern treatments can be in the buildup of toxins in the body. This tea is gentle enough to use each day and is ALWAYS part of my suggest program for those with cancer concerns.
Lower Respiratory Disease
- N-Acetyl Cysteine- This helps the respiratory system in two main areas by helping break down mucous and as an antioxidant to help protect the lung tissue from being damaged. Keeping mucous thin and flowing free is critical for anyone with both upper and lower respiratory issues.
- Ivy Leaf Extract- This has shown to help act as a “mucous-dissolver”.
- Ubiquinol- Levels of this are often low in people with COPD. This can help with improving oxygenation of the blood and heart rates too. The oxygenation component is important since COPD patients struggle with this area. Keep in mind that Ubiquinol is also a powerful antioxidant.
- Omega-3s- Omega-3s are linked to reducing the risk of COPD and also help in the body’s fight against inflammation. Inflammation is a common secondary effect that occurs and in this patient group and often is linked to worsening of the disease.
- Lobelia- Lobelia is one of my favorite respiratory herbs due to its impact on helping relax the bronchial muscles and its effectiveness in helping remove thick mucous from the respiratory tract.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine- decreases buildup of amyloid proteins, which are linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and speeds degradation of amyloid beta. At the same time, acetyl-l-carnitine boosts cellular antioxidant levels. It has shown to help improved memory, cognition, and behavior, including slowing the rate of deterioration.
- Ginkgo Biloba- Known as the memory herb, Ginkgo has shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. It is believed that one of the mechanisms is by decreasing brain cell death and may enhance the decrease in amyloid beta protein formation.
- Melatonin- Melatonin helps improve cognitive function and sleep quality in people with Alzheimer’s. It is also considered one of only a few supplements that cross into the brain that has antioxidant benefits.
- Ginseng- Panax Ginseng has shown to improve scores on the standard Alzheimer’s rating scales.
- Huperzine- this has shown to increase cognitive function and mental/behavioral function in people with dementia.
- Brewer’s yeast- Brewer’s yeast is considered a super food and is naturally high in Chromium-a mineral known to help improve glucose tolerance (The function of insulin moving glucose out of the bloodstream and into the cells.)
- Chromium- same reasoning as above
- Cinnamon- cinnamon helps improve the body’s utilization of glucose and therefore reduce blood glucose levels.
- Gymnema- Gymnema along with chromium and Phase 2 (mentioned below) are my three favorite supplements for blood sugar control. Gymnema works by stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin. Combining it with supplements that improve utilization and perhaps block absorption gives you a better chance at controlling your blood sugar levels.
- Phase-2- As mentioned above in the cardiovascular disease section, Phase 2 inhibits the breakdown of starches in your foods from being broken down into sugar. If you are consuming a diet with starchy foods in it, the likelihood is that your blood sugar will be elevated too. Taking Phase 2 prior to starch containing meals can block up to 65% of those starches from being broken down into sugar.
If you are one of those people who would rather take a group of supplements that will support your body’s fight against the top 5 deadly diseases, here is the list of supplements I use on a daily basis either in my foods or as a supplement:
Both food/spice and supplemental forms:
- Green Tea
- Cayenne pepper
- Mushrooms (Reishi/Shitake)
Supplemental form only
- Phase 2
- Vitamin D3
- Milk Thistle
- Omega-3s (Fish oil or Krill oil)
When I sat down to write this blog I planned on a short and sweet article that ended up being much more. Treating/preventing the 5-Deadliest disease is not something to be taken lightly and therefore I felt the need to expand. The reality is that this could have turned into a book and not just 7 typed pages. Keep in mind as you re-read this that these are my personal suggestions and not the “gospel” on these diseases. Please take time to educate yourself on other approaches and then incorporate the approach that seems to make the most sense to you. One-size does NOT fit all and therefore you need to carve out a program that makes sense to you. Whatever you choose, it needs to become a part of your lifestyle and not some fad or hard work. It is that change in lifestyle that will achieve great health…not a fad program.
CDC List of conditions leading to death (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm)
75 Years of Mortality in the United States, 1935–2010