Listen to Part I: Blood Type, Genetics, and Heart Risk- Balancing Our Genes with Our Epigenetics in less than 6 minutes below:
Listen to this blog in about 7 minutes below:
In honor of American Heart Month, the focus of my writing topics in February have been centered around cardiovascular health. Due to the ineffectiveness of our current model for heart disease prevention, I’ve taken a broader, more integrative viewpoint on all things related to this vital organ’s function. Below is what was covered so far:
- the efficacy and wellness benefits of the mind-brain connection as demonstrated through the applications and research of HeartMath Institute and essential oils
- a new philosophy, as presented by Dr. Cowen, that the heart is not a pump at all
- the impact of healthy, unhealthy, and absent relationships on wellness
- how essential oils could be used to promote emotional resiliency, stress relief, and hormonal balance for better intimacy skills and healthier hearts.
- the role of blood type and genetics on cardiovascular risk and how epigenetic factors such as lifestyle, stress management, and nutrition can mitigate harm (click here for this recent article on my Healing, Health, and Wellness blog)
In this blog, I want to provide an overview on how integrative medicine can incorporate all of the above topics. Specifically, I give a brief overview on the methods that holistic, functional, and naturopathic practitioners use to assess and support heart health. By taking a broader perspective of the various factors that can affect cardiovascular function, these physicians can initiate a personalized plan of nutritional, lifestyle, dietary, and environmental support.
Infinite Triggers, Finite Results, Nutritional Medicine: Inflammation, Oxidative Stress, and Immune Dysregulation, OH MY!
The mentality of treating the cause in integrative medicine means that the “pill for every ill” approach doesn’t apply. Rather than symptom control of one organ system, the goal is to focus on all the factors that impact the health of the whole body and how they are expressing in the current disease processes.
This superb article discusses the complexity of determining the “infinite triggers” that can lead to cardiovascular dysfunction from a distinguished integrative cardiologist’s perspective. Although the list of what can go wrong can get overwhelming, the author highlights how the resulting outcomes of these triggers ultimately end in three main responses: inflammation, oxidative stress, and immune dysregulation. Using nutritional factors, these resulting imbalances can be supported as a personalized plan is instigated and the body restores its balance.
Below is an expert on how this interaction between nutrients and genes can influence vascular biology:
Vascular biology, endothelial and vascular smooth muscle and cardiac dysfunction play a primary role in the initiation and perpetuation of hypertension, cardiovascular disease and target organ damage. Nutrient-gene interactions and epigenetics are predominant factors in promoting beneficial or detrimental effects in cardiovascular health and hypertension. Macronutrients and micronutrients can prevent, control and treat hypertension through numerous mechanisms related to vascular biology. Oxidative stress, inflammation and autoimmune dysfunction initiate and propagate hypertension and cardiovascular disease. There is a role for the selected use of single and component nutraceutical supplements, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals in the treatment of hypertension based on scientifically controlled studies which complement optimal nutrition, coupled with other lifestyle modifications.
A Functional Medicine Approach to Cardiovascular Health
For functional medicine doctors, the process of discovering all these triggers related to cardiovascular health takes dedication, perseverance, and partnership with their patients to bring about a resolution. As a certified functional medicine practitioner from the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM), I found the cardiovascular module challenging and exciting.
On the IFM website, they list the clinical competencies of the module:
- Utilize the Functional Medicine Matrix model to develop an effective systems biology organization when taking a cardiovascular medical history.
- Evaluate the evidence demonstrating the primary mechanisms underlying the relationship between endothelial dysfunction and the progressive development of atherosclerosis.
- Identify the relationships between chronic stress and the development of dyslipidemias, hypertension, weight gain, and metabolic syndrome.
- Evaluate and utilize new assessment approaches for identifying chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, autoimmunity, toxicity, and hormonal dysregulation in patients with cardiometabolic dysfunction.
- Analyze the most practical and useful laboratory assessments and biomarkers necessary to evaluate cardiovascular risks and recognize functional patterns associated with metabolic disease.
- Evaluate and utilize specific nutrients, phytonutrients, botanicals, pharmaceuticals, dietary plans, stress reduction techniques, and lifestyle interventions to improve the prevention and management of patients with hypertension, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
In an online cardiovascular module published by Functional Medicine University, an excellent summary of all the factors that could be instigating oxidative stress, inflammation, and immune issues was provided. These included: testing for infections, determining the role of insulin resistance, genetic variations (LINK), oral health (1, 2), lifestyle choices, and more.
Naturopathic, Functional, and Personalized Medicine
A personalized approach of incorporating lifestyle factors, exercise, diet, genetic variations, nutritional support, stress management, and medication are based on what is best for each individual and will vary between patients.
For example, some studies have linked the epigenetic process of methylation to cardiovascular risk. There has been an association with homocysteine and the genetic variant MTHFR and its relationship to cardiovascular disease. Supplementing with dietary factors that include methyl nutrients such as vitamins (folate, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, choline) and amino acids (methionine, cysteine, serine, glycine) may be helpful.
However, one shouldn’t just take methylation factors because they have one gene variant or a single increased lab value. All the interacting factors discussed above, such as inflammation and other triggers, will be considered in a holistic approach due to the fact that overmethylation could be associated with just as much risk.
For this reason, it’s good to have a helpful eye of support, such as a naturopathic doctor and/or functional medicine practitioner, when deciding which supplements may be best for you.
The complexity of what constitutes heart health can be overwhelming, but with a qualified integrative doctor, results can be impressive!
We already discovered how mind-body practices and essential oils can support hormone, emotional, and stress instigators in heart health. Combine this with a functional and naturopathic approach, and hearts can beat in harmony again!
Next week, I’ll provide more specific and detailed examples of cardiovascular support with essential oils. This weekend, I’ll give you a yummy, essential oil tip that combines these powerful secondary metabolites with nutrition to support heart health.
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)