Integrative Cardiology: A Whole Health Approach
Written by: Dave Johnson, MD FACC
Heart disease is the leading cause of death and is preventable.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in America and worldwide. Despite advancements in medications, medical procedures and surgeries, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, and its associated modifiable risk factors continue to rise. It has been widely published that as much as 70% to 90% of cardiovascular disease is preventable through lifestyle choices. Dr. Dean Ornish has pioneered a multi-modality treatment strategy that involves smoking cessation, low fat vegetarian diet, exercise, yoga, meditation and group support. His results have demonstrated reversal of coronary artery disease and associated risk factors, especially in those participants with the highest adherence. Yet, medical systems have been very slow to adopt such strategies related to a variety of reasons. The “convenience” of coronary stinting combined with the “quick fix” mentality generate less interest for solutions that require challenging lifestyle changes. Additionally, one cannot underestimate the influence that the significant revenues that cardiac procedures generate for physicians and hospitals.
An integrated strategy that supports behavioral modification while optimizing lifestyle choices is essential to reverse the rising prevalence of cardiovascular disease.
Coronary artery disease and its primary risk factors of diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia, are modifiable disorders that are related to lifestyle choices, environmental exposures such as heavy metals, and adverse life events. An integrated strategy that supports behavioral modification while optimizing lifestyle choices is essential to reverse the rising prevalence of cardiovascular disease.
Patients and their physicians often treat the signs and symptoms of heart disease as they develop. However, heart disease is a slow process that develops over decades and can be prevented. Coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, obesity and diabetes account for the majority of heart disease. Current risk stratification is used to identify risk for disease and can help guide individuals to pursue healthier lifestyle choices. However, these disease states are the result of chronic exposure of the blood vessels to excessive insults. These insults come in many forms including physical forces such as pressure, biochemical forces and electromagnetic forces. The latter two forces are products of our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, exposures and experiences.
It is well known that the chronic emotional unease that includes anger, shame, guilt and doubt activate the sympathetic nervous system leading to excessive stress on the cardiovascular system. If this unease is not relieved then heart disease will develop. Therefore, health is best preserved when the systems of the body are acting in harmony and stresses are neutralized, otherwise known as a state of coherence. To achieve this resilient state of coherence, individuals need to find balance in their life allowing there autonomic nervous system to function in a more harmonious way along with the immune, endocrine, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems. If cardiovascular disease is the tip of the iceberg, then the base is made up of mental and emotional states, adverse life events or trauma, unhealthy relationships and discordant energy states within the body.
Building off the success of the Ornish Lifestyle Intervention Program, a truly integrated cardiology program embraces all aspects of an individual’s being, including their physical body, emotional and mental body, and spiritual body. Modern medicine has abandoned the exploration of the individual’s soul and spirit. Yet, much of the knowledge of the ancient wisdom traditions is being validated with modern scientific methodology. Two such examples are the now widely recognized health benefits of meditation and the expanding understanding of the heart's electromagnetic fields, which are able to influence both emotions and the physical response to emotions. The fact that we can change our biology through our thoughts, beliefs and emotional responses is fundamental to the healing processes of many ancient healers.
We are complex organisms with widely variable individual exposures and experiences that dictate our biology
Thus, a successful integrative cardiology program must include a wide variety of approaches. Heart disease is NOT merely a dietary disorder as some would have you believe. We are complex organisms with widely variable individual exposures and experiences that dictate our biology above and beyond the food we eat, air we breath and water we drink. When seeking a holistic or integrative cardiology, look for someone that embraces the whole of you, from where you have traveled to where you may be traveling. The approach used by Dr. Dave Johnson at Grand Rapids Natural Health is built upon the science of modern medicine along with the wisdom of indigenous healers.
A Whole Health Approach:
- Nutrition optimization (Diet and micro-nutrient support)
- Fitness (body and brain) optimization
- Weight management
- Environmental heath (Detoxification/Cleanse programs)
- Stress management
- Psycho-social-spiritual support and therapy.
Support is offered in a caring and comfortable environment. Care is supported by compassionate healers from a variety of medical disciplines including mind-body medicine, nutrition, and traditional medical providers within the community.