For many years, people have been using multivitamins for cardiovascular disease. However, according to new results published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, daily multivitamin use does not prevent cardiovascular disease.  The data, from the mammoth Physicians Health Study continues to provide interesting and insightful results pertaining to the use of multivitamins for the prevention of chronic disease.  The study followed the health outcomes of nearly 15,000 male physicians over a ten year period.  It found that multivitamin use did not reduce the occurrence of major cardiovascular events: stoke, myocardial infarction (heart attack), or cardiovascular disease mortality.

This is the first large scale double blind placebo controlled study that has investigated multivitamins in depth.  The results bring us to a seemingly obvious, yet understated conclusion:

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A single pill to prevent our health problems simply DOES NOT exist!

Multivitamins Prevent Nutritional Deficiencies, Not Disease

The fact that multivitamins were found ineffective in preventing cardiovascular disease comes as no surprise.  Taking a quick look around, our problem is over-nutrition, not under-nutrition.  With the exception of a few specific vitamins and minerals, the vast majority of our population has adequate circulating levels of all nutritional components.  So, if cardiovascular disease prevention were as simple as having enough nutrients in the body, a lot less people would have cardiovascular disease.  This obviously is not the case.  Will a multivitamin help protect a person with multiple severe nutritional deficiencies from developing cardiovascular disease?  Probably.  But, there are just not enough of those people around in western society to apply it to the general population.

Disease Treatment vs. Disease Prevention

The wonderful advancements in modern medicine are, in a backhanded way, contributing to our ultimate health demise.  We do little to prevent disease, because we have a false sense of security of a treatment available that will correct the ailment.  For many people, health is no more than a time bomb ticking away.  The medical system is so overloaded with disease that ‘healthy’ people are shunned until their bomb is closer to exploding.  “Come back when there is something wrong with you” ….tick…tock …tick…tock.

Treatment and prevention are total opposites, yet viewed as one in the same.  Treatment of most disease is straightforward from a patient perspective: take a pill to counteract the biochemical deficit in the body, have a surgical procedure to modify something that is not working correctly, or if no one knows what to do, do nothing.  So, treatment is really a disengaged process where we follow a list of instructions.  Prevention however, requires much more participation and hard work from the patient.  Logic dictates: if we can take a pill to treat disease, why can’t we take one to prevent it?  Unfortunately, this logic is flawed, as is evidence by the recent findings.

Preventing Cardiovascular Disease

Disease prevention is not as simple as swallowing a pill—though some pills may be part of the plan.  It is a long term effort to eliminate as many negative health factors from your life, while maximizing the positive ones.  Regardless of your current health state, the best day to move towards maximizing health is today, as it will only serve to benefit you tomorrow.

Some real considerations for preventing chronic disease:

  1. Healthy Diet: a whole foods, anti-inflammatory dietary plan best correlates with good long-term health.  A low glycemic, low saturated/trans-fat, high fibre intake will ensure you are getting good nutrition.  Consume lots of fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, and white meat (fish, chicken, turkey).
  2. Exercise: 30 minutes of low impact cardio exercise every day is necessary to keep your cardiovascular system healthy.
  3. Sleep: poor sleep doesn’t just make your feel tired, it also slows vital bodily functions, including those that protect you from disease.
  4. Quit Smoking: we all know why smoking is bad.
  5. Stress Reduction: chronic stress wreaks havoc on the body, impairing your hormones from functioning properly.
  6. Lose Extra Pounds: excess fatty tissue impairs insulin function, and correlates heavily with cardiovascular risk.