Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Heart disease

My Dad died a few years ago from a stroke after a long struggle with heart disease. In the late "80's he had a heart attack in the ER and survived. The medical staff said he survived because of a new drug they called Pac Man. Much later I would find out that it was a drug that had been genetically engineered to dissolve clots in the arteries. (called TPA, tissue plasminogen activator, by Genentech) He went on to have a quadruple bypass and did rather well for awhile. At some point they gave him a pacemaker and he gradually spent more and more time at doctors' offices to his increasing dismay and distress. He refused alot of procedures and his heart doctor wrote him a letter describing him as non-compliant. My Dad's interpretation of this letter was that the doctor was refusing him as a patient because he won't do what he was told. My Dad was 83 years old. He never talked much about his by-pass surgery but he let us all know that he would never, ever do THAT again. By-pass surgery usually holds up for an average of 12 or 13 years and the doc felt it was time to do it again. My Dad thought otherwise. Yep, that was my Dad, feisty, even as his body gradually slowed down. In 2009, he became ill and went to the ER, was admitted to intensive care. He contracted MRSA and was put into isolation where he had to be restrained because he started to flip out. I think it was the drugs, the isolation, and a disease that limits oxygen to the brain that caused him to flip out. It was horrifying to be a witness to what I perceived as brutal medical procedures to my father. My Dad had never wanted extraordinary means to keep him alive. He fought the pic lines and the IVs. He refused to eat. He lost an enormous amount of weight. The family literally had to fight in the hallways with doctors and nurses who believed that every drug , every bit of medical technology must be used to keep him alive. How dare the family decide for this man, that he would rather not have all this done. How dare the family view this as torture of a man who had lived an active, caring life, and had always chosen a path of less medical interventions. I felt like he was a prisoner of the hospital system and getting him to hospice was a battle that seemed so unnecessary and emotionally wrenching. I have memories of standing in the hospital hallway in tears while a physician's assistant and a nurse questioned my motives for demanding that the hospital release my Dad to hospice.

His last days in hospice were a blessing. He literally got better, he started to eat and respond like himself. On the day, I was to take him home because he got so much better, he had a stroke. He died a few days later in peace. It was two months of hospitalization, with a brief interval of a nursing home. I would never wish this situation on anyone. But in walking the hallways of the hospital and nursing homes, I saw many families going through the same journey. Heart disease impacts many families. The World Health Organization states it is the leading cause of death in the world. It is the leading cause of death in the USA. The CDC states that in 2010, heart disease will cost the US $316.4 billion.

What do we know about heart disease? What is the relationship between the foods we eat and our lifestyles that cause so many of us to suffer the same disease? Heart disease just doesn't happen overnight. And we now know that what we eat, how much we eat, our activity levels, and our emotional well-being impact whether or not we acquire this disease. Yet what seems surprising to me is that there is so little public discussion of how infant feeding impacts heart and circulatory health. How does the decision to use infant formula rather than breastfeeding impact a infant's long term heart health?

There are of course, some inventions/patents in which researchers have some ideas about preventing heart disease through the use of altered cow's milk or human milk components (genetically engineered). For example, patent #7863002 called "Breeding and milking cows for milk free of .beta.-casein A.sup.1" filed in 2009 by the A2 Corporation Limited of New Zealand. They are creating a milk free of the .beta.-casein A.sup.1 protein. "Such milk is useful for the prevention or treatment of coronary heart disease." I gather that for years many infants have gotten cow's milk that has the beta-casein that is implicated in coronary heart disease or so the research implicates. We know that beta-casein from human milk is different. Is this company using a beta-casein that is more similar to human milk? Not sure, but from statements from other companies, one might suspect that they might be attempting to create a beta-casein similiar to human beta casein. According to patent # 5739407 called, "Human .beta.-casein, process for producing it and use, thereof," filed in 1993 and owned by Symbicom aktiebolag of Sweden, "The main use of the recombinant human .beta.-casein is a constituent of infant formula." Ventria Biosciene in patent #7718851 filed in 2008 states, "In addition it has been reported that breast-fed infants have a different growth pattern than formula-fed infants(Dewey et al., 1992; Dewey et al., 1993), and epidemiological studies that they have a lower incidence of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and coronary heart disease."
Agennix Inc. of Houston in patent # 7026295 filed in 2003 states, "Lactoferrin in the reduction of circulating cholesterol, vascular inflammation, artherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease..." Agennix manufactures recombinant human lactoferrin (human milk component genetically engineered) and is doing clinical studies on the use of human lactoferrin for wound management. In patent # 6455687 called "Human lactoferrin" owned by FerroDynamics and dated 2001 they state, "Lactoferrin can be used to sequester iron implicated in heart disease. By sequestering iron that promotes the oxidation of lipids, which when oxidized can clog arteries, lactoferrin can aid in reducing heart attacks."
How we are fed as infants will either increase or decrease our risk of heart disease. I do not believe my Dad was breastfed as an infant or if he was it was in a very limited manner. It would seem to me that those billions of dollars we are spending on heart disease could be decreased, if we had a black box label on infant formula and included heart disease as one of the many risks of infant formula.
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

1 comment:

  1. very articulate post...what most people do not know that all doctors are taught that above all, human life must be preserved. Note that its human life -not Quality of human life.