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Heart and Cardiovascular Health

As the Medical Director for Strata Integrative Wellness Spa, I would like to welcome you to the first in our new quarterly series of newsletters entitled “Wellness Trends”.  As you know, there is a myriad of information available from a multitude of sources (some reliable, some not so reliable) regarding what you should or shouldn’t be doing to improve and optimize your health.  Each quarter call upon the expertise of our world-class physicians and clinicians to provide insight and education on a central topic with each one of them focusing on their area of expertise.  Included for each central topic will be contributions and commentary from our experts on:

  • Cardiovascular and heart health
  • Fitness and exercise
  • Nutrition and diet
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Mental and emotional well-being
  • Acupuncture and Eastern medicine therapy
  • Inner and outer beauty therapy

As February is “Heart Month”, our lead off issue will focus on wellness trends and developments as they relate to “heart health”.  Contributing to this issue will be myself, Tracy Iverson, Dr. Karly Powell, Ron Apgar, Kelli Miller and Rebecca Johnston.  Future topics will include discussions on “stress reduction and mindfulness” (April is stress awareness month), “the benefits of engaging with nature” (always a great thing to do during the summer and fall) and “coping with cancer” (October is breast cancer awareness month).  We hope you find this first edition of “Wellness Trends” informative as we attempt to keep you abreast of what is trending in the health and wellness field.

What’s new in cardiovascular health?

As a practicing cardiologist for over 35 years I’ve had the pleasure of seeing my chosen field evolve dramatically.  During the first portion of my career this “evolution” focused predominantly on the development of new invasive and interventional techniques to address issues which had already progressed to the point of causing clinical symptoms.  On my own personal journey, my “epiphany” causing me to see the need to change my approach to clinical medicine occurred approximately a decade ago.  Since that time, I have evolved (or as some of my former colleagues would say, ‘devolved’) a strong appreciation for the role of complementary approaches in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.  Whereas my mantra used to be “find it and fix-it”, I now use the much more integrative approach of “anticipate it and prevent it”.

Much to my pleasure, we are beginning to see a trend from such staid organizations as the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC), to name a few, beginning to accept and even embrace approaches addressing heart and cardiovascular disease that are not embedded in the utilization of pharmaceuticals.

In an excellent review article in the Journal of Clinical and Cellular Immunology, the authors note that noncommunicable chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease often are related to the presence of chronic inflammation and that, in some cases, “selected spices and spice-derived nutraceuticals such as cardamonin, curcumin, capsaicin, gingerol” and others may affect the inflammatory pathways in the body in such a way as to have a “potential role in preventing chronic diseases”.  This exciting information has contributed to the evolving understanding and acceptance that the use of nutraceuticals for suppression of underlying vascular inflammation can deter the development of cardiac and vascular disease.

Along similar lines, Dr. James Kneller, a noted heart rhythm specialist, has proposed a supplement regimen of CoQ10, D-ribose, L-carnitine and Magnesium to support heart health maintenance in otherwise healthy individuals.  Benefit is achieved by bolstering myocardial (heart) cellular function to prevent the development of heart arrhythmias and possibly even heart failure.  While these recommendations have yet to achieve universal acceptance, there are data to support the use of these nutraceuticals and I believe that over the next several years more evidence outlining the benefits of non-pharmaceutical therapies in managing heart arrhythmias and failure will emerge.

Finally, the role of nutraceuticals in lipid management continue to evolve.  In a recent “State-of-the-Art Review” in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology the powerful statement: “Certain nutraceuticals such as red yeast rice, bergamot, berberine, artichoke, soluble fiber and plant sterols and stanols alone or in combination with each other might be considered as an alternative or add-on therapy to statins…”, comes in stark contrast to previous commentary from the ACC and merits keeping a watchful eye for further developments.

Please note, as with any treatment one should not just venture off on their own and try something without first consulting your physician or health care provider. While “natural treatments” often are felt to be totally safe, one must recognize that adverse effects or ineffective therapy may occur and obtaining the opinion of a professional is crucial.

Michael J. Barber, MD, PhD, FACC, FAHA
Medical Director – Strata Integrated Wellness Spa