Category Archives: congestive heart failure

COVID 19: Masks and Distance not enough, where we have faltered and failed

  1. Test
  2. Trace
  3. Isolate

That is where we have failed. Those countries that rapidly instituted masks, social distance, frequent hand washing, PLUS Test/Trace/Isolate succeeded in limiting the speed of spread, protected the Medical Care (hospital) system from being over-run, and protected it’s citizens and economy. Those countries bought time to learn enough about the virus to lower the mortality rates by developing treatments that decrease risk of death AND probably disability and to ramp up the hospital care system and PPE.

The US has failed to meet the challenge.

Death may not be the worst outcome, depending on one’s views relative to the balance between longevity and quality of life. Chronic disability (such as congestive heart failure, severe pulmonary insufficiency, kidney failure requiring dialysis, stroke, etc.) can be lifelong and devastating following this infection. Some may consider that shortness of breath after walking 100 feet, requiring a rest before moving on, or kidney dialysis 3 times per week the price one must pay to survive a serious infection. Others may think this sort of severe disability is not acceptable. Many in our society are clueless about these potential outcomes (usually that means they are in denial, a very common defense mechanism used to deal with a terrible threat).

This did not have to be our present state, but it is.

In December US intelligence agencies (including the CIA) and the US military intelligence were already issuing reports about an emerging deadly respiratory virus in China. This went up the chain of command but was ignored by the Whitehouse. In January, Doctor Fauci, at the annual BIOTHREATS CONFERENCE in Washington DC, announced to the bio-tech industry representatives in attendance that this virus was already “beyond containment” and stated that aggressive biomedical development (drugs, vaccines, etc.) would be required. He told attendees that the NIH would “find the money” to support these efforts and that this was a national and global emergency.

Undoubtedly, this was reported to the Whitehouse. These early warnings were not only ignored, they were also widely denied publicly by our highest public official. (The warnings issued in senatorial and congressional committee meetings however, prompted many privileged senators and congress people to sell pandemic-sensitive stocks very early in the “denial phase”).

It is clear that masks and social distancing are effective in limiting spread. Super-spreader cases, case studies of spread in restaurants (China) , call centers (South Korea), and choir rehearsals (Washington State) suggest that both droplet and aerosol transmission occur in non-medical procedure settings.

We already knew that aerosol spread occurred in operating rooms when nasopharyngeal surgery and similar aerosol generating medical procedures were performed. In one operating room event, all 11 doctors and nurses who spent any amount of time in that operating room (despite everyone wearing N95 masks) became infected and the surgeon died from the infection (he had the most exposure). This was reported early on documenting aerosol spread in medical settings.

For those who have not read my previous discussion of aerosol vs droplet spread:

Aerosol = very small lighter-than-air particles containing infectious virus that float in the air and can be recirculated through air-conditioning vents or linger suspended in the air, especially indoors where the air is still.

Droplets = larger particles that fall quickly onto surfaces but can also with a cough, sneeze, scream or singing be transmitted to someone in very close proximity before falling .

Then we learned that carriers/transmitters of the virus can either remain completely without symptoms or develop symptoms as late as 10 days after initial exposure, all the while transmitting the virus to others around them. Assymptomatic transmission makes COVID 19 different from and more dangerous than most other viruses that infect humans.

Let me say that again.

Aerosol transmission makes this virus more dangerous than most other viruses.

Asymptomatic transmission makes this virus more dangerous than most other viruses.

And finally we have learned that this virus is more lethal than most other viruses. For example, COVID 19 is 25 times more lethal than the H1N1 influenza pandemic (references provided in previous post).

To summarize, the combination of easy transmission, asymptomatic transmission, and high mortality rate make this virus exceptionally dangerous and difficult to control.

How did the US respond?

Instead of rapidly ramping up PPE, testing, tracing, and isolation public health capability we instead had national leadership that said this was just like “another flu” virus and would “go away”. The narrative constantly shifted, but more importantly, effective action was not taken, and still has not been taken.

Testing remains woefully inadequate.

In many areas of our country it can take 5 days to schedule a test and 10 days to get the results. Such tests are useless. To effectively implement TEST/TRACE/ISOLATE we need rapid and widespread testing, rapid reporting, and a system to then trace contacts and isolate infected and exposed individuals. The US still shamefully lacks these essential services.

John’s Hopkins University early on developed an on-line contact tracing training program. But public funding to hire such trained individuals has been inadequate.

Isolation requires facilities in which exposed or infected individuals have their own bathroom and bedroom, have food provided, and are medically supervised until they are no longer infectious.

The US does not have such facilities. Individuals, unless they are financially very secure, do not have access to a home or other environment where this is possible. Worse, those essential workers (meat packers, food delivery, nursing aids, etc.) who earn the least, usually live in cramped housing conditions with multi-generation households in which isolation is impossible. Such individuals often live from paycheck to paycheck, so staying home from work means the family does not eat or the rent is not paid. So they go to work infecting others.

The result has been not just death and disability but horrible economic consequences.

Our shutdowns could have been shorter had we acted quickly and effectively.

Had we responded rapidly and appropriately, we would not be in our present economic predicament. So ironically and tragically, those that complain that shutdowns “were not necessary” and masks “are not necessary” contribute to the worsening economic consequences. As the virus surges following relaxation of restrictions, further restrictions and economic consequences become necessary.

Compounding this situation is the denial on the part of many individuals regarding the science and facts about this virus. Part of this denial is the result of our con-artist in chief, (and some governors) misrepresenting the facts to the public and displaying inappropriate behavior (such as refusal to wear a mask until most recently).

The other component of this denial is based on the natural tendency of humans to ignore data that is threatening and not consistent with personal ideology and beliefs. Beliefs such as “the government lies, the government is not to be trusted, the government cannot tell me what to do” presents obstacles to social behavior that would protect not just oneself and family, but the community (and economy) in general.

Contact tracers have reported that sometimes people hang up on them, refuse to cooperate, sometimes saying that it is an “invasion of privacy” or a “government hoax”.

Such beliefs and behaviors are encouraged by misinformation in the social media, shock-jocks such as Rush Limbaugh, conspiracy theories, and supported by dangerous politicians who have placed party over country, ideology over science, the next election over the good of the country.

The best way to mitigate the dire health and ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES of this pandemic include all those components that have worked in other countries:



This is a sad state. In the meantime what can you do?

In the context of the COVID 19 pandemic I will close with the usual summary.

  1. Avoid alcohol consumption (alcohol wreaks havoc with your immunity)
  2. Get plenty of sleep (without adequate sleep your immune system does not work well )
  3. Follow good sleep habits
  4. Exercise, especially out of doors in a green space, supports the immune system
  5. Get some sunshine and make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels.
  6. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in micronutrients.
  7. Practice stress reduction like meditation and yoga which improves the immune system
  8. Eliminate sugar-added foods and beverages from your diet. These increase inflammation, cause metabolic dysfunction, and suppress immunity.
  9. Eliminate refined-inflammatory “vegetable oils” from your diet, instead eat healthy fat.
  10. Clean up your home environment and minimize your family’s exposure to environmental toxins by following recommendations at with regards to household products, personal care products, and organic foods. (


Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose, spend time with those you love, AND sleep well tonight.

Doctor Bob


My good friend Dr. Deborah Gordon recently sent me a terrific article on an Integrative Medicine Approach to Covid-19. It confirmed much of what I have discussed about COVID-19 and provides 383 scientific references (many of which were cited in my previous posts). Thank you Dr. Deborah!

In my last post I promised to write about glutathione and cytokine storm.

Cytokines are proteins made by our immune system. When our body suffers an infection, cytokines act as essential signaling proteins that produce a defensive inflammatory response. In a cytokine storm the usual regulatory process that helps resolve inflammation becomes disturbed and self destruction can occur.

With COVID-19 this can happen in any organ of the body but frequently starts in the lungs, resulting in ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome).

In most clinical contexts the mortality rate of ARDS is 40-45%. In the context of COVID-19 it is 80-90 % lethal in most clinical reports (twice the usual mortality rate for ARDS). However, the ICU doctors in the Northwell Hospital system in NYC have been using NAC (n-Acetylcysteine).

While using NAC as part of their treatment protocol of COVID-19 associated ARDS, they are getting 50% of patients off the ventilator with a significant reduction in mortality rates compared to previous reports (personal communication with a Northwell physician and also mentioned in the Review Article cited above.)

This drug (also available as a dietary supplement) has been used for decades to treat acetaminophen (APAP) overdose (Tylenol brand name, also called paracetamol in Europe). If not treated early APAP overdose commonly causes death from liver failure.

Chronic acetaminophen toxicity is the most common cause of liver failure leading to liver transplant in the US.

How does this treatment  with NAC work in the setting of APAP overdose?

“When paracetamol is taken in large quantities, a minor metabolite called N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone imine (NAPQI) accumulates within the body. It is normally conjugated by glutathione, but when taken in excess, the body’s glutathione reserves are not sufficient to deactivate the toxic NAPQI. This metabolite is then free to react with key hepatic enzymes, thereby damaging liver cells. This may lead to severe liver damage and even death by acute liver failure.”

NAC (n-acetylcysteine) provides cysteine, one of the three amino acids that make up glutathione.

“glutathione synthesis is primarily controlled by the cellular level of the amino acid cysteine, the availability of which is the rate-limiting step.”

So by providing a source of cysteine, the body produces more glutathione which can detoxify the liver damaging metabolites of APAP.

Glutathione is our MASTER ANTI-OXIDANT. Since a cytokine storm involves an overwhelming amount of oxidative stress, glutathione is obviously important.

Clinical research in the 1990s established that the lungs of patients with ARDS are very deficient in glutathione.

A profound 20 fold reduction was confirmed in this study.

“Glutathione is a tripeptide that is able to react with and effectively neutralize oxidants, such as hydrogen peroxide. The present study found that the alveolar epithelial lining fluid of patients with ARDS was deficient in total glutathione compared with that of normal subjects (31.5 ± 8.4 versus 651.0 ± 103.1 µM, p = 0.0001) and patients with cardiogenic pulmonary edema (31.5 ± 8.4 versus 154.1 ± 52.4 µM, p = 0.001). In addition, a greater percentage of total glutathione was in the oxidized form in patients with ARDS compared with normal subjects (30.6 ± 6.1 versus 6.4 ± 2.9%, p = 0.03). This deficiency of reduced glutathione in the alveolar fluid may predispose these patients to enhanced lung cell injury.

Subsequent studies of humans with ARDS on ventilators showed clinical benefit by increasing glutathione levels with NAC.

“In our controlled clinical trials with NAC we found that patients with ARDS have depressed plasma and red cell glutathione concentrations, that these levels are substantially increased by therapy with intravenous NAC and there are measurable clinical responses to treatment with regard to increased oxygen delivery, improved lung compliance and resolution of pulmonary edema.”

Despite these findings decades ago, the use of NAC for ARDS has not been widely adopted. But it would make sense to employ this inexpensive medication, widely used for APAP overdose, for ARDS and in particular for cytokine storm caused by COVID-19.

Oxidative stress decreases glutathione levels and if these levels reach a critically  low level in tissues, organ damage can ensue rapidly. Cytokine storm is the extreme example.

Chronic alcohol abuse also decreases protective glutathione levels in the lung.

In my recent posts on COVID-19 I have pointed out that alcohol (even 2 drinks) suppresses the immune system for at least a few days. Alcohol consumption is a double hit, first as an immune suppressant, then as a major source of oxidative stress and reduction in protective glutathione levels. Two glasses of wine tonight followed by a COVID-19 sneeze in your face the next day could be the difference between an effective immune response (mild symptoms) versus an overwhelming life threatening infection!

Likewise, one night of inadequate sleep (which immediately suppresses immunity) followed by a COVID sneeze in your face the next day could have the same deleterious effect.

Below is a chart from the review article mentioned at the start of this post. Notice the top line states “ADDRESS SLEEP, STRESS, DIET, SUGAR, ALCOHOL

If you have been reading my posts on COVID-19, you have heard this before.

integrative medicine chart

Notice the second row in the chart with escalating doses of NAC as intensity of disease increases. When cytokine storm hits NAC dose recommendations peak and glutathione (available for IV administration) is recommended. IV glutathione surprisingly is not part of most hospital formularies and I have never seen it used in a hospital setting. Functional medicine physicians sometimes use it outside of the hospital setting. IV glutathione has become a sexy and lucrative office procedure in some functional medicine practices.

NAC has high bioavailability, meaning it is absorbed well in our gut. So oral supplementation can rapidly and effectively increase levels of glutathione in the body. IN FACT, treatment of acetaminophen overdose in the ER typically begins with oral NAC (often administered through a naso-gastric feeding tube, passed through the nose and into the stomach) Doses are often calculated by the regional poison control center (available by phone 24/7/365) and subsequent doses follow a standard protocol based on weight.

I would encourage you to read through this COVID-19 INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE review article.

It is thick with science but you might be surprised by how much you understand and learn.

In the chart above there is specific mention of Vitamin C supplementation in escalating doses as degree of illness increases. Vitamin C is an important anti-oxidant and in that sense is a glutathione sparing agent helping to mitigate glutathione depletion.

Other important factors mentioned in the article and the chart above include items mentioned here in previous posts: ZINC, ZINC IONOPHORES, phytochemicals (quercitin, EGCg, curcumin), Vitamin D, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, sunshine.

So I will close this post the way I have closed on many posts related to COVID-19.

Support your immune system.

  1. Avoid alcohol consumption (alcohol wreaks havoc with your immunity)
  2. Get plenty of sleep (without adequate sleep your immune system does not work well )
  3. Follow good sleep habits
  4. Exercise, especially out of doors in a green space, supports the immune system
  5. Get some sunshine and make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels.
  6. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in micronutrients.
  7. Practice stress reduction like meditation and yoga which improves the immune system
  8.  Eliminate sugar-added foods and beverages from your diet, sugar increases inflammation, contributes to metabolic dysfunction and impairs immunity.

In a future post I will describe my PERSONAL approach to dietary supplements in the context of COVID-19. I will also discuss the issue of an ADVANCED DIRECTIVE, in case you are hospitalized.


Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose, spend time with those you love, AND sleep well tonight.

Doctor Bob

Glutathione review links are below:


Mitochondrial Glutathione, a key survival antioxidant

Glutathione: overview of its protective roles, measurement, and biosynthesis




Paleolithic Diet Reversed Osteoporosis and Fatty Liver in an 82 year old man

Joe (not his real name) is an 82 year old man who presented to me in 2009 with severe degenerative arthritis of the spine, debilitating chronic pain,  osteoporosis, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure and fatty liver. When I first met him in 2009 he weighed 265 pounds (6 foot), had just undergone multi-vessel coronary artery bypass surgery. He could not walk more than 30 feet without feeling short of breath and severe low back pain. He was referred to me for interventional pain management. At that time the only way he could sleep was in a hospital bed with his head elevated to a 90 degree angle. Otherwise he experienced “orthopnea” (shortness of breath lying flat caused by congestive heart failure). His osteoporosis (demineralization of bone) was so bad it was difficult to do pain blocks using X-RAY because the bone did not show up well on X-Ray due to the osteoporosis. He had also suffered compression fractures in the lumbar spine. Compression fractures are caused by weak bones where just the weight of the body can cause one or more vertebrae to partially collapse.

I recommended a paleolithic-carbohydrate restricted diet. He lost 90 pounds and on the paleo diet was able to get off some of his medication for congestive heart failure.

I saw Joe yesterday for an interventional pain management procedure (radio-frequency ablation of nerves to his painful arthritic lower lumbar facet joints). He gets these about every 6 months to treat chronic pain.

I recalled the first time I did this procedure. It was a struggle because his bones were so demineralized. But yesterday it was a breeze, his bones looked 30 years younger and had enough calcium and other minerals to provide beautiful fluoroscopic (live X-ray) images.

Joe is now sleeping with just 10 degrees elevation at the head of his bed (previously 90 degrees). His fatty liver disease is gone.

The Paleo diet allowed this elderly gentleman to lose 90 pounds, improve his exercise tolerance dramatically (he just won a metal detecting contest competing against young adults) and significantly improve his bone strength. It also cured his fatty liver disease.

Not bad for just limiting food to fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, meat, seafood, nuts and eggs.

Joe’s improvement is not a surprise. A study done at UCSF on the metabolic ward demonstrated improved calcium metabolism (reduced urinary excretion of calcium)  within 2 weeks of placing young “couch potato” adults on a paleolithic diet. It also demonstrated improvements in blood pressure, glucose tolerance, decreased insulin secretion, increased insulin sensitivity and improved lipid profiles in just a few weeks. This occurred without an exercise program (exercise will enhance bone strength, reduce blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity and improve lipid profiles) and without weight loss. The subjects were “force fed” to avoid weight loss so the beneficial effects of the dietary change alone could be analyzed without the con-founder of weight loss. You can read the abstract of this study here.

The improvements in calcium metabolism are not mentioned in the abstract but appear in the full article in Table 1.

Joe is very grateful for the tremendous improvement in his quality of life, primarily achieved by adopting a Paleo-diet.

Until next time.

BOB Hansen MD