Aorta doesn’t care how rich or smart you think you are

Penticton Herald - - LIFE & ARTS - DR. W. GIF­FORD-JONES

Ask any­one about AAA and they might think of the Amer­i­can Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion.

What about ab­dom­i­nal aor­tic aneurysm? Maybe you should com­mit it to mem­ory, too.

Ev­ery year more than 20,000 North Amer­i­cans die from a rup­tured aorta. Al­bert Ein­stein, the physi­cist who ex­pounded the the­ory of rel­a­tiv­ity, and Lu­cille Ball, the TV star who made us laugh, both died of AAA.

What causes the aorta, about the size of a gar­den hose, the largest artery in the body, to rup­ture?

Get­ting a lit­tle stiff in var­i­ous parts of our body is one of the prob­lems of ag­ing. But ar­te­rial stiff­ness, known as hard­en­ing of ar­ter­ies, is par­tic­u­larly haz­ardous when it hap­pens to the ab­dom­i­nal aorta. A sud­den rup­ture can re­sult in death in a few min­utes. And stud­ies show that about five per cent of men over age 65 have some de­gree of AAA.

It’s also five times more com­mon in males than fe­males.

Sir Wil­liam Osler, pro­fes­sor of Medicine at McGill, John’s Hop­kins and Ox­ford Univer­sity, once said, “It’s good to be born with good rub­ber.”

In ef­fect, to have soft, elas­tic, ar­ter­ies that ex­pand and con­tract with each beat of the heart. But as we age, ar­ter­ies of­ten be­come rigid, re­sult­ing in hy­per­ten­sion, heart at­tack, stroke and aneurysm.

The cause is ar­te­rial cal­ci­fi­ca­tion which can af­fect the aorta, coro­nary ar­ter­ies and valves of the heart.

To re­duce the risk of cal­ci­fi­ca­tion it’s im­por­tant to block its pen­e­tra­tion into ar­ter­ies as soon as pos­si­ble. Sev­eral stud­ies show that peo­ple with a higher in­take of vi­ta­min K2 have less risk of ar­te­rial cal­ci­fi­ca­tion.

But cal­cium is also an es­sen­tial min­eral to sus­tain life. In fact, with­out suf­fi­cient cal­cium we could not main­tain the elec­trolyte bal­ance needed for the nor­mal rhythm of the heart.

In a healthy body, 99 per cent of cal­cium is stored in bone where it pro­vides struc­tural sup­port. The amount of cal­cium al­lowed into the blood stream is strictly con­trolled.

Dr. Den­nis Good­man, car­di­ol­o­gist and di­rec­tor of In­te­gra­tive Medicine at New York Univer­sity, says that, “Ig­nor­ing vi­ta­min K2 is dan­ger­ous. Few are aware of how K2 aids bone health, but even fewer know how it helps car­dio­vas­cu­lar health.”

The great risk is that a de­fi­ciency of K2 in­creases the risk that cal­cium will be de­posited in the aorta. These cal­cium de­posits weaken the wall, in­creas­ing the risk of rup­ture and sud­den death.

A Dutch study of 4,600 men aged 55 and older showed that a high in­take of vi­ta­min K2 de­creased the risk of aor­tic cal­ci­fi­ca­tion by an amaz­ing 52 per cent.

Since K2 is not easy to ob­tain in the diet, var­i­ous sup­ple­ments are avail­able. For in­stance, K2 drops also con­tain vi­ta­min A and D as all three are needed for bone health. And as we age, vi­ta­min A also helps to im­prove night vi­sion.

What is not men­tioned in most stud­ies is that a com­bi­na­tion of vi­ta­min C and ly­sine also strength­ens the wall of the aorta and other ar­ter­ies. This helps to de­crease the risk of aor­tic rup­ture, coro­nary at­tack and stroke. Pills of vi­ta­min C and ly­sine are ef­fec­tive. But for those who dis­like swal­low­ing large num­bers of pills, Medi-C Plus and other brands of pow­dered C along with vi­ta­min K2 plus A and D drops are avail­able at health food stores.

Pathol­o­gists have known for years that ar­ter­ies are soft and flex­i­ble in youth. But with age, cal­ci­fi­ca­tion oc­curs in the soft tis­sues of the body, par­tic­u­larly ar­ter­ies, so one se­cret for longevity is to keep cal­cium in bone where it be­longs, and out of the aorta, coro­nary ar­ter­ies and those in the brain where it can pre­ma­turely end life.

Osler was right. It’s good to be born with good rub­ber. But if this doesn’t hap­pen, vi­ta­min K2 along with high amounts of vi­ta­min C and ly­sine, is the way to keep ar­ter­ies elas­tic and in­crease longevity.

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