(NaturalHealth365) According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 735,000 people suffer from a heart attack – in the United States alone – every year. For strokes, the number is even higher, topping 795,000 per year – or, a stroke every 40 seconds.
For many, the incident will be fatal – a bleak fact that highlights the urgent need for finding new methods of prevention. Fortunately, exciting new research shows that a combination of two natural compounds – an ancient Asian herb, and an extract from the bark of a specific type of Mediterranean pine tree – can reduce the dangers of life-threatening arterial plaque, and slash the risk of death by stroke or a heart attack.
Your heart attack risk starts here: Atherosclerosis can have deadly consequences
Atherosclerosis – a condition in which the insides of the arteries become clogged, constricted and damaged – features deposits of plaque that result from the accumulation of LDL cholesterol and fibrinogen in arteries. The plaque can then block blood flow completely, or – in an even more dangerous development – break free and lodge elsewhere in the bloodstream, causing a life-threatening blockage.
When plaque occurs in arteries that lead to the heart, the results can include chest pain, coronary artery disease and heart attack. If plaque builds up in arteries leading to the brain, the primary danger is stroke.
“Soft” plaque can cause death with no warning
Arterial plaque can be either “hard,” (calcified) – or “soft” (non-calcified). Although hard plaque can restrict blood flow, soft plaque is the more lethal of the two. In a scenario that medical experts compare to a “ticking time bomb,” soft plaque can break loose and produce a clot blockage big enough to cause a heart attack or stroke – with no warning signs or symptoms. (most heart attacks are caused this way)
Normally, soft plaques are covered with tough, fibrous caps that prevent rupture – as long as they are in place. Thinning, weakening caps make the plaque more vulnerable to rupturing, and set the stage for a stroke or heart attack.
Natural remedies to the rescue: Centella asiatica and FMP have lifesaving properties
Researchers have discovered that a combination of natural substances – an Asian herb known as Centella asiaticia, and French maritime pine extract – can increase the stability of soft plaque to help prevent sudden rupture – while slowing and even reversing the accumulation of both soft plaque and hard plaque.
In a study published last December in Minerva Cardioangiologica, researchers found that the two compounds caused significant improvement in plaque stability in patients with Class IV arterial plaque narrowing – meaning the arteries were less than 50 percent obstructed. The combination also reduced the size and number of deposits, while decreasing harmful free radicals in the blood.
On the other hand, patients in the control group – who had received only standard plaque management – experienced no improvements. The research team, impressed by the dramatic study results as well as by the lack of adverse effects, concluded that “plant extracts could be a safe option for prevention of cardiovascular events in patients with carotid plaques.”
Natural compounds outperform conventional medical care
Additional studies explored the effect of the combination on the progression of atherosclerosis. Researchers wanted to see if the two compounds had any effect on preventing the crossover in arteries from Class IV to the more dangerous Class V – in which the arterial blockage is over 50 percent.
To accomplish this, they broke the study group into five subsets. One received only dietary and lifestyle recommendations, three received differing dosages of pine bark extract, or aspirin alone, or pine park extract coupled with aspirin. The fifth group received 100 mgs of Centellica asiata – in a standardized formula called Centellicum – along with 100 mgs of pine bark extract in the form of Pycnogenol.
The results were dramatic.
Using ultrasound, the team discovered that over 20 percent of the plaques in the dietary group had crossed over to the more dangerous class V, with 16 percent crossover in the aspirin group.
The two groups that received French maritime pine extract – and FMP paired with aspirin – fared much better, with respective scores of 8.4 percent and 5.3 percent. And, a combination of French maritime pine and aspirin slashed crossover rates to 4 percent – a very impressive result.
But the most spectacular results – a tiny 1.1 percent of the plaques progressing from Class IV to Class V — were obtained by the combination of French maritime pine bark and Centella asiatica.
In other words, plaque progression was 95 percent lower in the combination group than in the group that received standard recommendations. Additional research showed that the combination resulted in a 7.4-fold reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular symptoms, and a four-fold reduction in risk of being hospitalized for a cardiovascular event.
Both compounds harness natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers
With powerful antioxidant, neuroprotective and cancer-fighting effects, Centella asiatica has been a mainstay of Ayurvedic medicine for many centuries. Also known as gotu kola, this member of the parsley family is rich in triterpenoid compounds, which stabilize plaque by improving the synthesis of collagen, an important component of soft plaque caps.
Centella asiatica also works against plaque accumulation by reducing the stickiness of monocytes – cells that cause atherosclerosis.
French maritime pine extract has high levels of procyanidins and phenolic acids, giving it potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The extract reduces the risk of clots and interferes with plaque formation by stimulating the production of beneficial nitric oxide, thereby increasing blood flow and decreasing the “stickiness” of blood platelets.
Scientific research has revealed the truth: when taken together, Centella asiatica and French maritime pine decrease the size and number of arterial plaque deposits, along with reducing instability of soft plaque – making them valuable allies in the battle against stroke and heart attack.
Maybe one day we’ll see these compounds advertised on T.V. as a natural way to prevent heart attacks? (just a hope – I won’t hold my breathe)
Sources for this article include: