7 Ways to Reduce Your Salt Intake and Lower Your Blood Pressure

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Find out about Nutritional vitamin supplements to Help support a Fit HeartWe live in a society that measures and medicates. All the tools and technology and medicines deployed to maintain heart health are a help — yet heart disease remains the No...

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Are You Getting Enough Fiber?

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Fiber is found in many different foods and has been used by healthcare professionals to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar. There’s been a lot of research on dietary fiber that shows that it is beneficial in reducing colon cancer, hemorrhoids, constipation and obesity. Many healthcare professionals believe that most Americans are deficient in dietary … Continue reading "Are You Getting Enough Fiber?"

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Research on Vitamin D3

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If you’re interested in natural health you have no doubt seen many articles and health professionals talking about the benefits of vitamin D 3. Research is showing that D3 is very beneficial in reducing the risk of some types of cancers in both women and men. Doing a little research and scientific publications like pub … Continue reading "Research on Vitamin D3"

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How to Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally

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Find out about Nutritional vitamin supplements to Help support a Fit HeartThe dangers of hypertension, or high blood pressure, are well known. Though you may have no signs or symptoms, this so-called silent killer can be wreaking havoc in your bod...

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The Health Benefits of Amla (Indian Gooseberry)

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Dr Jay Wilkins

The Health Benefits of Amla (Indian Gooseberry)

Amla, also known as amalika or Indian gooseberry, is an Indian Ayurvedic remedy that is gaining popularity in the Western world. It is also recognized under the names of Emblica officinalis and Phyllanthus emblica.

Amla enjoys a mythical reputation in India, due to a belief in that it originated from drops of Amrit, the nectar of immortality.

It is thus asserted to confer longevity and to cure nearly every disease, hence its designation as a rasayana or rejuvenator in Ayurveda. While these claims lie within the realm of myth, has modern science validated any of amla’s benefits?

Amla Is Really Healthy

Amla fruit has been found to contain a high amount of the antioxidant vitamin C, and its tannins were shown to possess vitamin C-like properties.1,2 An article that calls amla “the Ayurvedic wonder” notes that the plant also contains phenolic compounds, phyllembelic acid, phyllembelin, rutin, curcuminoids and emblicol.3

A review published in 2011 in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention titled, “Amla (Emblia officinalis Gaertn), a wonder berry in the treatment and prevention of cancer,” provides a long list of properties attributed to amla.4

The authors observe that “The fruit is used either alone or in combination with other plants to treat many ailments such as common cold and fever; as a diuretic, laxative, liver tonic, to manage cholesterol, support heart health, ease inflammation, as a hair tonic; to prevent peptic ulcer and dyspepsia, and as a digestive aid.

Amla’s Case for Cholesterol

Early research found an association between supplementation with amla and protection against elevated serum cholesterol in rabbits given a cholesterol-rich diet.5 In humans, 28 days of amla supplementation lowered cholesterol in those with normal and elevated levels, which returned to near pretreatment levels two weeks after amla was discontinued.6

In human umbilical vein endothelial cells, it was shown that the amla compound corilagin and its analog Dgg16 decrease malondialdehyde, a marker of oxidative stress, while preventing the adherence of monocytes to the cells, indicating an inhibitory effect on atherosclerosis progression.7 In rat vascular smooth muscle cells, both compounds inhibited proliferation activated by oxidized low density lipoprotein (LDL).

A clinical trial of amla in overweight and obese adults resulted in lower LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol to high density lipoprotein (HDL) ratio, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP, a marker of inflammation) and platelet aggregation after 12 weeks of supplementation, suggesting that amla could benefit overweight or obese individuals by reducing several cardiovascular disease risk factors.8

In a trial that included diabetics and nondiabetics, amla lowered fasting and post-meal blood glucose levels, total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while improving HDL cholesterol.9

Amla Supports Liver Health

In addition to the cardiovascular system, amla has been shown to benefit the liver. According to a recent review that noted that over 10% of the world’s population is affected by liver diseases, “Scientific studies have shown amla to be effective in preventing/ameliorating the toxic effects of hepatotoxic agents like ethanol, paracetamol, carbon tetrachloride, heavy metals, ochratoxins, hexachlorocyclohexane, antitubercular drugs, and hepatotoxicity resulting from iron overload.

Amla is also reported to impart beneficial effects on liver function and to mitigate hyperlipidemia and metabolic syndrome. Amla possesses protective effects against chemical-induced hepatocarcinogenesis in animal models of study.” 10

Amla May Offer Environmental Protection

Other research has found a protective effect for amla against chromosomal damage caused by lead and aluminum.11,12

Amla also appears to have a cosmetic benefit. In one experiment, amla stimulated fibroblast proliferation and induced procollagen production, while decreasing matrix metalloproteinase-1, which breaks down collagen.13

Amla was also shown to inhibit ultraviolet B (UVB)-induced photoaging in human skin fibroblasts through its ability to scavenge reactive oxygen species.14 Its ability to protect against reactive oxygen species induced by UVB appears to be stronger than that of vitamin C.15

The Bottom Line

It appears that some of amla’s mythologic properties may indeed be valid. While there’s no evidence that it will confer immortality, one interesting study conducted in 2014 found that turmeric, from which curcumin is derived, as well as amla fruit increased the life span of Drosophila melanogaster, a fruit fly that is the subject of a fair amount of gerontologic research.16

The authors concluded that “the results support the free radical theory of aging as both these plant derivatives show high reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenging activities.”

References

  1. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Mar 8;104(1-2):113-8.
  2. Indian J Exp Biol. 1999 Jul;37(7):676-80.
  3. J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2010;21(1):93-105.
  4. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2011 May;20(3):225-39.
  5. Br J Exp Pathol. 1981 Oct;62(5):526-8.
  6. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1988 Nov;42(11):939-44.
  7. Yakugaku Zasshi. 2005 Jul;125(7):587-91.
  8. J Med Food. 2015 Apr;18(4):415-20.
  9. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2011 Sep;62(6):609-16.
  10. Food Funct. 2013 Oct;4(10):1431-41.
  11. Mutat Res. 1990 Jul;241(3):305-12.
  12. Environ Mol Mutagen. 1993;21(3):229-36.
  13. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Sep 2;119(1):53-7.
  14. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Oct 28;132(1):109-14.
  15. J Cosmet Sci. 2011 Jan-Feb;62(1):49-56.
  16. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:910290.

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Nattokinase is a Vein’s Best Friend

Fantastic Health supplements designed for Heart

Dr Jay Wilkins

Nattokinase is a Vein’s Best Friend

In 1987, the journal Experientia published an article announcing that “A strong fibrinolytic activity was demonstrated in the vegetable cheese Natto, which is a typical soybean food eaten in Japan.

This novel fibrinolytic and proteolytic enzyme, named nattokinase, was easily extracted with saline.”1 Fibrinolytic agents are capable of stimulating the dissolution of a blood clot.

Early Research with Nattokinase

Nattokinase has been available to the public since 1998. In 1990, the research group that reported nattokinase’s discovery revealed that nattokinase administered orally to dogs enhanced the ability of blood plasma to break down fibrin, a protein formed by the action of thrombin on fibrinogen that is involved in blood clotting.2 This fibrinolytic action can help prevent blood clots from growing and becoming dangerous.

When researchers induced blood clots in the common carotid artery of rats, recovery of arterial blood flow in nattokinase-treated animals was more than three times greater than that associated with the administration of plasmin, which is produced by the body to dissolve fibrin blood clots.3 In another rat study, supplementation with nattokinase three weeks before and after endothelial injury to the femoral artery resulted in greater suppression of intimal thickening and dissolution of blood clots near the site of injury in comparison with control animals that did not receive the supplement.4 Yet another rat study found a dose-dependent delay in induced arterial occlusion associated with nattokinase.5 Nattokinase at a high dose was determined to completely prevent the occlusion, similar to the ability of aspirin.

Recent experimental evidence suggests that nattokinase might be useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease6. Rats were given aluminum chloride for 45 days, which increased the activity of brain acetylcholinesterase (an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine) and induced other negative changes, including neuronal degeneration in the hippocampus and amyloid plaque formation. However, oral administration of nattokinase or another proteolytic enzyme known as serrapeptase reduced these findings, which suggests the need for further research concerning their potential use in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Human Studies with Nattokinase

The development of superficial and deep vein thrombosis (blood clots) is a risk of long-haul flights, particularly when passengers neglect to get out of their seats and move around the cabin periodically. A study involving 204 subjects that compared the protective effects of a combination of nattokinase and pycnogenol® from pine bark to a placebo during seven to eight hour flights found five deep venous thromboses in the control group and none in the group that received the nattokinase combination.7

A pilot study involving the administration of a single-dose of nattokinase observed peak serum levels at approximately 13.3 hours later after its administration to 11 healthy subjects.8 According to the authors, the study provided the first evidence that nattokinase can be measured directly in human blood following ingestion. A randomized, double-blind trial of 12 healthy young men who received a single dose of nattokinase or a placebo resulted in enhancement of fibrinolysis and anticoagulation over the subsequent several hours via several pathways, leading the authors to conclude that, “[…[ a single-dose of nattokinase intake could be a useful fibrinolytic/anticoagulant agent to reduce the risk of thrombosis in humans.”9

A trial that included healthy participants, subjects with cardiovascular risk factors, and subjects receiving dialysis who were given nattokinase daily orally for two months, resulted in a reduction in fibrinogen and blood-clotting factors without any notable adverse events in any of the subjects.10 “[…[ this study showed that oral administration of nattokinase could be considered as a cardiovascular disease nutraceutical by decreasing plasma levels of fibrinogen, factor VII, and factor VIII,” authors Chien-Hsun Hsia and colleagues conclude. This is important because factor VII and VIII are proteins that causes blood to clot in the coagulation cascade.

Nattokinase also shows promise for high blood pressure. In a double-blind trial that included 73 subjects with prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension, eight weeks of nattokinase supplementation was associated with an average reduction of 5.55 mmHg systolic and 2.84 mmHg in diastolic blood pressure in comparison with a placebo group.11

The Bottom Line

So there you have it. While there is preliminary evidence of a nattokinase-associated benefit in hypertension and Alzheimer’s disease, the evidence is significant in favor of its ability to help prevent troublesome blood clots. Further research will provide more information concerning the benefits of this emerging nutraceutical.

References:

  1. Sumi H et al. Experientia. 1987 Oct 15;43(10):1110-1.
  2. Sumi H et al. Acta Haematol. 1990;84(3):139-43.
  3. Fujita M et al. Biol Pharm Bull. 1995 Oct;18(10):1387-91.
  4. Suzuki Y et al. Life Sci. 2003 Jul 25;73(10):1289-98.
  5. Jang JY et al. Lab Anim Res. 2013 Dec;29(4):221-5.
  6. Fadl NN et al. Hum Exp Toxicol. 2013 Jul;32(7):721-35.
  7. Cesarone MR et al. Angiology. 2003 Sep-Oct;54(5):531-9.
  8. Ero MP et al. Altern Ther Health Med. 2013 May-Jun;19(3):16-9.
  9. Kurosawa Y et al. Sci Rep. 2015 Jun 25;5:11601.
  10. Hsia CH et al. Nutr Res. 2009 Mar;29(3):190-6.
  11. Kim JY et al. Hypertens Res. 2008 Aug;31(8):1583-8.

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Can Intravenous Vitamin C Cure Cancer?

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Dr Jay Wilkins

Can Intravenous Vitamin C Cure Cancer?

Vitamin C is essential to humans who, unlike other mammals, do not make their own. Intravenously  (IV) administered ascorbic acid (vitamin C) began appearing in published studies in 1950.

But it wasn’t until 1995 that Hugh Riordan and colleagues noted in Medical Hypotheses that, “Given in high enough doses to maintain plasma concentrations above levels that have been shown to be toxic to tumor cells in vitro, ascorbic acid has the potential to selectively kill tumor cells in a manner similar to other tumor cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agents.

Most studies of ascorbic acid and cancer to date have not utilized high enough doses of ascorbic acid to maintain tumor cytotoxic plasma concentrations of ascorbic acid. “Data is presented which demonstrate the ability to sustain plasma levels of ascorbic acid in humans above levels which are toxic to tumor cells in vitro and suggests the feasibility of using ascorbic acid as a cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agent.1

Current IV Vitamin C Research

Two decades later, the concept of IV vitamin C has advanced past the hypothetical stage and is associated with good results in cancer patients. The therapy also shows promise for endothelial dysfunction, septic shock and other conditions.2

In the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2000, S. J. Padayatty and M. Levine note that intravenous administration of vitamin C produces plasma concentrations that are toxic to cancer cell lines. “We propose that ascorbate treatment of cancer should be reexamined by rigorous scientific scrutiny in the light of new evidence,” they conclude.3

A case report in a later issue of the journal documented an ovarian cancer patient whose disease persisted following chemotherapy. After discontinuing chemotherapy, she began treatment with intravenous ascorbic acid and had no evidence of disease three years following diagnosis.4

Documentation of cancer regression or remission in association with IV vitamin C has primarily been in the form of case histories such as these. Nine cancer patients in Singapore who received high dose intravenous vitamin C experienced survival beyond prognosis or other benefits that were documented in Integrative Cancer Therapies.5 Another case, reported in Yonsei Medical Journal, documented an association between intravenous vitamin C and complete regression of pulmonary metastases.6

A study that included 39 terminal cancer patients who received intravenous vitamin C twice plus orally administered vitamin C for one week resulted in improvement in global health and quality of life.7 Fatigue, nausea and vomiting, pain and loss of appetite were all reduced following vitamin C therapy. Similar results were obtained in a study of 53 breast cancer patients who received IV vitamin C in addition to standard therapy for four or more weeks.8

IV Vitamin C and Heart Health

Intravenous vitamin C has also shown cardiovascular benefits. In a study involving 28 patients with variant angina and 24 subjects with normal coronary arteries, intravenous administration of vitamin C significantly improved flow-mediated vasodilation, a measure of endothelial function, in both groups.9 Intravenous infusions of the vitamin has enhanced platelet responsiveness to the anti-aggregation effects of nitric oxide and improved endothelial function in chronic heart failure patients.10 And in a study of 11 patients with dilated cardiomyopathy, intravenous vitamin C reversed endothelial dysfunction.11

Vitamin C was found to decrease the vasoconstrictor response and improve flow-dependent vasodilation in comparison with a placebo in 22 patients with high blood pressure following an intravenous infusion of 3 grams vitamin C.12

In patients with a history of Kawasaki disease — a childhood illness characterized by inflammation of the blood vessels — endothelial function was improved by intravenous vitamin C administration.13

Intravenous ascorbic acid may also be helpful for the decrease in endothelial function that occurs in sedentary older people, in those with high blood glucose, or in people with obstructive sleep apnea.14-17 In older men with lower resting femoral artery blood flow, intravenous vitamin C increased blood flow by 37%.18 Authors K. L. Jablonski and colleagues conclude that their results “support the hypothesis that oxidative stress plays a major role in the reduced resting whole leg blood flow and increased leg vasoconstriction observed with aging in men.”

An eight-week study involving 24 late stage cancer patients found the most common side effects associated with IV vitamin C to be minor. One patient with a history of kidney stones developed one after 13 days, which may or may not have been related to treatment with vitamin C.19

With its promising benefits and low incidence of significant side effects, intravenous vitamin C could be something worth asking your health care provider about.

References

  1. Riordan NH et al. Med Hypotheses. 1995 Mar;44(3):207-13.
  2. Galley HF et al. Free Radic Biol Med. 1997;23(5):768-74.
  3. Padayatty SJ et al. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Aug;19(4):423-5.
  4. Drisko JA et al. J Am Coll Nutr. 2003 Apr;22(2):118-23.
  5. Raymond YC et al. Integr Cancer Ther. 2016 Jun;15(2):197-204.
  6. Seo MS et al. Yonsei Med J. 2015 Sep;56(5):1449-52.
  7. Yeom CH et al. J Korean Med Sci. 2007 Feb;22(1):7-11.
  8. Vollbracht C et al. In Vivo. 2011 Nov-Dec;25(6):983-90.
  9. Hamabe A et al. Am J Cardiol. 2001 May 15;87(10):1154-9.
  10. Ellis GR et al. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2001 May;37(5):564-70.
  11. Richartz BM et al. Am J Cardiol. 2001 Nov 1;88(9):1001-5.
  12. Solzbach U et al. Circulation. 1997 Sep 2;96(5):1513-9.
  13. Deng YB et al. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2003 Jan;22(1):34-9.
  14. Steer P et al. Atherosclerosis. 2003 May;168(1):65-72.
  15. Eskurza I et al. J Physiol. 2004 Apr 1;556(Pt 1):315-24.
  16. Mullan BA et al. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2005 May-Jun;32(5-6):340-5.
  17. Grebe M et al. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2006 Apr 15;173(8):897-901.
  18. Jablonski KL et al. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2007 Nov;103(5):1715-21.
  19. Riordan HD et al. P R Health Sci J. 2005 Dec;24(4):269-76.

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Should You Supplement with Calcium?

Best Vitamin supplements regarding Heart

Dr Jay Wilkins

Should You Supplement with Calcium?

Headlines concerning the use of calcium supplements sway back and forth like palm trees in the wind. The reason behind this confusing phenomenon has to do more with irresponsible media jumping on the latest news release with a desire to grab as much attention as possible than with evidence provided by sound studies.

After years of hearing about the importance of supplementing with calcium from doctors and other experts concerned about the “silent epidemic” of osteoporosis, a meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal in 2010 raised the concern that supplementation with the mineral, having been associated by the researchers with admittedly modest increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, ”might translate into a large burden of disease in the population.”1

The meta-analysis, which evaluated data from 8,151 participants in 15 trials, found that, of 296 subjects who had heart attacks, 166 were receiving calcium and 130 received a placebo, resulting in a 27% increase in the relative risk in those receiving calcium.

The journal subsequently published letters received, concerning the conclusions of the researchers involved in the analysis, while other sources of information, including Life Extension®, published their own analysis of the findings and offered possible explanations, such as a lack of co-supplementation with vitamin D, exclusion of trials that found reductions rather than increases in cardiovascular disease in association with calcium supplementation, and other potential factors. Yet the damage had been done, the public had read the popular news media headlines.

Why is Calcium Important?

Calcium is an essential mineral, meaning that it is necessary to human life and health. Unlike some vitamins, minerals are not made in the body and must be obtained in the diet. Also unlike some vitamins, minerals do not readily wash out of the body and can accumulate to undesirably elevated levels if too much is consumed over a prolonged period.

Calcium is also used every second of our lives to maintain the proper pH of the blood. It is the most abundant mineral of the body and forms a major part of the bones. It also forms a part of atherosclerotic plaques that narrow the arteries.

It has been known for some time that the bones need more than just calcium, and that magnesium, and vitamins D and K, are needed to keep calcium in the skeleton and out of the arterial walls. Therefore, adding these nutrients is recommended for those who supplement with calcium.

The Research on Calcium

A more recent meta-analysis published in 2016 that included 22 randomized controlled trials and 4,071 participants found a decrease in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in association with calcium supplementation with or without vitamin D, thereby reducing major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and heart attack.2

A study of postmenopausal women who received calcium citrate supplements found lower LDL, higher HDL and greater HDL to LDL ratios after a year.3 “As a result, calcium citrate may reduce the incidence of heart attacks and angina in postmenopausal women,” commented lead researcher Ian R. Reid, who is a professor at the University of Auckland’s Department of Medicine. “Based on our data, one could predict that calcium citrate supplements may help otherwise healthy postmenopausal women reduce cholesterol, improve heart health and possibly even reduce the rate of cardiovascular related events by 20 to 30 percent. These data provide reason to encourage the more widespread use of calcium supplementation in postmenopausal women.”

Notably, among 34,486 postmenopausal women who participated in the Iowa Women’s Healthy Study, those whose total calcium intake was among the top 25% of subjects had a 33% lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease than those whose intake was among the lowest 25%.4 The risk reduction in association with high calcium supplement intake but low dietary calcium intake was 34%.

In 2014, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported the results of a study that followed participants in the Diabetes Heart Study for an average of 9.4 years. Computed tomography (CT) scans of the coronary and carotid arteries, and abdominal aorta failed to find an association between any measure of calcified plaque and calcium intake from supplements or diet.5 In fact, calcium supplementation among women was associated with a 38% lower adjusted risk of mortality from any cause over a 9.4 year average follow-up period. “Studies have raised concerns that calcium supplementation may have the unintended negative consequence of increasing cardiovascular disease risk,” authors Laura M. Raffield and her colleagues observed. “In this study, we did not observe any negative cardiovascular disease impacts of differing calcium intakes from diet and supplements in contrast to some previous reports. Instead, calcium supplement use was associated with lower all-cause mortality risk in women.”

The Bottom Line

In October 2016, the National Osteoporosis Foundation and the American Society for Preventive Cardiology issued a new evidence-based guideline stating that calcium from supplements or food that doesn’t exceed the tolerable upper intake level is safe for the heart.6 In an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine titled, “Lack of Evidence Linking Calcium With or Without Vitamin D Supplementation to Cardiovascular Disease in Generally Healthy Adults: A Clinical Guideline From the National Osteoporosis Foundation and the American Society for Preventive Cardiology,” S. L. Kopecky and colleagues announce that, “In light of the evidence available to date, calcium intake from food and supplements that does not exceed the tolerable upper level of intake (defined by the National Academy of Medicine as 2000 to 2500 mg/day) should be considered safe from a cardiovascular standpoint.”

The new guideline was released simultaneously in the journal with the outcome of a systematic review and meta-analysis of four randomized trials and 27 observational studies.7 According to authors M. Chung and colleagues, “The trials did not find statistically significant differences in risk for CVD events or mortality between groups receiving supplements of calcium or calcium plus vitamin D and those receiving placebo. Cohort studies showed no consistent dose-response relationships between total, dietary, or supplemental calcium intake levels and cardiovascular mortality and highly inconsistent dose-response relationships between calcium intake and risks for total stroke or stroke mortality.”

There are other studies such as these. Other studies demonstrate the benefit of calcium supplementation for protection against osteoporosis, colorectal cancer and more. However, if you choose to supplement with calcium, make sure that you stay below the tolerable upper level of calcium intake from supplements and diet combined, and add a healthy amount of magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K. Calcium may be one of the few nutrients for which it is not necessary to exceed the current recommended dietary allowance to achieve optimal nutrition.

References:

  1. 1. Bolland MJ et al. BMJ. 2010 Jul 29;341:c3691.
  2. 2. Chen C et al. J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2016 Nov 18.
  3. 3. Reid IR et al. 2002 Apr 1;112(5):343-7.
  4. 4. Bostick RM et al. Am J Epidemiol. 1999 Jan 15;149(2):151-61.
  5. 5. Raffield LM et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Oct;100(4):1029-35.
  6. 6. Kopecky SL et al. Ann Int Med. 2016 Oct 25.
  7. 7. Chung M et al. Ann Intern Med. 2016 Oct 25.

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Does Sex Make You Live Longer?

Ideal Nutritional supplements to Support Cardiovascular Health

Dr Jay Wilkins

Does Sex Make You Live Longer?

For some species of insects, sexual activity significantly shortens life. Sexual activity often equals reproduction, which can actually be protective against some conditions (for example, breast cancer).

So, is there a consensus about the impact of sexual activity on human lifespan? We will explore some research to provide insight on the topic.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Risky sex and the diseases associated with it are a contributor to premature mortality in many areas of the world. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), although not solely sexually transmitted, remains among the world’s top ten causes of death. Human papilloma virus (HPV), another sexually transmitted microorganism, is associated with cervical, vaginal, anal, and head and neck cancers. However, modern medicine and contraception are widely available in developed areas of the world.

Sex and Heart Disease

In most developed countries, cardiovascular disease leads the list in mortality causes. While regular exercise is known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and aid in rehabilitation, some heart disease patients are afraid to engage in sexual activity. Is the fear justified?

In a study reported in 2015, researchers at Ulm University analyzed sexual activity during the 12 months prior to a heart attack among 536 patients.2 Compared to having sex less than once per week, subjects who had sex more frequently had a 56% lower rate of subsequent cardiovascular events, including fatal and nonfatal heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death, per 1,000 patient-years after adjustment for age, smoking status, physical activity and other factors.

To help answer the question concerning whether sexual activity might trigger heart attack, the researchers found that only three patients reported engaging in sex within an hour before their heart attack, none within one to two hours, and 1.5% within 3 to 6 hours. Seventy-eight percent reported engaging in their last sexual activity at least 24 hours prior to the event.

A study that involved 1,274 men and 605 women with a history of heart attack found that mortality during the first year following the event was 2.1% for those who reported engaging in sexual activity within one month after their heart attack, compared to 4.1% among those who were inactive, leading the researchers to conclude that mortality was not significantly increased in those who were sexually active soon after their event.3

Note: As discussed in the Life Extension protocol about Erectile Dysfunction, the underlying physiology of erectile function is tied very closely to cardiovascular health.4 Cardiovascular disease accounts for up to 80% of erectile dysfunction cases. Atherosclerosis, the most common vascular disease, impedes blood flow to the penis. Cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure contribute to endothelial dysfunction, which is the most common contributing mechanism to erectile dysfunction overall. 

Sexual Satisfaction and Frequency

In an article whose title asks the question, “Sex and death: are they related?”, researchers from the University of Bristol describe findings from 918 men who were between the ages of 45 to 59 years upon enrollment in the Caerphilly Cohort Study.5 Over a ten year follow-up period, men who reported a low frequency of orgasm, defined as less than one per month, had double the age-adjusted risk of dying from any cause than men whose frequency was reported as high at twice per week or more. The adjusted risk of coronary heart disease mortality was more than twice as high among those with a low frequency. An increase in 100 orgasms per year was associated with a 36% reduction in the risk of death over follow up.

In their summary of the study’s key messages, authors G. Davey Smith and colleagues remark that “These findings contrast with the view common to many cultures that the pleasure of sexual intercourse may be secured at the cost of vigor and wellbeing.”

Among women, a 25-year longitudinal study of aging found that the strongest predictors of longevity were health satisfaction, physical function rating and past enjoyment of intercourse.6 These combined predictors were associated with a difference in longevity of 23 years.

The Bottom Line

These recent studies contradict traditional beliefs that associate sexual activity with weakness and ill health. While a causative role for sex in longevity has not been identified, a number of suggestions have been offered. These include the benefits of exercise, such as improved circulation, blood pressure, immunity and cholesterol, lower stress levels and better sleep. Oxytocin, a hormone released during sexual activity and orgasm by both men and women is associated with relationship bonding, improved wound healing, less anxiety, and more.7

While science has yet to confirm causation for sexual activity in longer life, many people would be happier to face a lifetime of regularly engaging in this potential contributor than, say, consuming kale or running on a treadmill. Although, of course, sex isn’t a replacement for a healthy diet and exercise. Rather, sex can be an enjoyable addition to a healthy lifestyle.

If you choose to explore this option, please do so safely to help create the best conditions to enhance your own longevity and that of your partner.

References:

  1. World Health Organization, “World Health Statistics 2016.” http://www.who.int/gho/publications/world_health_statistics/2016/en/ Accessed January 13, 2016. 
  2.  Rothenbacher D et al. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015 Sep 29;66(13):1516-1517.
  3.  Lindau ST et al. Am J Cardiol. 2012 May 15;109(10):1439-1444.
  4.  http://www.lifeextension.com/Protocols/Male-Reproductive/Erectile-Dysfunction/Page-refs
  5. Smith GD et al. BMJ. 1997 Dec 20; 315(7123): 1641–1644.Palmore EB et al. Gerontologist
  6.  1982 Dec ;22(6):513-518.
  7. Gouin JP et al. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2010 Aug; 35(7):1082–1090.

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