Integrative Health Clinical Services
While my focus is on preventive cardiology, I understand that what is good for the heart is good for the body, mind and soul. If you have conditions other than cardiovascular disease I am happy to help guide to towards the best healing available. If your health care needs extend beyond my expertise then I will help you find the health care provider that best meets your health care goals.
Did you know that 90% of initial heart attacks can be prevented? (1)
That means heart disease can be prevented. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America and worldwide. The most common and deadly form of heart disease is a result in the disruption of the integrity of the arterial wall and subsequent plaque formation. Arterial plaques take years, if not decades, to build up causing what is commonly referred to as atherosclerosis.
This plaque build up can be both prevented and reversed and the most common approach used today are drugs called statins. While these extensively studied drugs used to lower cholesterol can effectively lower cholesterol and reduce the future risk of a heart attack, at best, they can only extend life by about 1 week. (2) Most studies do not demonstrate disease reversal but rather disease stabilization. Additionally, nearly 60% of individuals prescribed statin drugs for “appropriate” indications either stop taking the drug or reduce the amount. (3) This is most often related to unpleasant side effects.
Wouldn’t you want to reverse plaque build up if you could?
Are there better solutions to the prevention and reversal of heart disease? Absolutely! The INTERHEART study demonstrated several modifiable risk factors that can prevent heart attacks.
- Plaque producing cholesterol
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated blood sugar and diabetes
- Abdominal obesity
- Psychosocial stress which includes depression, anxiety, loss of control, global stress, financial stress, and life events including marital separation, job loss, family conflict
- Physical inactivity
- High risk diet devoid of vegetables and fruits.
One can see from this list that cardiovascular disease is far more than simply a cholesterol or inflammatory disorder. A variety of personal experiences along with physical, metabolic, emotional, social, intellectual, financial and spiritual stressors impact health and well-being.
So, what is integrative cardiology?
A therapeutic order is common to holistic fields such as naturopathic (4) and integrative medicine (5). I have created my own model as it is applied to integrative cardiology:
- First, do no harm!
- Support innate healing capacity of the body and mind
- Remove obstacles to healing
- Find meaning in the healing process
- Use natural substances to support the restorative and regenerative capacity of the body
- Use pharmacology to halt disease processes
- Use invasive strategies like medical device implants and surgeries when appropriate.
This holistic process also takes into account individual behaviors, lifestyle, relationships and their environment as contributing factors in the balance between health and illness.
The primary cause of heart attacks is atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries.” The arteries first become “hardened” causing elevated blood pressure and hypertension. Additionally, blood flow in the arteries becomes impaired causing conditions like cognitive decline and erectile dysfunction. However, the primary cause of a heart attack is when the plaque in an atherosclerotic artery ruptures causing a blood clot to form which can then lead to a heart attack or stroke.
When the atherosclerotic process affects the blood vessels around your heart it is called coronary artery disease. Unfortunately, coronary artery disease often develops without any symptoms until a heart attack, and this initial coronary event is a leading cause of sudden cardiac death. This is why screening is important and preventive strategies are essential. As a cardiologist and integrative medicine trained physician, I will help you find meaningful solutions to prevent and even reverse your risk of heart disease.
My approach is a culmination of my educational journey and both personal and professional experience:
- Cardiologist. Fellowship training at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB) with emphasis on preventive cardiology and nuclear imaging for the detection of coronary artery disease
- Integrative Medicine. Fellowship at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine founded by Andrew Weil, MD
- Plant-Based Nutrition Certification. Created by the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, eCornell.
- Integrative Health Coaching. Completed through Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine
- Light Body School. Completed shamanic energy medicine through the Four Winds Society
- Institute of Functional Medicine. Participated in many of the core educational modules in functional medicine.
- American College for the Advancement of Medicine. Step 1 training in chelation therapy
Many patients are looking for alternatives to prescription drugs and I am not opposed to using pharmaceuticals. These are often useful to stabilize the signs and symptoms of heart disease. However, there are many other options for treating the primary conditions that lead to heart disease, including diabetes, hypertension, abnormal cholesterol or lipids, and even stress related disorders such as anxiety and depression. My holistic approach uses the above mentioned therapeutic order.
As you can see this is not a one-size fits all approach. Integrative health is a personalized approach that recognizes the fact that healing is different than curing and individual perspectives and intentions have a greater influence over healing than medical or even lifestyle interventions. The role of a physician in healing becomes more of a companion, teacher or guide rather than an authoritative expert. Although the physician knowledge and expertise is essential, true healing comes from taping into the innate wisdom of the individual supported by therapeutic interventions
What can I expect from an integrative and preventive cardiology visit?
- Detailed medical history
- Physical exam including biometrics
- Advanced biomarker assessment
- Detailed atherosclerotic coronary vascular disease (ASCVD) risk assessment
- Portable arrhythmia assessment with Kardia Mobile
- Cardiac diagnostic imaging outsourced to community cardiologists and other organizations
- Customized lifestyle plan (diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, complementary medicine care such as naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, behavioral medicine, energy medicine)
- High quality dietary supplements and herbal remedies
- Pharmaceutical therapy, when needed
- Collaboration with other members of your health care team
- Continued monitoring of risk factors, disease and health
Each plan is individualized and packages are available. Call for pricing.
Many of the tests that I order are covered by insurance and when not we are continually exploring the lowest cost approaches with the highest value. When insurance doesn’t cover the cost of some blood tests we have worked it out with certain labs to give you the lowest price possible.
- Yusuf S, et al. Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study. Lancet. 2004 Sep 11; 364(9438): 937–952.
- Kristensen ML, Christensen PM, Hallas J. The effect of statins on average survival in randomised trials, an analysis of end point postponement. BMJ Open. 2015;5(9):e007118. Published 2015 Sep 24.
- Colantonio LD, Huang L, Monda KL, et al. Adherence to High-Intensity Statins Following a Myocardial Infarction Hospitalization Among Medicare Beneficiaries. JAMA Cardiol. 2017;2(8):890–895.
- https://nccih.nih.gov/health/integrative-health, or https://integrativemedicine.arizona.edu/about/definition.html.
* David Johnson, MD is an independent practitioner at Grand Rapids Natural Health and Sleeping Bear Natural Health.