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Heart Attacks Heart Health Prevention Treatment

Heart Health in Traditional Medicine

Traditional medicine, also called western medicine, is exalted for its evidence-based, scientific approach. It has proven capable of treating some of the most life-threatening and severe conditions. However, heart health in traditional medicine remains less advanced.

First Signs of Heart Disease

Most adults don’t necessarily know they have heart disease. And unfortunately, death is the first presenting symptom in a little less than half of those presenting for the first time.

That means 50% will have a fatal heart attack and not just a high cholesterol level or atherosclerosis seen on imaging.

We haven’t figured out a way to decrease that number fast enough. This means that heart health in traditional medicine can only help 50% of adults.

Traditional Medicine and Heart Disease

In traditional medicine, assuming you have good insurance, you can get excellent care to lower your cholesterol levels and blood pressure by using medications.

This requires regular visits for blood testing to make sure your liver and kidney can handle the medications. Refills cost money and time spent in the pharmacy.

These treatments don’t work for everyone. However, traditional medicine views all high-lipid and hypertensive patients similarly and treats them the same. This is one of the downsides of this practice model.

But if you need a stent or need to be resuscitated, western medicine is as good as it gets. We have incredible talent that can perform heart transplants and perform bypass grafting.

Heart Health is About Prevention

I can treat the high cholesterol with statins and perform a stent in the coronary artery, followed by a coronary artery bypass graft later in life. This is treating the symptom and not the condition.

Heart Health Coaching, which is what I do, focuses on lifestyle factors. It’s more about prevention and diving deep into potential causes for not-so-great metabolic health.

Heart Health and Pills

A pill can lower your blood pressure and decrease the chance of atherosclerosis plaque progression.

But it cannot prevent a heart attack or prevent you from getting fatty liver or diabetes from the factors which lead to high cholesterol or high blood pressure, to begin with.

Perhaps somewhere around 2-3% of individuals have genetic factors causing high cholesterol and high blood pressure. All methods other than pills will likely fail these individuals. For the rest of us, pills may not be as effective.

Prevention + Treatment

In the perfect world, everyone would have a Heart Health Coach and work to overcome hurdles toward ideal heart health.

If that fails and heart disease develops, they have the excellent skills of capable cardiologists, surgeons, and intensivists who can help restore their cardiovascular health.

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Heart Health Treatment

Fixing vs Supporting a Client

I trained as a family medicine physician and obtained my MD from UCLA Medical School. There, the mentality has been to intervene to fix a specific medical problem.

However, with more years under my belt, I can do more good by supporting my clients and patients instead of offering a fix.

Looking for a Fix

Some clients seek to have their problems solved for them; they hope to be fixed. But this can diminish their autonomy and lead to downstream problems.

Feeling so frustrated and drained is expected that you want someone to take over your care and solve your health problems.

Perhaps you’ve tried all sorts of diets and pills and interventions. Now, you are ready to give up because there seems to be no viable solution available.

Supporting my Heart Health Clients on Their Health Journey

Empowering my clients means spending long sessions side by side. It requires that they and I understand the exact problem before looking for solutions.

Is the chronic swelling in the legs the problem, or is the underlying fear of heart failure that hasn’t been addressed?

When we support someone, we tell them they aren’t alone. We offer our expertise and resources to them and guide them on their journey.

Quick Fixes are Possible

A client of mine took a beta blocker medication for his hypertension which caused him major dizziness and weakness. He didn’t know this was the side effect of the medication and assumed it was the high blood pressure.

We sat down and discussed the symptoms and reviewed his medications. He felt armed enough with the knowledge to bring up the medication side effects with his PCP, who changed it to an ACE-I medication.

The symptoms disappeared. Easy fix, right?

In some ways, it was an easy fix. But if we didn’t spend the time to talk about how beta-blockers work and what common side effects they have, it’s entirely possible he would have bounced from one medication to the next, never feeling like he had some control over his medical condition.

Patient Autonomy

Western medicine can sometimes seem adversarial because physicians feel pressured to fix a clinical problem as soon as possible.

We fear a terrible outcome for our patients, so we take over the wheel. In the long run, this turns out to be an unhealthy patient-doctor relationship.

The intention is often good, but this has resulted in a healthcare system where the physician practices defensive medicine and the patient feels ignored.

Fostering patient autonomy starts with patient education. This empowers the individual and leads to better long-term relationships and health outcomes.

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Diet Heart Health Hyperlipidemia Prevention Statins Treatment

How the Body Regulates Cholesterol

In this article, I wanted to provide a basic overview of cholesterol regulation in the body. I share such articles with my heart health coaching clients whenever necessary. How the body regulates cholesterol is relevant to choose the right method of controlling cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol Regulation

Cholesterol is quite essential. The following key players regulate cholesterol in the body:

  • cells lining the intestine
  • liver
  • pancreas
  • intestinal bacteria

The food we eat has some form of cholesterol which becomes absorbable after manipulation by intestinal bacteria and pancreatic enzymes.

Cholesterol can enter the bloodstream also through the bile system. Whether you still have a gallbladder or not, your liver will produce cholesterol pumped into the intestines.

Cholesterol Absorption Varies

Some individuals are hypoabsorbers of cholesterol. No matter how much high cholesterol foods they consume, their intestinal cells don’t take up much of it.

Others are hyperabsorbers of cholesterol; even the lightest meals can have every bit of its cholesterol extracted and pumped into the bloodstream.

Cholesterol Regulation and Treatment Options

For my hypoabsorber clients, I am less concerned about their dietary cholesterol intake. Their cholesterol production in the liver would be a more important factor.

The hyperabsorbers will benefit a lot from a particular dietary change. Sometimes it helps to cut back on saturated fats, but eating times and gut bacteria are also important criteria.

Dietary change? Statin therapy? Ezetimibe? Evolocumab?

To answer that, I need more information about the person. A generic cholesterol test won’t always tell us the whole story.

The Liver’s Cholesterol Production

How cholesterol is regulated in the body has a lot to do with the liver. This fleshy organ on the right upper quadrant of the abdomen produces LDL, HDL, and VLDL particles.

Statin drugs decrease the production of cholesterol molecules in the liver.

The liver also has LDL receptors and absorbs cholesterol.

From fatty liver to elevation of liver enzymes to problems with the gallbladder, it’s important to consider the health of this organ when assessing my clients.

The Role of Gut Flora and How Cholesterol is Regulated

Some bacteria in the gut convert free cholesterol molecules into a stanol chemical that intestinal cells cannot absorb.

We could call these beneficial bacteria. They can help slow down the absorption of cholesterol for certain individuals.

Ezetimibe is a medication that works similarly, blocking the absorption of free cholesterol molecules.

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Heart Health Treatment

Cardiovascular Biofeedback

Biofeedback is time intensive and requires you to work with an expert to understand or “feel” your body better. It’s a potent tool that can improve the functional capacity of your heart or other cardiovascular symptoms.

Biofeedback

I explain biofeedback to my patients as a method of interpreting and understanding the physiological functions of the body. It’s a method of becoming in tune with the body.

In the age of modern medicine, it’s a common false belief that only a heart rate monitor or EKG can tell us about the heart’s function. Though these are great tools, they also improve our sense of well-being regarding the cardiovascular system.

I use biofeedback in my private practice with low back pain patients. Especially for those who have an exaggerated pain sensation, musculoskeletal biofeedback can help them better overcome the pain.

Biomechanical Biofeedback

In this article, I don’t want to focus too much on the technical side of biofeedback. There are incredible tools, from virtual reality to implantable sensors. But let’s start with the basics because it’s the most achievable for most of us.

Biofeedback can be broken down into biomechanical and physiologic ones. In biomechanical feedback, I might measure how much range of motion someone achieves with their low back injury.

Sometimes biomechanical feedback utilizes technology to determine how much pelvic pressure someone can exert with their kegel exercises.

Physiological Biofeedback

Physiological feedback might require some measurement techniques. Neuromuscular feedback may require EEG measurements or gait assessment.

I measure heart rate, respiratory rate, and even cardiac perfusion when providing cardiovascular biofeedback.

Cardiovascular Biofeedback

The common conditions I treat with heart biofeedback include the following:

  • hypertension
  • palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • exercise capacity
  • chest pain

Individuals with a history of a heart attack want to get back into an exercise routine. Often angina gets in the way. The pain creates a cycle of fear and emotional dissonance, which worsens cardiovascular capacity.

I can show my client on a heart rate monitor what their heart is doing as they increase their activity level. We review this together and dive deep into what they are feeling in their chest, arms, back, etc.

Patient Empowerment

It’s one thing to diagnose a patient using advanced technology, and it’s another to empower a person to manage their own body. Biofeedback methods can empower a person to self-regulate their physiologic processes.

The goal is to work on a particular medical condition or symptoms afflict you. A feedback expert will sit with you and help you recognize signals in the body which you can manipulate to achieve the desired outcomes.

This is powerful in that you can do this yourself moving forward. For most heart-related issues you need a heart rate monitor and an oxygen monitor.