Every year, Americans suffer more than 1.5 million heart attacks and strokes. Nearly 44% of African American men and 48% of African American women have some form of cardiovascular disease that includes heart disease and stroke.
~ Centers for Disease Control
Cardiologists and family medicine practitioners point to lower income levels, dietary and other lifestyle factors in addition to our relative sensitivity to salt as reasons for black people having such higher rates of cardiovascular disease (including heart attacks and strokes), as compared to Caucasians and other races…but I don’t think that has ever really seemed satisfactory enough for me.
And why do I say this? Because I routinely see patients who are well off, who do everything they know to do – eat right, exercise, sleep well, do the tests, take their meds (sometimes as many as five different anti-hypertensive medications)…and yet still have significantly high blood pressure readings.
I think another piece of the puzzle lies in our biochemistry, in particular, the way we (black folks) handle a chemical vital to cardiovascular health called Nitric Oxide, or NO, which, among other things, has been shown to keep the inner lining of arteries, veins and capillaries healthy and “clean.”
For you geeks/nerds out there, here’s a reference…Read it up
Sickle Cell disease is a primarily black person’s disease…okay, Arabs and other Middle Easterners have it as well, but nowhere close to how we Nigerians do (we’re numero uno, remember). So then, SCD patients, in addition to having this “cardiovascular disadvantage,” have their problems compounded…what you and I would call a “double whammy.”
In the final analysis, SCD takes a toll on the arteries and veins; the cycles of damage and repair lead to scarring (fibrosis) and blockage of blood vessels in vital organs, such as the heart, brain and lungs (quite a few deaths in SCD are due to pulmonary fibrosis).
(If you remember…another problem with sickled rbcs is that they tend to stick more readily to the inner linings of blood vessels, thus increasing the risk of blockage)
Can anything be done?
Yes, but please note that this is not about a treatment or cure. We will leave that to the experts.
We are simply seeking the best ways to support the body’s systems so that SCD sufferers can lead as normal a life as possible, in spite of their condition.
Again, this process is our Building Strength Approach.
So what can (or should) be done?
Nourish the arteries and veins – just as there are specific nutrients that promote bone health, brain health, joint health, etc, there are certain nutrients that have been shown to improve cardiovascular health – vitamin D3, Vitamin K2, l-arginine (which the body works on to produce NO) and omega 3 fatty acids, among others.
At the foundation, for ease of use and to promote compliance, we prefer to use nutrient complexes which have these in the right amounts and balance. And yes, we have been giving them to patients free of charge. And yes, we have been seeing some remarkable results. We’ll keep you updated.
Again, this hasn’t been approved as a treatment, food hardly ever is, and quite frankly, that’s not my main concern. Let’s not forget, we have fewer than 100 hematologists to cater to over 2 million SCD sufferers here in Nigeria…there just aren’t enough to cover the need. It would be unrealistic to leave it to them alone, as so many kids in remote parts of the country simply don’t have access.
We need to be more open to safe, effective options…options that can be easily applied in remote/rural areas, otherwise way too many children will just continue to suffer (and die) needlessly.
A special “Thank You” to our dear friend Rabi of the Maidunama Sickle Cell Foundation for her input. Every fortnight, she transports kids over to our centre from villages and towns outside Abuja.
Nigeria needs more people like her..