Integrative Heart Health Pointers
February is heart health month. Like most things, the integrative approach to heart health is drastically different than the typical traditional approach. Integrative doctors look at many factors that can affect your heart – including diet and exercise (of course), but also very importantly – toxins, infections, and nutrient and hormone status.
Even if you have the perfect diet and exercise program (which few of us do) – your heart could still be in trouble from one of the above issues that are mostly ignored by the general medical community. Let’s take them one by one.
Toxins – heavy metals such as mercury can store in cardiac tissues. This can lead to poor mitochondrial function (a cellular energy “brown-out”). Chelating heavy metals like lead and mercury can dramatically help your heart.
Infections – many viruses and bacterial infection such as Lyme can infect the heart – causing it to beat inappropriately or to suddenly stop beating (which can make someone pass out and can be mistaken for a seizure) or even worse, cause sudden cardiac death. Appropriately testing for and treating these underlying infections can protect your heart.
Nutrient status – the heart is incredibly dependent on certain nutrients in order to function properly. B vitamins, Carnitine, CoQ10, Ribose – and many more are essential for cardiac function. Taking appropriate doses of these supplements can actually help treat early congestive heart failure and improve arrhythmias, for example.
Hormone status – the heart is also very dependent on certain hormones to pump and function properly. Thyroid hormone (especially T3) is critical, as is Testosterone and Estrogen – both in men and women. Since all the hormones help each other out, balancing them all has many beneficial effects.
The integrative approach to coronary artery plaque is also different than the mainstream. Consider coronary plaque as if your heart blood vessels were like clogged pipes. You can call a plumber to replace or bypass all the pipes, but what if you could “roto-rooter” them out to make them work again, and not have to undergo surgery? There is a special form of chelation therapy that does just that.
Statins (cholesterol lowering drugs), which are widely prescribed by mainstream doctors, are somewhat controversial medications in the integrative medicine world. Statins increase the risk for diabetes and weaken the heart by weakening the mitochondria that fuel it – which can lead to congestive heart failure. While I do believe that they have their place - especially in people with genetically very high cholesterol levels - I also feel that they are often overprescribed and overdosed for many people which causes unnecessary side-effects. Statins deplete the body of CoQ10, an essential mitochondrial nutrient – so nearly every patient on a statin should be taking CoQ10. I often find that doses of statins can be gradually lowered from what was initially prescribed by a primary care doctor (or even stopped) – while monitoring and testing the fasting lipids periodically to make sure that they are still in an acceptable range. Focusing on good lifestyle habits and treating the underlying causes of high lipids in an integrative way can be of great help in getting off statins.
Working together with your integrative and allopathic (mainstream western medicine) doctors can help to make sure that your heart is healthy and strong for years to come!