My journey as an integrative cardiologist has been an exciting period in my life, and it has brought me endless moments of satisfaction and joy. Yes, it is joyful when you can reduce human suffering and improve the quality of life for someone else. I have shared many moments of sublime satisfaction with my patients and their families, after their life has been improved or spared through the many alternative, pharmaceutical and technical tools of modern cardiology. But the specialty I hold so close to my own heart still has considerable limitations.
Pharmaceutical drugs, bypass surgery, angioplasty, stent emplacements, pacemakers and implantable defibrillators all have their place, and many lives would be lost without these high-tech interventions. Cardiologists face a daily dilemma concerning the best diagnostic procedures to refer for their patients and then, based on those test results, which surgical and/or pharmaceutical interventions to select. To complicate the choice, the evaluations we order and the treatments we select may actually create unnecessary risks for patients—risks that are out of proportion to the benefits they will experience. Continuing technological advances, although necessary, add to the complexity of the decision-making process.
Cardiologists have grown reliant upon these sophisticated medical processes. But somewhere along the way, something has gone amiss. There has been much mistrust of the conventional medical model among the public recently. Starving for new information, massive numbers of patients are consulting alternative therapy practitioners and are visiting book and health food stores in record numbers, creating a multibillion dollar industry outside of the mainstream medical community.
What is driving even our most conservative patients to look at other forms of therapies? There are many reasons for the increased popularity of alternative medicine, including patient dissatisfaction with ineffective conventional treatments, pharmacologic drug side effects and the high price of medications. Perhaps most important is the fact that traditional medicine has become too impersonal with the involvement of high-tech modalities and time-limited office visits.
Obviously, the medical consumer is searching for less invasive, safer and lower cost nterventions. Some of this comes out of necessity; managed care plans have driven our patients into seeking cost-effective medical care delivery, as more of their health care dollars are coming out of their own pockets.
Many patients are now questioning the need for potentially life threatening drugs and invasive interventions that carry considerable risk of side effects, complications and even mortality.
Recent research has suggested that 2 million lives are lost each year as a result of complications from “standard-of-care” interventions, medical errors and complications. When we consider that the fourth leading cause of death in the United States is properly prescribed medications in a hospital setting, something’s gotta give.
Even in 2005, coronary artery bypass surgeries (CABS) are performed on the basis of clogged arteries alone with no regard to quality of life issues. This is not smart medicine. Rates of complications from CABS, such as heart attack, infection, stroke, and central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction, are disturbing. It is important to note that CNS dysfunction was observed in an alarming 61 percent of patients six months after CABS. People are naturally looking for less risky and fewer surgical alternatives in lieu of such downsides.
During my years of practicing cardiology I have seen a slow paradigm shift regarding the perceived availability of effective, natural alternatives for the treatment of a wide range of cardiovascular disorders, problems like angina, arrhythmia, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure (CHF). More physicians have expanded their approach to heart disease and accept and recommend complementary therapies as equally judicious treatment interventions. However, invasive CABS is a sound approach to improve quality of life and possibly advance longevity when alternative or medical therapy fails to correct a patient’s symptoms of refractory angina (chest pain, shortness of breath and so on).
An integrative cardiologist is one who brings conventional methodologies to the table and also offers complementary and alternative interventions that can boost patients to an even better quality of life. Integrative cardiologists are as comfortable prescribing diet and lifestyle changes, a vast array of nutritional therapies and mind/body approaches as they are scheduling a treadmill stress test, recommending angioplasty and handing out a medication. They integrate the best of both worlds when caring for their patients.
Of all of the organs, the heart is the most susceptible to free-radical oxidative stress, environmental toxicities, heavy metal poisoning, and premature aging. Fortunately, it’s also highly responsive to the benefits of targeted nutritional supplements like coenzyme Q10, L-carnitine, D-ribose, and magnesium. We have strong scientific evidence from large and repeated clinical trials that confirm that efficacy and safety of these nutrients, as well as their potential medicinal interactions.
After practicing my specialty for more than 30 years, I predict that the successful cardiologist of the future will be flexible, adaptable, and knowledgeable so he or she can tailor treatment approaches and select the best available options for each patient’s needs. Physicians, and especially cardiologists, who are willing to incorporate the disciplines of nutritional biochemical, and metabolic solutions will become our most effective specialists in the treatment of heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Syndrome X, to mention a few. They will treat heart cells in a selective manner that optimizes pulsation, reduces free-radical damage, and sustains mitochondria defense.
Conventional cardiologists who embrace a metabolic cardiological solution will become our most effective healers, ready to meet the needs of a new tomorrow. It is important that health care consumers learn about these nutrients, and demand that their doctors be aware of their tremendous benefits and potential. For cardiologists, the most logical and ethical approach to patient care is to incorporate vital nutraceuticals into the treatment options they recommend to their patients which will improve their quality of living, reduce their suffering, and maybe even extend their lives. They have added years and vitality to the lives of many of my patients, and I am convinced of their potential to do the same for you and those you hold dear.