The cholesterol myth and the trillion-dollar industry that has developed to treat cardiovascular disease is a formidable obstacle to overcome for those who would rather prevent heart attacks than treat the symptoms with bypass surgery, angioplasty, stenting, and cholesterol-lowering drugs.

In 1790, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria mandated autopsies for everyone who died in a hospital. This was a virtual laboratory for medical researchers. In 1890, it was discovered that when a thyroidectomy (removal of the thyroid gland) was performed, the result was a condition called myxedema, in which a jelly-like mucin substance filled the arteries.

This blockage was enough to cause a heart attack and subsequent death. However, in those days, the major cause of death was tuberculosis. Heart disease was infrequent, so a cure for heart disease was not sought.

Today, it's a different story. Heart attacks and all the treatments for this problem are fighting a losing battle. When you treat the symptoms of a disease, you don't get to the root cause of the problem.

Sometimes the solution to a problem is so simple that we can't believe it. We therefore overlook it.

In 1890, Viennese pathologists discovered that a thyroid deficiency caused heart attacks. Researchers found that the removal of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) brought about a complete blockage of the arteries.

Broda O. Barnes, M.D., the foremost researcher of the thyroid, went to Graz, Austria, and checked 70,000 autopsies recorded between 1930 and 1970. In his book Heart Attack Rareness in Thyroid Treated Patients, Dr. Barnes details a 20-year study with 1,569 patients. Among the women, 844 had no heart attacks, and men had only 4 of 72 expected heart attacks.

In order to confirm his findings, Barnes reviewed the medical literature. He wanted to see if there were other indications of a relationship between the thyroid and the heart.

In 1877, Dr. William Ord, in London, performed an autopsy and noticed a large amount of a jelly-like mucin, which held water and caused swelling all over the body. The thyroid gland was almost completely destroyed. The heart was enlarged, and the arteries were diseased, containing deposits of foreign material that narrowed them greatly.

Five years later, The Clinical Society of London published a 317-page study on myxedema. Thyroidectomies were performed to prevent suffocation in patients with huge goiters. A distinguished Viennese surgeon, professor Bilroth, noticed that routine autopsies should have shown damage to the arteries in those losing their thyroids.

In 1895, Dr. Von Eiselberg, one of Bilroths's students, performed thyroidectomies on sheep and goats to study the effects on their arteries. He found atherosclerosis developing in the big main artery, the aorta, and in the coronary arteries. These observations were confirmed by other Viennese investigators who also noted that thyroid administration would prevent artery damage.

In 1913, a book by Dr. Wilhelm Falta defined myxedema as a condition in which the arteries become prematurely damaged by atherosclerosis. In 1918, a German physician, Dr. H. Zondek, noticed that digitalis could not help some of his patients with heart failure. When Zondek noticed myxedema in those patients, he tried thyroid therapy. Their enlarged hearts shrank to normal size, and their edema disappeared.

In 1925, Dr. H.A. Christian, of Rhode Island, confirmed Zondek's findings. His hypothyroid patients with heart failure had improved heart function following thyroid therapy.

The reader should consult a physician for all medical advice.

Sheldon Zerden is an award-winning author. Questions and comments can be sent to