December 9, 2023
From podcast: https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/understanding-the-heart-stephen-hussey-part-1/
[00:01:11] Topic and Guest Introduction
[00:04:59] Stephen's Morning Heart Routine
[00:07:16] The First-Ever Recorded Incidences of Heart Disease
[0:12:40] What the Naked Mole-Rat Can Teach Us About Heart Health
[00:22:31] How an Imbalanced Vagus Nerve Can Impact the Fuel of the Heart
[00:35:42] The Role of Ketones in People with Heart Disease
[00:37:02] Structured Water and the Role It Plays in Our Bodies
[00:48:23] How to Enhance the Efficacy of Structured Water in Your Body
[00:52:03] Why It's Incorrect to Think of the Heart as A Pump
[01:00:35] Heart Failure Summarized
[01:07:10] Closing the Podcast
[01:08:08] End of Podcast
[01:08:30] Legal Disclaimer
Stephen: It's to me one of the most fascinating things that I've come across when I started really diving into heart health and the heart in general, it's this idea that the heart, it's not necessarily there to be this forceful pressure propulsion pump that I was told it was in my medical training, and all medical students across the world are told the same thing as far as I know. If it's not this pressure propulsion pump, what is it? Why is it there? What's its job right?
And so, there's plenty of doubt among early heart researchers, and physicians, and things that the heart was a pressure propulsion pump, or the size of it was even capable of pushing the blood throughout the entire body. One guy said you need the heart the size of a whale to do that to create enough for us.
Ben: Fitness, nutrition, biohacking, longevity, life optimization, spirituality, and a whole lot more. Welcome to the Ben Greenfield Life Show. Are you ready to hack your life? Let's do this.
Hey, I have been super interested in heart health of late. And, as a result of that, I've been revisiting some of my own podcast episodes that I found to be the most beneficial when it comes to a very thorough and comprehensive approach to overall cardiovascular health using both ancestral wisdom, as I'm prone to say, and modern science. So, I am unveiling to you once again my conversation with Stephen Hussey. Which is a podcast titled “The Most Mind-Blowing Information On Heart Disease You'll Ever Hear.” All based on Stephen's book “Understanding the Heart.” This was a two-part interview that I did with Stephen.
If you want to access all of the shownotes for this two-part podcast series on understanding the heart, I think, it's incredibly important. I think anyone who has a heart should listen. So, hopefully, that doesn't extricate you from the equation. I would hope not. If it does, go talk to a doctor. Shownotes are going to be at BenGreenfieldLife.com/HeartHealth23. That's BenGreenfieldLife.com/HeartHealth23. Let's go talk to Stephen.
One of my favorite health books that I've read this year, and probably the best book I've ever read on cardiovascular health, it came out recently, is called “Understanding the Heart.” It really, I think, is a critical read for anybody who owns a heart, which last time I checked was everybody. And before this point, my top recommendation probably would have been Dr. Thomas Cowan's book, “Human Heart Cosmic Heart,” which is also really good. And I've interviewed Dr. Thomas Cowan before about that book, but that book I think is good. But this book is even better, like takes a deeper dive if you were just going to choose one to read into a lot of the stuff that Tom addresses in his book “Human Heart, Cosmic Heart.”
And then, the other thing I want to tell you before I introduce my guest today is that you may want to pair this episode, which is actually a two-part series because we have so much to talk about. You're listening to Part 1 right now, but you may want to pair it with the episode in which I traveled down to L.A. to do all the different things that one could do to quantify heart health in a medical center. I'm talking about like calcium scan score, and assessment of resting, and exercise, electrocardiogram of the heart, and ultrasound, echocardiogram, flowmeter. So, that podcast I'll link to in the shownotes for this show. I'll link to my podcast with Dr. Thomas Cowan. I'll link to pretty much everything I've ever put out about the heart, and then I'll link to this new book, which is called “Understanding the Heart.”
So, my guest today wrote the book. His name is Stephen Hussey. He's a chiropractor and a functional medicine practitioner. Well, he got his doctor of chiropractic and master's in human nutrition and functional medicine from the University of Western States in Portland, Oregon. So, he's not like a heart surgeon, okay? He's not a heart surgeon, he's not a medical doctor of cardiovascular health, and yet this book is better than any book I've read that a doctor has written on the heart. And I've personally just been a student of the heart for quite some time and delved into a lot of the literature around it. And I guarantee, this is one of the better books out there about it.
So, Stephen, do you like Stephen or Steve?
Ben: Stephen, okay. Stephen, where do you live?
Stephen: I'm in outside of Roanoke, Virginia.
Ben: Okay. So, you have practiced there, but then I think you also do a lot of like teleconsults and things like that with people as well, yeah?
Ben: Okay, cool. So, that's your introduction to Stephen. Stephen, one of my problems when I have these many things I want to talk to somebody about regarding the book is kind of like where to start. But before we actually jump in to my first question for you, as somebody who has written this book and who obviously cares for their heart, I'm just curious, we're recording this podcast in the morning, did you do anything particularly relevant to your own heart or your own cardiovascular care this morning? Like, do you have certain parts of your morning routine that are really, truly focused on caring for your heart?
Stephen: Well, I mean, I have a gratitude kind of thing I do every morning, and then I meditate most mornings. Sometimes I wait for when I go into the sauna to do those. So, that's what I did this morning. And then, right before this actually, I was out in the yard doing my yard workout barefoot and out in the sun and things. And then, on Thursdays, we only work in the morning at the clinic. So, I was there from 7:30 to 11:00. And then, after that, I went in the sauna, then the yard workout, and then here we are now.
Ben: Nice. Okay. We'll definitely be talking about the sauna because I think it's one of the most underrated practices, particularly infrared sauna because of the photonic light, which I'm sure we'll probably discuss either in this episode or in the follow-up episode we record. Sauna is definitely a big one for heart and one that I work in my own practice. But man, even the gratitude practice that you talk about, that flies under the radar. I don't know if you saw this study that came out a couple of years ago on the effects of gratitude on cardiovascular health outcomes. It was a scientific review article and it got into a host of positive impacts on biomarkers like endothelial dysfunction and inflammatory markers, improved inherence to health behaviors, lower cardiovascular disease overall. So, I mean, that alone, as much as people might want to say that their, I don't know, say, like their statin as their go-to, I mean, a gratitude journal is actually right up there as silly as it may sound. So, that's something that people can jot down right away. As non-impactful as that might seem, it actually is quite impactful. So, kudos for doing that, man. My boys and I were out in the back patio about an hour ago doing the same thing right underneath the sunshine, which is also something that's great for cardiovascular health.
You know what, here's where I want to start, man. Heart disease has interesting origins. It's an ancient problem, but I'd love for you to get into how ancient of a problem that it is and where it first began to pop up as something being reported in historical records.
Stephen: So, it's pretty old. I guess if we think about it within recorded history, it's definitely old. But if we think about it within human history, it's pretty new I guess. So, I guess the first that I know of in recorded history that we see it as an ancient Egypt because the Egyptians were so I guess somewhat obsessed with preserving bodies for mummification. We can actually study them. And so, scientists have done so. They've done CT scans of mummies and they do find that there's atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries and in the other arteries of the body. Now, we have to take into account that I'm not an ancient Egyptian scholar or anything, but I assume that the people that were modified, deserved or seem to deserve that type of treatment were probably the higher-ups in society.
And so, they were probably eating what that society saw as the best foods for humans or noble foods for humans or whatever. It's very evident throughout studying of their culture and what they left behind that they were big wheat eaters and barley eaters. They definitely farm the banks of the Nile. And so, we can assume that that was a large part of their diet and scholars have confirmed that. I think that that definitely played a role, not necessarily because wheat is–people talk about gluten and everything like that, and how inflammatory that is. And I do think that's true, but I also think that it was probably the first time in history when they were eating a food that omega fats ratio was so off because in wheat, the omega-6 ratio is much higher–not omega-6, the omega-3 ratio is much higher than any food previously to that that the humans would have been eating, I think, or at least in that quantity.
So, I think that when we talk about the omega-6s and higher amounts of those, and especially these days with the vegetable oils is contributing to, or I think pretty much directly causing insulin resistance and how insulin resistance is heavily associated with atherosclerosis, that's what's going on there. But also, there's an ancient document [00:09:34] _____ where in there, it's been translated. So, it's worded funny, but it's definitely describing heart attack. It talks about pain down the arm. It talks about intense pressure in the chest. It alludes to the idea that they thought it was from something entering the mouth, which I take to mean as something they were eating.
But I don't know. I take into account that this is one of the first major civilizations. It's not the first obviously, but it's one of the first, and I think that that comes with a lot of changes in lifestyle, exposure to things that may be more inflammatory. I'm thinking things like heavy metals and that kind of stuff. But also just social class systems and things like that that they create more, I guess I'd say modern-day stresses that perhaps weren't more or weren't as prominent in a hunter-gatherer type society. So, I think all that stuff together contributed to those things we see, but it's a lot of speculation because we are just studying the mummies. And then, also further on down the line, in ancient Arabia, there's some stories of people who are described as having what sounds like heart disease or heart attacks. So, these are definitely things that aren't brand new, but in the span of all humans, they're relatively new, but in recorded history, they go back pretty far.
Ben: Yeah. And I would in no way argue that a completely grain-free diet is something that's necessary for human beings. I think that the inclusion of a certain amount of non-GMO organic grains for people with stable guts may not be a problem yet in the anecdotes that you've given and that you outline in even more detail in the book, and also in books like, say, Jared Diamond's “Guns, Germs, and Steel.” We do know that combination of agriculture, large cities, people living in smaller spaces, increase prevalence of I guess even just like things such as germ distribution would dictate that you're probably on the right track when it comes to the move into an agrarian culture and the civilization that popped up, particularly around the wealth of the Egyptians would have contributed to an increased prevalence of atherosclerosis, at least, especially if the grain consumption, as you've noted, with the increased amount of omega-6s is not balanced out with the type of compounds such as vegetables and meats that may have been a staple leading up to that point. I thought that was actually pretty interesting about the actual origins.
And you also described early on in the book, and this might seem like a disconnect to folks at first, but I'll bet that you can elucidate as to why you included this. You begin with the story of a naked mole-rat. Now, I've talked about the naked mole-rat before when I've talked about longevity and how it is oddly, one of the more long-lived mammals on the face of the planet. And I've talked about some of the reasons that might be due to increased carbon dioxide tolerance, even increased prevalence of some of the protein folding mechanisms that allow for better DNA repair in that particular species.
But you specifically bring up the naked mole-rat in relevance to cardiovascular disease. So, I'd love for you to explain what we can learn from the naked mole-rat and why that's included so early in your book.
Stephen: The whole naked mole-rat.
Ben: Attractive creature.
Stephen: Yeah, exactly. I think about it when I–I don't know if you ever seen that cartoon that used to be the Kim Possible like I had a naked mole-rat. That's what I think of when I think of naked mole-rats, but now I think of heart disease. I'll give you some background here. We have to talk about the evolution of reptiles to mammals and how that was allowed to happen because there's some things that had to happen in order for mammals to be a successful species. And so, when we look at reptiles, they have a stress response system that is kind of a single track. And so, it's the vagus nerve just like it is in mammals and humans and everything, but it has one track and it's called the dorsal motor nucleus. This is the nerve that communicates the stress response.
And so, if a reptile found itself in a situation where it was needed, the stress response, it could do one of three things. It could fight off that stress, it could flee, run away, or it could freeze. For a reptile, which is what we call cold-blooded, then a freeze response would literally mean like to play dead. And they even have the capacity to shut organs down temporarily, which is pretty astounding that they can shut an organ down and have it recover, but they have such a slow metabolism. And this slow metabolism is why they're cold-blooded because they're not continuously pumping through energy making that ATP, and making heat, and things like that. And so, they can do that. They can slow the metabolism and literally play dead. And it must have been advantageous at some point in evolution because it was preserved. When we look at what had to happen for a mammal to evolve, which is this warm-blooded, very metabolically active, very fast creatures, like you think about reptiles and they're kind of slow, they move pretty slow. There's some that can do some sprinting and things like that. But in mammals, they're like go, go, go all the time, right?
And so, for that to happen, needed to evolve a stress response that would allow a stress response to happen without a shutdown of organs or very slow metabolism because that would be deadly to that mammal. So, what happened was the vagus nerve split into two pathways. It's still one nerve, but there's just two pathways in the nerve. And so, there's the older dorsal motor nucleus, which is present in reptiles, but there's also the newer nucleus ambiguous. And there's evidence of this split starting to happen in very evolved reptiles like crocodiles and turtles and things, but it was fully split in mammals. This allowed for the stress response to happen so that a mammal could react to it without those organs shutting down. And it makes sense, too, when we talk about the stress response, the sympathetic versus parasympathetic, the autonomic nervous system balance that we need for health, it makes sense that there would be these two pathways that are balancing each other out because it's not like your body turns on one or the other. It's that they're always keeping each other in balance.
And so, it makes sense that the nerve that communicates those signals evolve that way. And so, getting to the naked mole-rat, it is a mammal that seems to have I guess a combination of these things because it can definitely significantly slow its metabolism and live in very low oxygen environments, environments where it needs to have that slow metabolism. And so, they've done these interesting experience with mole rats versus mice where they put them in very low oxygen environments. Both the species eventually pass out, but then the mouse would die, and then they would bring oxygen back into the environment, and the mouse would obviously stay dead, but the mole rat would come back to life because it seems to have these two different mechanisms. One is that it can slow its metabolism significantly. And two is that it can also, instead of using glucose in the cell, it can start to use fructose, which allows it to bypass some of the steps in the process of making energy, which create less lactic acid and require less oxygen and things like that. And so, it did that because it lives underground in these subterranean dwellings that are very low oxygen environments.
So, with humans, we don't have those capabilities, and ideally, there's few times when we're in low oxygen environments, we were out on the savannah or whatever and full oxygen. But I don't think that evolution was accounting for the fact that there would be a situation where one particular organ, which [00:19:53] _____ provide gas is the heart, would be forced into that glucose burning like a high-stress state that would create a situation where there's a buildup of lactic acid in a low oxygen environment that I've termed metabolic heart attacks. And so, I can paint that picture and we can talk through that if you want, but yeah, that's the relevance to the naked mole-rat.
Ben: Okay. So, basically, it's part of the mammalian stress response, and that's split in the vagus nerve. That's important. So, basically, staying in a sympathetic nervous system fight and flight or free state can cause great harm to mammals, particularly when it comes to the inflammation that can occur as a result of that and the way that it can depress metabolism. When you look at that fight and flight response, I mean, we all know that that amount of stress can have an impact on the heart and cardiovascular function. And so, what you're saying is that the naked mole-rat has developed a mechanism to be able to better withstand that type of stress?
Stephen: Yes, definitely. And maybe this is something that the reptiles had to and it preserved it or something. But yeah, it has mechanisms that allow it to survive in those types of environments. And so, that's an environment for it, but it's low oxygen. When I talk about what could potentially happen in humans that could damage the heart, because our heart is very connected to our emotional state, it's a different type of environmental stimulus that's triggering that. It's more of the natural stresses of modern-day combined with a few other things that I think trigger that. I would call it a shift in metabolism that is unfavorable to the heart.
Ben: Okay. I definitely want to get into what a shift in the type of fuel that the heart is going to rely upon would influence predisposition to cardiovascular disease or to a heart attack. But just to close the loop on the naked mole-rat, basically, we're a mammal-like that rat. We have an autonomic nervous system that's constantly monitoring environment and interpreting whether we're in a safe or threatening situation. Most people know we've got the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. And what you're saying is that basically decreased vagal tone, lack of proper care for the vagus nerve would actually imply that that autonomic nervous system is not regulating properly, and therefore, would result in excess stress on the heart, particularly via shift in substrate utilization, which we'll get into momentarily. Meaning, the use of, say, glucose versus ketones. But also, I know that the lack of vagal tone would also result in, from what I understand, the vagus nerve and having studied it in correlation to, say, heart rate variability, you also see that the lack of vagal nerve tone even affects the pacemaker cells of the heart and proper electrical function of the heart, right?
Stephen: Yeah. And it's like because the vagus nerve is communicating this balance. There's always supposed to be sympathetic and parasympathetic signals to the heart. That's why the split in the vagus nerve was so important for mammals because it needed to be that balanced all the time. There was no situation where it could be one or the other. And however, yeah, there's this situation today where decreased vagal tone is this decreased balance. And it's really almost like a shutdown of the nucleus ambiguous, the side of the vagus nerve that communicates that parasympathetic. And then, the body reverts back to this older evolved mechanism that was in reptiles and still somewhat present in mammals that can be quite damaging to a very metabolically demanding organism like a mammal.
Ben: Okay, got it. And then, one thing that you did note was the link between emotions and the vagus nerve. And this is related to what we were talking about regarding gratitude and probably why gratitude was shown to have such an impact on cardiovascular health because as you know in the book, I mean, when we look at the vagus nerve, it originates as a cranial nerve. So, the heart's anatomically connected to the muscles of, say, like facial expression. And so, even something as simple as smiling and having a positive outlook on life, we know that can increase heart rate variability and can have a direct impact on vagal nerve function.
But I've done other podcasts before about methods to increase vagal nerve tone, and it includes chanting, and humming, and singing, gargling, meditation, a gratitude practice. And of course, there are other more technological things like infrared sauna, and vagal nerve stimulators, and all sorts of things. But the main takeaway here for folks is that if you have low vagal nerve tone, which you could quantify with the measurement of heart rate variability, and you have low heart rate variability, you are likely not experience the type of balance of your autonomic nervous system that would allow for ideal heart health. Is that a fair statement?
Stephen: Yeah, and proper function of this newer evolved vagal nerve mechanisms that mammals have, yeah.
Ben: Okay, got it. So, when it comes to the vagus nerve not being imbalanced, how would that impact the actual fuel that the heart is using?
Stephen: Yeah. I've termed these metabolic heart attacks and I don't know if that's what we should be calling them or if I'm coining anything. But that's what I call them because there are definitely heart attacks that happened that there's a blockage present, and it results in decreased blood flow to the area and you get necrosis. And that usually happens when there's some atherosclerosis that breaks off or ruptures, or something and the body tries to repair it. But I have talked to many, many people and looked into the literature, and there are plenty of examples. People who have had heart attacks, which means there's tissue death there and the troponin levels are high when they're tested, and there is no blockage whatsoever.
Even a coronary artery pathologist named Giorgio Baroldi, who did, he since passed, a lot of work in this area and showing that there's a mechanism that can happen that causes a heart attack with no blockage whatsoever. And it has a lot to do with this balance in our stress response and a shift in metabolism, or a forced shift in metabolism, I would say. They have to set the stage a little bit because when we look at people in society today, it's very likely that they will be metabolically inflexible, which means that they've lost the ability to go readily back and forth to burning carbohydrates versus…or glucose versus fatty acids, and ketones, and things like that. And so, there's studies that come out to say that almost 90% of people in America have some aspect of poor metabolic health. So, that's a concern.
And then, there's also high rates of what we call inflammation and oxidative stress from many different sources, including psychological stress, but toxin exposure, poor diet, things like that. And so, that's very relevant as well, which I'll explain. And then, there's this imbalance in the autonomic nervous system, which we've alluded to a few different times. The stressors of modern-day environments are not conducive to health or balance in our stress response, and that communication of those stress signals to all organs really, but specifically the heart. A situation can happen where you have these imbalances. And let's say you have these imbalances, you have this imbalance in your autonomic nervous system. It's already leaning more toward poor vagal tone, and then you go through a stressful event. And there's plenty of evidence that shows that heart attacks are often preceded or during very stressful events or stressful times in people's lives. Mondays are one, or even unfortunately, like major holidays can be stressful to people, and that's one. Or major sporting events where people are betting tons of money, those are times when we see higher prevalence of heart attacks.
What we see is that if that balance signal–so the signal of the autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic and parasympathetic signals to the heart and to all organs, but typically, we're talking about the heart, is communicated to the heart cells by substances, one called cAMP, which is the sympathetic, and then cGMP, which is the parasympathetic. And those two substances, when the signals are communicated to the heart cells, those two substances go into the heart cells and tell it to do certain things, right? They're supposed to be balanced. The key is that for the parasympathetic signal to be communicated to the heart cells, it needs nitric oxide to enter the cells. That's really critical because if you're in a state of high oxidative stress, that has been shown over and over again in the research to deplete nitric oxide for various reasons. A, there could be damage to the lining of the artery, which is where the nitric oxide is produced.
But also, nitric oxide can and act like an antioxidant. And so, if there's lots of free radicals running around, those things can get eaten up by that. And so, if there's not readily available nitric oxide, then that parasympathetic signal coming into the cell gets blocked a little bit, or delayed, or even just reduced. And so, if we have this sudden stressful event, then all of a sudden, the heart cells get signal from sympathetic only, or predominantly sympathetic.
Ben: In the absence of nitric oxide, or adequate amounts of nitric oxide?
Stephen: Exactly. And so, when that happens, it's just like when you go for a run and you stimulate sympathetic to your skeletal muscles, which is necessary and it's a good stress, I'd say a hormetic stress kind of thing, then it's good for you. But the muscles in your leg, they'll eventually start to burn because they get that signal, they start burning the glycogen stores in your muscle, and eventually, you get that lactic acid buildup and it starts to burn a little bit, right? And when you do that, and if it gets too bad, you can just stop running and the lactic acid gets pumped out within an hour or so, or it pretty immediately stops burning if you wait a few minutes. But with the heart, it just can't stop beating.
It would be as though you were doing very simplistically, for an illustration, bicep curls, and your arms became fatigued, and you wanted to stop doing bicep curls because of the burn from the lactic acid. And the arms just won't stop curling, and so lactic acid just continues to accumulate and accumulate because as we know, the cardiac tissue is not necessarily a voluntarily contractible tissue. And so, if lactic acids begin to accumulate, you can't just stop the heart from beating. And by the way, I read your books, and that's why I said beating there, not pumping.
Stephen: I like it, I like it. And foreshadowing as well. So, yeah. So, when we get that sympathetic signal there, it creates a fourth shift in metabolism in the heart because usually the heart, and most organs really, prefer to burn fatty acids and ketones. And they're always burning fatty acids, ketones, and glucose all at the same time. But the heart seems to prefer, even in the presence of lots of glucose, to burn ketones and fatty acids. And so, I think there's reasons for that as far as like not as much lactic acid buildup and things like that. But when we get the sympathetic signal just like when you get that sympathetic signal to your bicep or to your leg muscle to do those things, then the heart is almost forced to burn more glucose than it really wants to, and that results in a buildup of lactic acid.
It creates edema and swelling in the area, and that can create this negative pressure situation where usually the pressure is higher going into the heart tissues. But if they're swelling and edema, and it's that much more pressure, then the blood can't really get in there because the pressure is more coming out now. It also interferes with calcium absorption into the cells, and calcium is how muscles contract. And the heart is a muscle, so we can get dysfunction in that area as well. And so, it creates a situation where we get this stagnant blood, we get this blood that's not being moved through very well or at all. It can result in severe hypoxia, which is low oxygen, and then tissue death. And so, it's pretty fascinating when you string all that together, and it all starts with this imbalanced stress response, and the other imbalances like oxidative stress, and poor metabolic health, and things like that. But it goes to show that it's kind of like an organ shutdown. These reptiles, and apparently naked mole-rats, could somewhat withstand those things, whereas in humans, that can be a very dangerous situation.
Ben: Yeah. There's a couple of things that come to mind as you discuss that. First of all, the importance of nitric oxide for heart health, and that's directly because of the vagal nerve tone, and in particular, the ability for the parasympathetic nervous system to be able to be one of the regulators of heart function. And that of course ties into really a lot of the chatter that I think has been going on more of late about the importance of nitric oxide originally vilified as a toxic gas and now well-known to be almost like Viagra for the whole body in terms of its vasodilatory effects and its impact on endothelial function.
And we of course, now here, and I've done many podcasts before on breathwork about the importance of things like nasal breathing, and even things like the type of humming one might do as part of a meditation or a yoga practice, exposure to adequate amounts of sunlight, particularly near and far and red spectrums of sunlight along with of course nutrients in food that might increase nitric oxide production such as beets and arugula. And it's funny because when you look at many of these foods that are reportedly good for the heart, many of them do have an impact on nitric oxide production with beets actually being a perfect example of that, pomegranates being another. And so, it's probably one important takeaway for folks here. Even if you're not jotting down the science crazily as we go through, it would be, A, increase your vagal nerve tone and monitor your heart rate variability, and B, engage in things such as nasal breathing and other strategies to increase your nitric oxide production and availability.
Stephen: Exactly. And it's so critical. I mean, not just for the communication and the signal, but the health of lying in the artery as well.
Ben: Yeah. And I mean, the other thing that pops up is you're discussing the metabolic use of either ketones versus glucose for heart tissue is the fact that years and years ago, when I was racing in Ironman, I first discovered both nutritional ketosis, as well as the consumption of exogenous ketones like ketone salts or ketone esters as something that provided a very stable source of fuel for long endurance efforts, particularly because, as I learned at that time, ketones are a very metabolizable fuel for the heart, for the liver, for the diaphragm, for many of these systems, these organs that are working in close conjunction with the autonomic nervous system.
And since then, I've been a fan of some amount of ketosis, not necessarily the coconut oil, butter, modern bastardized fat bomb version of a keto diet, but more of kind of like a low carb Mediterranean sane amounts of fasting being careful with too much sugar type of ketogenic approach. I think that's better. But ultimately, I've been a fan of it for a while. And so, not only did that resonate with me in your book, but also literally like two days ago, oddly enough, right before we were about to record this podcast, I noted that a study came out about ketone ester treatment, improving cardiac function and reducing pathologic remodeling in preclinical models of heart failure. And this was admittedly a rodent study, but they were investigating, inducing ketosis via the administration of an oral ketone ester with the hypothesis being that accumulating evidence is suggested that a failing heart reprograms fuel metabolism towards increased utilization of ketone bodies, and thus, increasing cardiac ketone delivery, ameliorates cardiac dysfunction.
And sure enough, they found that in this study, that ketone esters were quite effective for normalizing myocardial ATP production, the actual energy production of the heart following myocardial infarction or heart attack by providing the heart with an auxiliary fuel that was far more stable than, say, glucose. As a matter of fact, they finished up that paper by saying that ketone ester should be seriously considered as a treatment for patients with heart failure. But of course, why wait until the heart fails, right? Why not ensure that the heart is burning a stable energy source rather than being reliant upon the sympathetic nervous system's drive to burn glucose rather than ketones as a fuel. Did you happen to see that study?
Stephen: Yeah, I saw that one. And maybe a few months ago, I saw another one. It was a big review paper of the benefits for ketones, for heart health, and it was listing all kinds of things. But as far as like heart attacks, cardiac remodeling, or improving cardiac remodeling, lessing it, but also heart failure, atherosclerosis, and it was just like–the conclusion of the paper was it's time we acknowledge this metabolite here as something that could be extremely beneficial. And I'm with you as well. I don't think that someone has to be on this extreme ketogenic diet, like 70% fat or whatever. I think that ketones are present for eating a whole food diet and were metabolically healthy. And because I've had clients that I work with that eat a fair amount of carbohydrate, and they wake up after their overnight fast, and they have ketones present.
So, I think that's just how it is. We don't have to be in this extreme ketogenic diet. But also, it's really important to note that I think the heart has these mechanisms that make sure it has first dibs on ketones and fatty acids and things. And so, they're a little bit speculation, but the idea that we metabolize fast in a way that makes them pretty much available to the heart first is very interesting, and it shows the importance I think of the heart.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. And just in case people are raising an eyebrow about whether or not this is just bunk that science or medicine would deny this to be the fact when you read a paper such as that one that I was just talking about, I mean, I think there's a section in that paper where they actually say that it is well-known. And of course, they provide scientific evidence as well that the failing heart reprograms to a lower capacity for oxidizing fatty acids. And then, they describe that as the chief fuel for a normal heart. The idea that ketones, or particularly fatty acids more indirectly, are the chief fuel for a normal heart is something that both medicine and science have understood for quite some time. So, we're not talking about some new groundbreaking idea. What we may get into later on is some of the issues with modalities in modern medicine that have been used to mop up the damage once the body shifts into a state of autonomic nervous system dysfunction and shifts into that type of glucose versus ketone utilization that you've just discussed. But this is not something that people are arguing about, what the heart actually prefers to use as a fuel, right?
Stephen: Right, exactly. I mean, it's well-stated in the literature. And I cite plenty of studies in the book.
Ben: Yeah. Okay. So, now this is going to be interesting to hear you shift towards what this has to do with water. And this might rabbit hole a little bit, but you actually get into an explanation in the book as you weave through this issue with the heart shifting out of its normal substrate utilization, and the poor vagal tone, and the deactivation of the parasympathetic nervous system that can predispose someone to, say, a heart attack. You discussed water. You specifically discussed a form of water called fourth phase water, which I've discussed long ago with Dr. Gerald Pollack from University of Washington, this form of water that's largely structured within the human body. But I've never really addressed it in detail and relevance to what it actually has to do with the heart. The floor is yours, but can you explain what water has to do with this scenario, particularly the form of water that you discussed?
Stephen: I think there's a lot of talk rightfully so about the biochemistry of the body. And in some ways, this could be considered biochemistry, too. But I almost considered physics of the body were definitely–we're affected by electromagnetic fields and radiant energy, and all those kind of things, and I consider that the physics of the body. And so, we're always told that we're–whatever. I mean, I've heard so many different things, 60%, 70%, 80% water, right? And we are a lot water, but I think that it's as far as the states of water, solid, liquid, gas, there is some water in our bodies that is liquid, like there's water in the blood, there's lymphatic tissue or lymphatic fluid.
And then, there's also cerebrospinal fluid, things like that that are clearly water. But then, there's the rest of us that is a large part water. And if I was to think that my body was made up of liquid water, I feel like I would slosh around like a waterbed, and that's not what's happening. So, if I grab the tissue of my forearm or my calf, it gives a little–I can grab onto it, but then I let go and it goes right back to what it was. And so, that's because it's more like a gel, more like a gel state, kind of like if I poke Jell-O, it'll give, but if I let go, it'll come right back, right? And so, that's what fourth phase water is. It's when water is put into this unique situation where it structures itself into this between solid and liquid state. And that's the fourth phase water. It's easy water. It's also called structured water. And it's the water that's in ourselves. It's in a structured state. And then, there's certain areas in the body where it also plays a role like the arteries. So, we can talk about that.
So, what water needs to structure itself is a few different things. It needs a hydrophilic surface, a water-loving surface. And so, if we have bulk water next to a hydrophilic surface and we have radiant energy applied to that water because water has these unique properties that allow it to absorb energy from the environment. If it's properly energized, then when it gets next to the hydrophilic surface, it will start to structure itself. And so, the details of how it structures itself are that water is H2O. So, that's two hydrogens and one oxygen. One of those hydrogens cleaves itself off and we're left with an oxygen and a hydrogen. And those oxygen and hydrogen is teamed up with other oxygens and hydrogens that have also been cleaved of another hydrogen, and they form this lattice-like structure. It's like these hexagonal rings that team up with each other.
So, it's kind of like a–I think of like a fence panel, but it just goes on as long as the hydrophilic surfaces. Those fence panels stack each other up next to or next to that hydrophilic surface, and they form this layer of called structured water, easy water, whatever. And so, it turns out that this happens in many biological places on Earth that happens in plant roots and things like that. But the lining of our arteries is also a hydrophilic surface. The blood is more or less half water. And so, if it is properly energized, which there's various ways to do that, then it will form this lining of an artery, which is very relevant to the conversation around atherosclerosis. And I'm trying to bring that to the discussion that if we want to form atherosclerosis, we don't. But if the body was forced to do that, it would have to get through this fourth phase water first because the way that it lines itself up, and the reason that it's called exclusion zone water is because it excludes anything that's not it. And there's only very few little hydrated ions that can actually penetrate it and get through the spaces between them.
So, in Dr. Pollack's book, she mentions the protein albumin was excluded from this exclusion zone. When it's formed, it can't get through it. And at first, I thought that was weird. I was like, “Why did you just tag that sentence on to the end of the paragraph? That was weird.” But then I realized that albumin is like the smallest protein that I think we know of in the bloodstream. If that can't get through, then anything larger than it couldn't get through. And so, if we're talking about cholesterol molecules, we're talking about red blood cells, bacteria, all kinds of things that are way bigger than the protein albumin, then those things are not going to get through. They're not going to touch the lining of the artery at all if we have intact and healthy fourth phase water there. It becomes very relevant to atherosclerosis. Everybody thinks that these LDL molecules, if there's too many of them, they will go and damage the lining of an artery, which I don't think is true either way. We get this fourth phase water and if there was a kink in this whole equation, it's like, wait a second, what is this here? And how does it help us explain what atherosclerosis is? That's just one of the ways that fourth phase water contributes or plays a role in heart disease or lack thereof.
Ben: Okay, got it. So, basically, as I've discussed before on the podcast, plants, for example, use fourth phase water to allow for the movement of water via this so-called exclusion zone, and the electrical attraction of the positive charge of the water or the fluid inside the vessel, and the negative charge on the lining of the vessel to move water against gravity up towards the top of a plant since plants don't, last I checked, have a heart. And in the same way, humans, despite having a heart really in an ideal scenario, would have this same type of water structuring type of mechanism that would allow for a negative charge on kind of like the interior surface of the vasculature, a positive charge towards the outside. Thus, allowing for less resistance of water, or in this case, blood made up of water to move through vasculature. That's what you're getting at?
Stephen: Yeah. So, not only does it protect the lining of the artery, so to speak, because it excludes things that aren't it. It also creates this energy gradient that drives flow of water. And yes, what you're describing where we get this electronegatively charged area, this electropositively charged area within the lumen of the artery creates flow. And once that flow starts, then it doesn't really stop unless some other force acts upon it.
Ben: Okay, got it. Now, in terms of something like, say, oxidative stress, basically, the idea is that easy water that you referred to can break down due to oxidative stress?
Stephen: Yes. So, because of the way the easy water, structured water forms, it's a very electronegatively charged substance, or whatever you want to call it, because the oxygen is a much bigger molecule, and usually it's balanced out by two hydrogens. But you take one of those hydrogens away to form the water and now we get this very electronegatively charged area. And so, that electronegatively charged area has all these electrons, these negatively charged things that it could potentially donate, right? And so, if we're in a state of high oxidative stress, which is a high amount of free radicals going around with unpaired electrons that really want to be paired, then yes. If they're up next to fourth phase water, the flowing around in the artery, then they'll steal it from fourth phase water, and that can definitely break it down. And Dr. Pollack alludes to this in his book. And so, we have to look at what are the things that would cause oxidative stress, which there's a whole list of them.
Ben: Like endotoxins, metals, BPA from plastics, advanced glycation end products, high amount of vegetable oil consumption, exposure to EMFs, stress, all those type of things, right?
Stephen: Definitely, yeah, all that stuff. That's one of my main goals with this book and in general, is to expand the conversation on heart disease. Hey, everybody is talking about cholesterol and everything over here, but what about all these things that contribute to oxidative stress that are breaking down the fourth phase water on the lining of the artery. And then, once that's broken down, those same things will now damage the lining of the artery. Now, they just steal electrons from it. And this is all compounded and complicated by insulin resistance because if insulin resistance is present, insulin is required for those endothelial cells, the lining of the artery cells that make nitric oxide to repair itself. If it can't respond to that insulin and get that repair mechanism going, then we get this oxidative stress that damages things, and we can't repair it. And so, the body says, “Well, we got to do something before this artery ruptures and creates a real issue.” We bleed out pretty much.
And so, what it does is it takes cholesterol, and minerals, and things like that, and basically uses it as spackle to repair those areas, which is in the short term keeping you alive. In the long term, problematic because now that artery is less flexible, which could lead to high blood pressure and stuff like that. But also, I don't know, and I've talked to the researchers about this, I don't know if fourth phase water can form on top of a cluster of atherosclerosis. I don't know and they don't know either because if it can't, that's going to interfere with blood flow mechanisms, which could be why atherosclerosis is so heavily associated with heart failure, which we can talk about later. But yeah. So, all those things are very problematic and it all starts with the health of this fourth phase water lining the artery. I think that's where it starts. And then, you got to talk about oxidative stress and everything like that. But it's also why, and we haven't talked yet about the sources of the things that can help structure that water or energize the water so that can structure itself, but it's why things like infrared sauna have shown to increase nitric oxide production and reduce blood pressure and things like that because we're increasing the energized water that's able to form structured water on the lining of the arteries.
Ben: Yeah, from photonic energy being used to allow for better structuring of the extra water, like restoration or support of that easy zone. This is something that I actually did want to ask you about, but just to close the loop here, the free radicals, those would be the body's main electron demanding molecules that would impair, based on the research that Dr. Pollack has done, some of the negative charge of the water that would make up the blood in the human body. And that would then cause the type of oxidative stress that would cause more resistance to blood flow and the potential for atherosclerosis to take place.
And when we look at reducing oxidative stress, most people are aware of inflammation of vegetable oils, of BPA, these other things that I've mentioned, advanced glycation, end products, emotional inflammation, all the things that would expose one to a hefty amount of free radicals. And furthermore, I've talked on this podcast before about books like Robert Becker's “The Body Electric” or Jerry Tennant's book “Healing is Voltage,” and the idea that exposure to proper amounts of electrical energy seemed to have an impact that's positive on human metabolism, and longevity, and energy levels overall. I'm talking about practices that I've addressed in many podcasts before like going outside barefoot, and grounding, and earthing, getting access to adequate amounts of sunlight exposure, getting access to blood flow via heat and infrared, and also via cold thermogenesis and cold soaks, adequate consumption of water, and a decent amount of minerals.
But one thing is that a lot of people hear you saying this and say, “Well, I can get a structured water filter and drink structured water.” And while that may allow for possibly a little bit better hydration or absorption of the water, in my opinion, it makes water taste better, makes coffee taste better. There's a lot of advantages to vortexing or structuring your water. Ultimately, and I don't know what you feel about this, there's a lot more to allowing for the proper formation of this easy water within the blood than just drinking structured water, right?
Stephen: I think so, yeah. And I would say that those people who weren't drinking structured water, they were drinking energized water that potentially has the ability to structure itself once next to a hydrophilic surface. Because if you were drinking structured water, you'd be drinking like Jell-O like stuff.
Ben: Yeah, energized water. Meaning, the water has passed through the vortex as it does it in my own home water filter. It passes through a series of beads and minerals that allow for the water to have a little bit more electric potential once you actually drink it. You're right, if it was structured, it would be similar to what might be a chia seed gel or bone broth, or something like that, which arguably, those are also fantastic for gut health and for overall health. But what we're talking about is simply drinking water that's as close to nature as possible, as close to the electric potential we'd find in water when it's tumbling over rocks from a spring. And there are ways to do that without drinking from a spring, such as using something like a structured water filter, which I've addressed on my podcast before. But then once the water is actually in your body, charging it up with energy via frequent use of things like infrared sauna, and sunlight exposure, and grounding, and earthing, and heat, and cold, and water, and minerals, all these things are going to allow for better formation of easy water within the body, right?
Stephen: Exactly, yeah, rather than focusing on lots of people who wouldn't be able to get a structuring water and energizing water device in their homes, which is like, well, hey, the water is already there, why don't you just put your body in the right environment to energize it?
Ben: Right, exactly. So, you can energize the water once it's in your body. I mean, of course, related to the free radical, the BPA, the metals, the microplastics issues, you should make sure your water is clean and filtered. But it doesn't have to be structured because there are ways you can structure it once the water is actually in your body. I think for me personally, structuring water, it feels better on skin, it makes anything I cook that the water tastes better, et cetera. But I can be off traveling and drink Pellegrino and Gerolsteiner all day without a water structuring unit and still get exposed to, say, sunlight and being barefoot outside. And I'm allowing for that water to actually get exposed to photonic energy or, say, electric energy from the earth, and that's important.
A lot of people don't think that being out in sunlight or walking around barefoot is a way to care for your heart health, but it really is just because you're creating less resistance to flow throughout your body in general, which actually leads directly into what I wanted to ask you, this issue with flow. And this is something that's controversial, but I think folks can wrap their heads around it if you explain it. And that's the idea that in a stressed heart scenario, part of the reason for that is because the heart is being forced to push blood against greater amounts of resistance. And that could be related to the issues that we just got done talking about, but many people are under the false impression that the heart is able to simply pump its way out of that scenario and left you to describe how the heart really isn't necessarily pump per se and why that's important as part of the discussion here. And again, similar to what I asked you about water, I'm okay with you taking a little bit of time to explain this because I know it's a little bit of a hefty question.
Stephen: It's to me one of the most fascinating things that I've come across when I started really diving into heart health and the heart in general because of my own personal health journey. But it can be hard to wrap your head around, but it's this idea that the heart, it's not necessarily there to be this forceful pressure propulsion pump that I was told it was in my medical training, and all medical students across the world are told the same thing as far as I know. If it's not this pressure propulsion pump, what is it? Why is it there? What's its job right?
And so, in the book, I've gone through the history of heart, and there's plenty of doubt among early heart researchers, and physicians, and things that the heart was a pressure propulsion pump, or the size of it was even capable of pushing the blood throughout the entire body. One guy said you need the heart the size of a whale to do that to create enough for us. There was plenty of doubt early on, but then eventually, the theory became the sense it was beating like it does, looking like it's pumping, then that's what's going on. And make no mistake, the heart does do some pumping, but it actually behaves more like what's called a hydraulic ram.
Ben: Right. By pumping, you really mean contracting?
Stephen: Contracting. I mean, it does a little bit of blood pumping, but really no more than just to move the blood through the heart. There's no way it could create enough force to pump the blood throughout the entire body. But yeah, the contractions do guide the blood in the right direction through the heart. That process is entirely reliant on the blood flowing more or less on its own. And so, that's how a hydraulic ram works is it's flow activated. And so, I didn't understand what a hydraulic ram was. I didn't know what it was whenever I first heard the term. And so, I had to go look it up on YouTube. So, I think people should do that to get an idea of how this thing works. And it's not that the heart is exactly like the hydraulic rams that are made in engineering today, but basically, it's flow-driven.
So, basically, like a hydraulic ram is usually sitting lower than its water source, and the water is flowing from gravity down into it. So, the flow is happening already due to different pressures that build up in different cavities of the hydraulic ram that moves the fluid through it and actually creates a pressure that pumps it out of the hydraulic ram. And so, the same thing happens in the heart. And I think that Dr. Cowan did a great job in his book, kind of explained this concept, but I wanted to go a little bit deeper. And so, I put images in there looking at the congruencies between the hydraulic ram and the structures of the heart because I wanted people to understand that and see those things.
But basically, when the blood is already flowing through the heart on its own, there has to be a different role for the heart. And we've already established that the blood can flow on its own. They've actually done experiments. Those experiments done in the '40s and '60s that showed that water continue, or not water, but blood continues to move in the bodies of animals after they stop the heart from beating, for up to two hours after it stopped beating. And then, more recently in Dr. Pollack's lab, they've shown that when you stop the heart of a chick embryo that the blood continues to move, more or less been proven that the blood moves on its own. What happens is that as the blood's moving through the heart, it actually gets vortexed, which are swirled.
Stephen: Yeah, yeah. And so, I picture water flowing in a stream and it's flowing past the rock, and in the other side of the rock, it eddies. I picture that kind of thing. However, in the heart, it's kind of this enclosed system. So, there's multiple places as blood flows through the heart that it gets vortexed. And the pumping or the beating, the contracting I should say, of the heart muscle facilitates a lot of that. And it's one of the ways that Dr. Pollack in his lab has found that energizes water. And so, if we think about it in that way, the heart–as blood flows past the valves in the heart, it swirls on either side. The heart itself is oriented, like muscles of the heart are oriented in a spiraled nature. So, when it contracts, that twists and spirals the blood. And then also, as blood comes from the veins and it flows past each other, it vortexes as well.
Since this vortexing is–vortexing in the presence of oxygen, I should say, which the blood is always oxygenated. Even if it's in the venous side, it still has oxygen there. It's just less so than it does in arterial side. Vortexing the presence of oxygen is one of the ways that energizes water. When the water becomes energized, and then when it gets out into the bloodstream next to the hydrophilic surface of the arteries and veins, it can form fourth phase water, which creates the flow. So, in a way, the heart is responsible for the flow of the blood.
Ben: The heart almost is like that water structuring filter we were talking about, except it's your internal built-in water structuring filter because it's shaped in the way that it pumps. It's more kind of like ringing blood through the heart, vortexing it and causing the actual formation of the easy zone as the water travels through the heart?
Stephen: Exactly, yeah. And so, yeah. And so, in a way, it is responsible for the movement of blood, but not through this forceful pumping. It's more through what it does to the blood as it moves through. But there's also very important role for the heart, I think, rather than this pressure-propulsion pump because not only does it provide this vortexing that energizes the water, but it's also in the spot that it's in for a particular reason because there's lots of research that shows the heart is–in like endurance athletes, it's been shown that their hearts can become more muscular, so to speak. They're lifting weights with the hearts.
Ben: Yeah, cardiac hypertrophy, the so-called athlete's heart.
Stephen: Yeah. Researchers suggest that it's not necessarily that the heart is pumping more forcefully, but then it's better at stopping the flow of blood, which sounds completely controversial and completely contrary to what we're told the heart does. But if you think about it, if the blood is flowing on its own and the speed of which it flows is dictated based on energy demand from the tissues, we start running or doing some type of exercise, then the blood flows faster to the tissues. If the heart wasn't there to stop this flow of blood or slow it down at least and put it through this process of vortexing going through the ventricles and atria and things like that, then all the blood would flow over to the arterial side of things to the tissues and the venous side would collapse, the pressure in the system would collapse. And that would not be a good situation because it would mess up everything.
And so, the heart is placed where it is in between the arteries and the veins so that it can vortex that blood, but also so that it can maintain pressure in the system because if it didn't, if it didn't stop the flow of blood more effectively, especially in those endurance athletes, then a bad situation would happen. And they would not be able to do the sports anymore and they would likely die because the pressure would change. And there were interesting early experiments done by scientists in the 1800s where they tried to recreate these models of the cardiovascular system and using a pressure-propulsion pump. No matter what they did, they could not maintain the pressure in the system, but it's because they were using a pressure-propulsion pump and not something that was just, A, they had no self-flow mechanism in their model, but they also were using a pressure-propulsion pump that wasn't stopping the flow of blood. It was sucking blood in from an area and pushing out forcefully to the other area, and they could not maintain pressure in the venous side of their models no matter what they did.
Ben: Okay, got it. So, there's a few things that I would like to summarize for people because I know we're starting to come up against time for our first episode. And I know that in the second part of the episode that I want to talk to you about, we're going to get into a lot of solutions, but we're also going to talk about cholesterol, which we barely even talked about today, cholesterol and statins, and then some of the big solutions. But what I want to do, and it's very useful for me as I learn about these things, and I think for people, as they learn about it as well, to summarize some of the things that we've discussed thus far.
So, you've just outlined that the heart's not really the mover of the blood, but that when we look at the heart, we do know that the resistance to flow, as well as the shape of the heart are going to be pretty important when it comes to blood moving through the body and the resistance to blood moving through the body, which could ultimately result in heart failure if that resistance is too significant. So, inadequate blood flow, which would be had through a lot of the oxidative stress mechanisms that we talked about along with inadequate exposure to things such as light, grounding, earthing, heat, cold, water, minerals, et cetera, that's going to force the heart to take on the role of a pump that it really isn't built for. Like in a normal heart, the blood should be flowing through the heart on its own. The heart chambers contract, they vortex the blood, and then the blood travels through the body in that exclusion zone type of scenario.
And a slow transit to the blood like low blood flow would result in the heart basically changing shape, developing almost what we would see in an athlete heart, and that would be an inefficient heart that would respond poorly to any increase in pressure caused by inadequate blood flow. And you, early on in this podcast, were talking about the preferred fuel source for the heart, which we established was ketones. But this type of remodeling of the heart in terms of increased resistance to the heart's beating would be something that would result in some cases due to a change in the actual tissue of the heart. Meaning that the heart muscle becomes damaged and needs to be repaired with scar tissue, which would weaken the heart's ability to be able to vortex water. And that's something we actually see in people who are stressed, people who are primarily burning glucose as a fuel, even things like endurance athletes, or folks who are exercising too hard who have high amounts of lactic acid, high amounts of glucose throughput resulting in heart scarring, which has been well-demonstrated in the literature. And that's also going to be an issue, especially if the preferred fuel source is not provided in the form of ketones.
So, we've basically got a few different issues here. We have change in the shape of the heart due to scarring, and that's caused by too much glucose utilization, lactic acid accumulation, and resistance to flow. We have the poor fuel source and the oxidative stress along with low blood oxygen that's caused by many of those factors. And ultimately, when we put all this together, there's too much stress on the heart, it's doing more pumping than it would normally be designed to, and that would result in the development of heart failure.
Stephen: Yeah. And you connected the dots, is that people oftentimes say, “Why do we care if the heart's pumping or not?” And I say, “Well, heart failure,” because it's assumed that in heart failure, the heart is not doing its job. Well, what if we have misinterpreted what the job of the heart is? And it opens your eyes to what is heart failure. Is it the heart not doing its job, or is it the heart not getting support that it needs from the ketones or the mechanisms of fourth phase water in the artery that propel the blood? And the proof to me of this is the studies on infrared sauna and heart failure.
And I don't understand why there's not an infrared sauna in every cardiac rehab lab in the world based on these studies. I don't understand because it is so clear that these people get so much benefit. Their blood pressure drops, they talk about the heart. Like in heart failure, the heart enlarges because it's being forced to have more pressure to pump. Heart muscle enlarges and it gets stretched out, too. When they use infrared saunas, the heart muscle or the heart itself gets smaller, goes back to normal size or closer to normal size, the injection fractions increase, nitric oxide goes up, blood pressure goes down. All these things, it's phenomenal the outcomes these people have with infrared sauna. And infrared sauna is only one way to stimulate these mechanisms we've been talking about. There's other ways, too, but that's one that's very established in the literature. It's what drives home this point for me that this is what's going on.
Ben: I agree. I think it's a staple for heart health, particularly if you have access to–well, preferably infrared heat will have some of those effects, but infrared, particularly. And preferably, don't have your phone in there and use a low EMF sauna because as you noted, and I'm hoping people picked up on this, Stephen, the pacemaker cells of the heart are susceptible to electromagnetic fields. They have really high densities of these voltage-gated calcium channels and the influx of calcium that can result particularly in electromagnetic hypersensitive people. But in people, and we've shown this in isolated animal hearts, for example, I think you talked about it in the book, exposed to microwave EMFs, you actually see that influx of calcium that can be very problematic when it comes to the actual activity, the electrical activity of the heart because calcium floods into the cell, and too much calcium in the cell causes dysfunction, it causes DNA damage. And one of the best ways to increase calcium influx into the cell is high exposure to some of these high-end electromagnetic energy fields that we get exposed to.
And so, yeah, do an infrared sauna, but don't take your phone or even go into a sauna that you don't know is low EMF. That might sound silly, but I think that in the same way that water, and minerals, and heat, and cold, and light, and grounding, and earthing, and sauna are important. The mitigation of EMF in one's environments along with things like a gratitude practice, a good outlook on life in general, higher input of ketones and fatty acids than glucose, all of this stacks on itself.
So, I know we're running out of time. And fortunately, this is just Part 1. Folks, if you're listening in, in Part 2, we are going to get into cholesterols, and we are going into statins, we're going to get into diet and nutrition, and then we're also going to talk a little bit about some things that you may not be quite as familiar with as potential solutions such as magnesium and ouabain, and some of these other things. And then, I have a real, real surprise for you in Part 2 that Stephen and I really want to talk with you about.
Stephen, dude, we tackled Part 1, and I want to thank you for your time, for coming on the show, for writing this book, and I'm looking forward to Part 2 shortly.
Stephen: Yeah. Thanks for having me on. So, [01:07:56] _____ for Part 2.
Ben: Awesome. Alright, folks, I'm Ben Greenfield along with author Stephen Hussey of “Understanding the Heart,” signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Have an amazing week.
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As mentioned in several podcasts throughout the year, I've recently come across what I believe to be the best book on cardiovascular health that I've ever read.
Before this point, my top book recommendation would have been Dr. Thomas Cowan's Human Heart, Cosmic Heart, ideally paired with a listen to my own big show on all the different ways to test, analyze, and medically quantify your heart health, which you can listen to in the episode titled “The Best Way To Test How Healthy Your Heart Is: Ben Greenfield Undergoes A Complete Advanced Cardiac Evaluation & Reports The Surprising Results!“
Anyway, this latest, groundbreaking book — Understanding the Heart: Surprising Insights Into the Evolutionary Origins of Heart Disease―and Why It Matters — is by the remarkable Dr. Stephen Hussey, MS, DC, a chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, health coach, and speaker. He attained both his Doctorate of Chiropractic and Master of Science in human nutrition and functional medicine from the University of Western States in Portland, Oregon.
In addition to Understanding the Heart, Dr. Hussey is also the author of another excellent book on health and longevity titled The Health Evolution: Why Understanding Evolution Is the Key to Vibrant Health. Through his unique expertise, he guides clients from around the world back to health using ancestral wisdom and the latest research. In his downtime, Dr. Hussey likes to be outdoors, playing sports, reading, writing, and spending time with his wife and their pets.
During our show — which is a re-release of one of the most popular podcasts on cardiovascular health that I've ever recorded — you'll learn the fascinating history of heart disease, why the naked mole-rat is important in understanding heart health, where water, infrared light, aspirin, ketones, and other little-known heart health “hacks” fit in, and a BIG surprise toward the end of this two-part podcast series.
During this discussion, you'll discover:
-Stephen's morning heart routine…07:50
- Podcast with Emily Fletcher on Meditation:
- Barefoot yard workout
- Study on the effect of gratitude on CV health
-The first-ever recorded incidences of heart disease…09:50
- CT scans of ancient Egyptian mummies showed evidence of heart disease
- Wheat and barley diet in Ancient Egypt
- Omega-6 ratio that's higher in wheat and barley causes insulin resistance
- Insulin resistance and atherosclerosis
- Ancient Arabia describes stories of heart attacks
- Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
-What the naked mole-rat can teach you about heart health…15:20
- Evolution of reptiles and mammals
- The reptilian stress response system has one track called the dorsal motor nucleus
- Allows reptiles to shut organs down and lowers their metabolism
- Naked mole-rat has a combination of reptile and mammal traits: slow metabolisms and live in low oxygen levels
- If humans have an elongated shift in metabolism, heart health declines
- Mammals — vagus nerve split into two pathways: dorsal motor nucleus and nucleus ambiguous
- For humans, staying in a high-stress response creates inflammation, depresses metabolism, and has an impact on CV function
- Lack of vagal tone affects the electrical function of the heart
- Split vagus nerve in mammals is important because it balances parasympathetic and sympathetic systems
-How an imbalanced vagus nerve can impact the fuel of the heart…25:10
- Metabolic heart attacks
- 90% of people in America have some aspect of poor metabolic health
- An imbalance in the autonomic nervous system combined with a stressful event may lead to a CV event
- Cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP): sympathetic cell
- Cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP): parasympathetic cell
- We need nitric oxide for the cGMP cell to communicate with the heart cell
- High oxidative stress depletes nitric oxide
- In the absence of nitric oxide, the parasympathetic cell is delayed
- Cell delayed, then lactic acid build-up = muscle-burning
- Too much lactic acid in the heart causes it to beat faster
- Most organs, including the heart, prefer to burn fatty acids and ketones
- If a sympathetic signal reaches the heart, the heart is forced to burn more glucose than it wants to
- The build-up of lactic acid causes edema, negative pressure build-up, stagnant blood flow, reduced calcium absorption
- Calcium controls contraction
- Stagnant blood results in severe hypoxia and tissue death (organ shutdown)
- Reptiles and naked mole rats can withstand these things, but humans cannot
- Nitric oxide is kind of like Viagra for the body
- Ben's tips on increasing nitric oxide availability:
- Increase vagal nerve tone and monitor your heart rate variability (HRV)
- Nasal breathing
- Metabolic use of ketones vs. glucose
-The role of ketones in people with heart disease…37:00
- “Ketone Ester Treatment Improves Cardiac Function and Reduces Pathologic Remodeling in Preclinical Models of Heart Failure”
- Ketone Ester should be seriously considered for patients with heart failure
- Ketones are present if we're eating a whole foods diet and we're metabolically active
- Stephen believes the heart has first dibs on ketones and fatty acids
- The failing heart reprograms itself
- Ketones are the chief fuel for a normal heart
-Structured water and the role it plays in our bodies…42:15
- Water structured between solid and liquid states
- Exclusion zone water
- Albumin, the smallest protein in the bloodstream, is excluded from this exclusion zone
- The Fourth Phase of Water by Gerard Pollack
- BGF podcast with Gerald Pollack:
- Some water in the body is liquid, some is gel-like
- BGF podcast with Robert Slovak:
- “Water & Water Filtration: Everything You Need To Know About Water Filters, Alkaline Water, Structured Water, Hydrogen-Rich Water, Deuterium Depleted Water & Much More!”
- “Everything You Need To Know About How To Use Hydrogen Water: Timing, Dosing, Delivery Mechanisms, Hydrogen Tablets, Hydrogen Water Machines, Hydrogen Inhalers & Much More!”
- “Is “Drinkable” Seawater The Future Of Health Tonics?, How “Quinton” Works, Isotonic vs. Hypertonic & Much More With Water Researcher Robert Slovak.”
- BGF podcast with Tyler Lebaron:
- The lining of the artery has exclusion zone water
- Positive and negative charge in plants moves water upwards via water structuring, similar in humans
- Structured water protects the lining of the artery and creates flow
- Electronegatively charged areas with high oxidative stress could lead to the breakdown of structured water
- Break down of structured water = damaged arterial lining
- Insulin repairs, but if insulin resistance is present + oxidative stress = arterial damage
- Healing is Voltage by Jerry Tennant
- The Body Electric by Robert Becker
-How to enhance the efficacy of structured water in your body…53:30
- Podcast with Clint Ober:
- Energized water filters
- Infrared sauna
- Sauna, heat, and cold
-Why it's incorrect to think of the heart as a pump…57:30
- The heart is not a forceful pressure pump, blood can flow on its own
- The heart does some pumping but only to move the blood through the heart
- The heart is like a hydraulic ram; flow-activated
- The heart acts as a vortexer and swirls blood around
- Heart muscle contraction facilitates the swirling
- Another important role of the heart:
- The heart is better at slowing the flow of blood
- Speed of flow is based on energy demand of tissues
- The heart slows blood flow down to vortex it and prevent tissue collapse
- Endurance athletes have more muscular hearts (cardiac hypertrophy or athlete's heart)
-Heart failure summarized…1:05:45
- Change in the shape of the heart due to scarring
- Poor fuel source
- Oxidative stress
- Low blood oxygen
- Too much stress on the heart, doing more pumping leads to heart disease and failure
- The importance of the infrared sauna (low EMF) in preventing/repairing heart disease and failure
- Gratitude practice, grounding/earthing, sunlight, fatty acids, and ketones
-And much more…
Resources from this episode:
- Resource Your Health
- Resource Your Health YouTube Channel
- Understanding the Heart: Uncommon Insights Into Our Most Commonly Diseased Organ
- The Health Evolution: Why Understanding Evolution Is the Key to Vibrant Health
- Understanding the Heart: Surprising Insights Into the Evolutionary Origins of Heart Disease―and Why It Matters
– Podcasts And Articles:
- “The Best Way To Test How Healthy Your Heart Is: Ben Greenfield Undergoes A Complete Advanced Cardiac Evaluation & Reports The Surprising Results! With Dr. Thomas Cowan”
- “The Best Way To Test How Healthy Your Heart Is: Ben Greenfield Undergoes A Complete Advanced Cardiac Evaluation & Reports The Surprising Results! With Dr. Ram Dandillaya”
- “A New Style Of Meditation That Helps You To Stress Less & Accomplish More – The Emily Fletcher Podcast.”
- “What In The Bleep Do We Actually Know About Water? With Gerard Pollack”
- “Water & Water Filtration: Everything You Need To Know About Water Filters, Alkaline Water, Structured Water, Hydrogen-Rich Water, Deuterium Depleted Water & Much More!”
- “Everything You Need To Know About How To Use Hydrogen Water: Timing, Dosing, Delivery Mechanisms, Hydrogen Tablets, Hydrogen Water Machines, Hydrogen Inhalers & Much More!”
- “Is “Drinkable” Seawater The Future Of Health Tonics?, How “Quinton” Works, Isotonic vs. Hypertonic & Much More With Water Researcher Robert Slovak.”
- “The 30-Year-Old Scientist Phenom Who Runs a 2:30 Marathon, Deadlifts 420 Pounds & Drinks Hydrogen Enriched Water With Tyler Lebaron.”
- “My New #1 Hack For Zapping Inflammation, Increasing Deep Sleep & Recovering Faster—Earthing (The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?) with Clint Ober”
- “The One Powerful Emotion That Can Release Oxytocin, Amp Up Serotonin & Dopamine, Give You Better Sleep, Lower Blood Pressure, Decrease Inflammation & More.”
- “Sunlight Makes You Skinny & Blue Light Makes You Fat: 11 Ways To Biohack Light To Optimize Your Body & Brain.”
- “Fire & Ice: Tips, Tricks & Biohacks To Maximize The Benefits Of Sauna, Hyperthermia, Cryotherapy & Cold Thermogenesis.”
- “Sabbath Ramblings: The 4 Spiritual Disciplines I Practice Every Day (& Why).”
- Human Heart, Cosmic Heart by Dr. Thomas Cowan
- Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
- The Fourth Phase of Water by Gerard Pollack
- Healing Is Voltage by Jerry Tennant
- The Body Electric by Robert Becker
– Gear And Supplements:
- Infrared Sauna
- Structured Water Filter
- Water Vortexer
- Ketone Ester
- Quinton Hypertonic
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
– Other Resources:
- “Effect of Gratitude on Cardiovascular Health Outcomes: A State-Of-The-Science Review”
- “Exploration of Gratitude in Cardiovascular Health: Mediators, Medication Adherence and Psychometrics”
- “Ketone Ester Treatment Improves Cardiac Function and Reduces Pathologic Remodeling in Preclinical Models of Heart Failure”
- “Scans Bring New Insights Into Lives of Egyptian Mummies”
- “Barley and Wheat in Ancient Egypt”
- “Insulin Resistance and Atherosclerosis”
- “Coronary Heart Disease: From Mummies to 21ˢᵗ Century”
- YouTube Video of a Hydraulic Ram
- “Athlete’s Heart”
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