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The True Cause of Heart Disease - Part One of Two

Posted Jul 14 2010 10:04am
By Ian Robinson 07/14/2010

Conventional wisdom tells us that high cholesterol is the cause of heart disease. But Dr. Dwight Lundell is fighting to expose this dangerous mainstream myth.

Dr. Lundell is a pioneer and leading expert in this field. He has enjoyed a long and a distinguished career, leading his peers to new breakthroughs. He spent 25 years as a cardiovascular surgeon and performed over 5,000 heart surgeries.

His experience in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery includes certification by the American Board of Surgery, the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. He was a pioneer in “Off-Pump” heart surgery, reducing surgical complications and recovery times. He’s in the “Beating Heart Hall of Fame” and has been listed in Phoenix Magazine’s “Top Doctors” for 10 years.

He has been recognized by his peers as a leader and has served as Chief resident at the University of Arizona and Yale University Hospitals. He later served as Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery.

He was also one of the founding partners of the Lutheran Heart Hospital which became the second largest heart hospital in the U.S.

Dr. Lundell recently agreed to grant us an in-depth and revealing interview about the pioneering work he is currently conducting. It’s our privilege and pleasure to share part one of that exclusive interview with you today.

THB: You are the author of a controversial heart-health book called The Great Cholesterol Lie. The book challenges conventional wisdom and accepted medical theories. What’s been the response to this book?

Dr. Lundell: The response to the book has been overwhelming.  I regularly correspond with people from around the world who are enjoying better health from the new understandings they gained from learning about inflammation and heart disease.

THB: That’s good to hear. It’s a seminal book that charts your professional journey as a cardiac surgeon. And, more importantly, reveals your gradual discovery of the true cause of heart disease.

If you could go back in time to when you were a young cardiac surgeon… what would you tell yourself and would you take a different path?

Dr. Lundell: I was dedicated to treating heart disease and passionate about saving lives.  It was my responsibility to provide patients with a second chance.

As a young cardiac surgeon in the 1980s coronary bypass operation was the only effective treatment for people afflicted with severe coronary artery disease.  So, as you can imagine, this was a very exciting time.  Our ability to help people increased and the risks of surgery decreased as techniques and technology improved.

The scientific consensus at that time was elevated cholesterol levels in the blood cause a gradual deposition of cholesterol in the lumen of the blood vessel so two treatment forces were obvious: lower the levels of cholesterol in the blood or do an operation to detour the blood around the accumulated plaque thus restoring flow and heart function.

Rather than looking at more effective ways to lower blood cholesterol, there was relatively little research going on as to what was causing plaque.  Everyone settled on the idea that it was as simple as controlling fat and cholesterol.

Then new research was in part driven by industry and not basic science.  As balloon angioplasty emerged as an alternative to open heart surgery, the companies that produce the balloons became concerned by high rates of re-stenosis.  They began funding studies to understand exactly what was happening biologically to cause the re-stenosis. (Re-stenosis means a re-narrowing of the artery after angioplasty or a stent has been inserted.)

This stimulated a lot of research and culminated in the seminal article published in 1999 in the New England Journal of Medicine announcing that “atherosclerosis [is] an inflammatory disease.”

THB: How did you discover that the true cause of heart disease was inflammation?

Dr. Lundell: I was excited to understand this new research because in the operating room I had observed the classic signs of inflammation around the coronary artery and was very disappointed that surgery, although effective at relieving symptoms and extending life, was not a cure for heart disease.

Many brilliant scientists and university centers continued to do more research that confirmed the basis for coronary disease was chronic inflammation.  Sadly the attention was all directed at finding a therapy rather than looking at the cause of chronic inflammation.

Research is hugely expensive and was largely funded by drug companies who were making billions of dollars from the prescriptions for statin drugs.

One of the many side effects of statin drugs is that they seem to have a mild anti- inflammatory effect.  Because of the size of the industry and how entrenched the cholesterol theory had become, the focus continues to be on treating everyone with statin drugs rather than understanding the cause and the ability to control chronic inflammation.

The makers of statin drugs have been so skillful at influencing science and controlling public policy that prescribing statins is the standard of care. Anyone questioning or disagreeing with these policies is labeled as a heretic and disregarded.

THB: Why were you so convinced inflammation was the culprit? You were so convinced that you made a major life – and career – change based on that conviction.

Dr. Lundell: I knew that I did not have enough influence to change any of the policies or practices from inside mainstream medicine. Taking a lesson from the drug makers with their direct to consumer advertising I decided to write the book and hopefully people would learn and make the changes needed to truly prevent and cure heart disease.

THB: You describe inflammation very powerfully in your book as a battleground. Can you give our readers an overview of what inflammation is?

Dr. Lundell: Inflammation truly is a battleground. For most of human history we died because of infection and trauma. Our immune system and our inflammatory systems are designed to aggressively respond to these two challenges.

If we get invaded by bacteria or injured in some way, our immune system recognizes the challenge and marshals all of the body’s resources to respond to defeat the invader and heal the wound.

We all have experienced the classic signs of inflammation: warmth, swelling, redness, and pain.  Acute inflammation is the response to acute injuries.  Chronic inflammation is the response to chronic smaller injuries and so we do not always get the four classic signs.

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THB: You’ve taken the bold step to speak out against statin medications. But playing devil’s advocate for a moment… surely there are some situations when statin medications are effective?

Dr. Lundell: Statin medications have proven to be somewhat beneficial to a small group of people; that is a middle aged man with a previous heart attack. They have never been documented to benefit any woman of any age with any condition.  They have not been documented to help people who have not had a previous heart attack of any age or gender.

There may be some people who would take great offense at the previous paragraph – especially the makers of Crestor and cardiologists who support treating almost everyone with statin drugs.

They might quote the Jupiter study which was touted as proving Crestor would reduce heart attack rates by almost 50% in otherwise healthy people.  Happily, this month in The Archives of Internal Medicine, four peer reviewed articles gave a scathing rebuke to the Jupiter study – the methodology, the conflict of interest by most of the authors, the early termination of the study which almost always provides false results, and the conclusion that statin drugs were beneficial in this population of patients.  At last I am getting reinforcements!

THB: That’s a good point to make - and you make it well. So, if statin meds aren’t effective, why are they so dangerous?

Dr. Lundell: Statin drugs are dangerous not necessarily because of the side effects which can be disabling or fatal, but because they divert our attention from understanding and preventing heart disease and merely treat it with statins, allowing us to think that this is beneficial.

Even some of the foremost cardiologists in the country who have written extensively about inflammation as the true cause of heart disease offer no solutions except taking statin drugs.  $30,000,000,000 in worldwide sales of statin drugs has a lot to do with it.

In part two of our revealing interview, Dr. Lundell tells us why inflammation is the true cause of heart disease and offers critical solutions to prevent it. We also discover the four most common lifestyle factors that injure heart health and get expert guidance on how to improve it. All this and more in next Wednesday’s edition of Undercover.

About Dr. Lundell: Dr. Dwight Lundell is the past Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery at Banner Heart Hospital, Mesa, AZ. He is the founder of Healthy Humans Foundation and Chief Medical Advisor for Asantae. In 2003, Dr. Lundell made the most difficult decision of his 25 year surgical career. As traditional medicine continued to chase the cholesterol theory of heart disease, Dr. Lundell closed his surgical practice. He then devoted the rest of his life to speaking the truth that inflammation causes heart disease. By lowering inflammation, heart disease has a cure.

To your health,


Ian Robinson,
Managing Editor, Total Health Breakthroughs

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