Healing Hearts With EECP
Julian Whitaker, MD
I could tell you hundreds of stories of patients who have come to the Whitaker Wellness Institute with heart disease. Each of them, of course, has his or her unique medical history. Some have chest pain. Others have been recommended for angioplasty or bypass. Many are on multiple medications. But most of these patients have a similar extraordinary response to EECP—results that are even more amazing when you consider that EECP involves no hospitalization, no pain or recovery period, and no lifelong drug regimens to make sure stents or grafts don’t close up.
The “Big Squeeze”
EECP is done in a doctor’s office for an hour once or twice a day. You lie on a special bed and inflatable cuffs similar to blood pressure cuffs are strapped around your upper thighs, lower thighs, and calves. An EKG monitors your heartbeat, and when it’s “resting” between beats, the cuffs inflate and push blood up toward the heart; before the next beat, the cuffs rapidly deflate. You simply lie there, listening to music, watching a movie, or relaxing while the cuffs squeeze and release, squeeze and release.
The “external pumping” takes a load off the heart and significantly increases circulation by pushing blood up from the legs to the coronary arteries and blood vessels throughout the body. This has multiple positive effects on the endothelial cells lining the vessel walls, which dramatically improves vascular function. It stimulates the release of nitric oxide, which dilates the arteries and makes them more responsive. It boosts levels of circulating progenitor cells, which help repair damaged tissues. It even reduces inflammation.
EECP also promotes the secretion of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a signaling protein that enhances the creation of new blood vessels, and promotes collateral blood flow. Collateral arteries are small blood vessels that, in the presence of insufficient blood supply, open, enlarge, and create a detour or alternative pathway for blood to flow around blockages in major arteries. Collaterals truly are nature’s coronary artery bypass, and EECP helps open them up.
A full EECP course requires 35 treatments. Because many of our patients come from all over North America, they usually get two treatments per day so they can get back home in a timely manner. In just three weeks—and often sooner—energy, endurance, stamina, and ability to exercise improve greatly. Angina episodes become less frequent and intense, and nitroglycerin and other drugs are almost always reduced or discontinued. Patients regularly claim, “EECP changed my life.”
Rapid, Lasting Improvements
Benefits aren’t only rapid, they’re enduring. British researchers reviewed records of more than 1,000 patients who’d been treated with EECP in centers all over the world and followed them for an average of three years. As expected, the vast majority had significant reductions in angina immediately following a treatment course. And, for three-quarters of them, improvements were sustained three years after receiving EECP.
Now, these folks were in pretty bad shape. Sixty-seven percent had had multi-vessel blockages for an average of 11 years, 88 percent had already had bypass or angioplasty, 89 percent had severe, incapacitating angina, and more than 80 percent were “unsuitable for further coronary intervention.” If not for EECP, they’d have been told to go home, take some drugs, and limit their activities. Yet, three years later, they’re working, traveling, exercising, and enjoying a previously unimaginable quality of life.
Not Only for Coronary Artery Disease
We see this all the time at Whitaker Wellness—and not only in patients with coronary artery disease. EECP is also a proven therapy for heart failure, restoring energy and vitality, and improving ejection fraction (a measure of the heart’s pumping ability). Because improvements in circulation and arterial health are systemic, we also use EECP to treat patients with vascular dementia and memory loss, erectile dysfunction, Parkinson’s disease, neuropathy, peripheral artery disease, stubborn hypertension, some types of kidney disease and vision problems, and a handful of other conditions.
Recent research suggests that EECP is a regenerative therapy as well. Although I don’t have any of the aforementioned conditions, I’ve personally had more than 100 EECP treatments since we first brought this therapy into the clinic. I look upon it as a full-body tune-up.
Available, but Underutilized
The Whitaker Wellness Institute was one of the first clinics in the United States to adopt EECP. Today, it’s offered by many major medical centers, including the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic, and several Harvard-affiliated hospitals.
Despite this relatively wide penetration, EECP is vastly underutilized. Most cardiologists refuse to order it until their patients have tried and failed multiple medications, angioplasty and/or bypass, and are seriously ill with angina or heart failure. In my opinion, this is an economic decision. The surgical approach, which requires a lengthy hospital stay, cardiac rehabilitation, and recovery period, costs upwards of $100,000. For a fraction of that ($5,000–7,000), you could get 35 treatments of EECP—a therapy that can be completed in as little as three weeks and performed in a doctor’s office and can deliver results within days.
The real reason you won’t hear about this therapy from your cardiologist or heart surgeon is because, from their point of view, EECP is a threat not only to their profession, but to their bottom line.
- If you’d like to learn more about receiving EECP and other therapies for cardiovascular disease at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253.
- For a comprehensive overview of EECP, read Heal Your Heart With EECP by Debra Braverman, MD, available in bookstores, online, or by calling (800) 810-6655.
- Heidenreich PA, et al. Forecasting the future of cardiovascular disease in the United States: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2011 Mar 1;123(8):933–944.
- Jewell CW, et al. Enhanced external counterpulsation is a regenerative therapy. Front Biosci. 2010 Jan 1;2:111–121.
- Loh PH, et al. Enhanced external counterpulsation in the treatment of chronic refractory angina: a long-term follow-up outcome from the International Enhanced External Counterpulsation Patient Registry. Clin Cardiol. 2008;31(4):159–164.
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