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Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular Disease Management at COEM in Charleston, South Carolina

At COEM, we can help you manage your heart disease and live a healthier life. For more information, contact us today or book an appointment online. We are conveniently located at 7510 North Forest Drive North Charleston, SC 29420. Patients routinely fly in to be evaluated by COEM, as we serve patients internationally. Find out if you have been exposed, extensive lab testing is available.

Cardiovascular Disease Management at COEM Near Me in Charleston, SC
Cardiovascular Disease Management at COEM Near Me in Charleston, SC

Table of Contents:

Lifestyle Considerations:
Beyond Lifestyle — The Conventional Risk Factors:
Even More to Think About:

The goal is prevention. Always… prevention.

With that as a start, we need to engage in a brief discussion concerning one of the primary differences between Conventional Medicine on the one hand and Functional and Integrative Medicine on the other.
Some would argue that the current model of Conventional Medicine — as it now stands — is not truly a “health care” model at all, but rather a “disease care” model. Instead of focusing on optimizing health and preventing disease, the goal is the treatment of a disease once it is present. When an acute problem develops, (emphasis on acute), Conventional Medicine can — and frequently does — come to the rescue. Heart attack caused by a clogged artery? Conventional Medicine can fix it (think clot busters or cardiac bypass or stents). A broken bone or worn-out knee? Once again, Conventional Medicine has an answer: Surgery. Acute pneumonia or UTI? Antibiotic. Ruptured appendix? Surgery plus antibiotic(s). Itchy rash? Creams and pills. You get the idea.
When it comes to acute problems, Conventional Medicine has a lot to offer. When it comes to prevention and/or addressing chronic problems, well, that’s another story
Fortunately, though, that’s precisely where Functional and Integrative Medicine really shines. That’s our forte!

Back to cardiovascular health. In Functional and Integrative Medicine, the goal is always prevention.

Lifestyle Considerations:

Any discussion of prevention must, of necessity, start with lifestyle considerations, things like healthy food choices, exercise, stress management, and sleep. 

Healthy food choices: While no single diet is right for everyone, when it comes to cardiovascular health, there are some foundational rules/strategies to get started. Strategies like shopping the periphery of the grocery store, where the “real food” is found (i.e., avoiding processed foods). And minimizing carbohydrates in general and anything with added sugar in particular, like candy, pastries, and soft drinks.

• Exercise: Start by simply moving. When it comes to cardiovascular health, sedentary is deadly! You don’t have to train for a marathon, but you do have to move. Be active. Set daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals. At the very least, walk. Daily. Every day. Miss a day? Don’t give up. Go at it again the next day.

Stress management: Learn to say, “no.” Practice helpful breathing techniques, yoga, pilates, and/or Tai-Chi. Practice disciplined and intentional prayer or meditation. Learn about vagal-stimulating techniques, like gargling. Muster the courage to engage with an experienced, professional, licensed, well-trained therapist. Whatever you do, recognize that ours is a really-super-stressed-out culture, and start working on stress management tools, or, better yet, stress reduction/elimination.

Sleep: Make this a priority. While optimal amounts vary from person to person, most adults optimally need seven or eight hours a night. If you’re not awakening feeling refreshed and ready for the day, something’s wrong. Don’t ignore this. Talk to your physician. Sleep is crucial!
Okay, thus far all of this is fairly common sense stuff, right? Items you’ve probably already discussed with your Conventional Medicine provider. Stuff you already knew — kind of, at least — right?

Beyond Lifestyle — The Conventional Risk Factors:

Okay, so what does Functional and Integrative Medicine have to offer beyond this focus on healthy lifestyle practices/choices? A tremendous lot, as it turns out. 
First, let’s consider a few of the most significant conventionally recognized cardiovascular risk factors. 

Family history: For those with a strong family history of cardiovascular disease, Functional Medicine recognizes that there is one specific gene mutation which, if inherited, can significantly increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. If you happen to have inherited that particularly dangerous mutation, well, then focusing on the modifiable risk facets becomes all the more important. At COEM, we can test for this.

Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a confusing, increasingly controversial, and often poorly understood risk factor. In an effort at brevity, here are a few highlights:

• Rather than reflexively reaching for the prescription pad and another statin, Functional Medicine begins with the recognition that cholesterol — in and of itself — is not a bad thing. In fact, we need it, and a lot of it, especially for optimal brain health and hormone production. Without adequate cholesterol, we simply can’t manufacture adequate or optimal amounts of some very important hormones — like testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol. Also, without adequate cholesterol, our brains don’t function so well. Lowering cholesterol unnecessarily can cause real problems.

• As a rule, Functional Medicine holds that cholesterol has been highly overrated as a risk factor for heart disease. The root cause of heart disease isn’t cholesterol, but inflammation. It makes no sense to measure cholesterol unless we’re also assessing some of the more important cardiovascular inflammatory markers as well, markers like myeloperoxidase, Lp-PLA2 activity, hs-CRP, oxLDL, and so on. 

• Next, when we do measure cholesterol, we need to recognize that the conventional lipid panel (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides) doesn’t really tell us what we need to know. Particle size is extremely important, and the conventional panel offers nothing on this front. Take LDL for example. In the Conventional world, LDL is considered to be the particularly “bad” form of cholesterol. But that’s not necessarily the case. If LDL particles are small and/or oxidized, they may, in fact, be dangerous. If, however, LDL particles are large, they can actually be protective. The same is true of HDL particles. The opposite is true of VLDL. Frustratingly, the conventional lipid panel tells us nothing about particle size. At COEM, we can test for this.

• Finally, if this deeper dive into cholesterol and inflammation indicates that cholesterol really is a problem, there are a number of supplements (i.e., vitamins, minerals, and herbals extracts) that can help. Statins aren’t the only — and almost never the best — answer. At COEM, we can guide you.

Diabetes: Most adults dealing with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes, which typically develops slowly over a long period of time, frequently years. Focusing on prevention, Functional Medicine starts monitoring and treating early on, even in early “pre-diabetes.” Here, again, the Functional approach focuses on lifestyle and natural remedies, using supplements like berberine, alpha lipoid acid, inositol, olive leaf extract, akkermansia, etc. At COEM, we monitor closely and offer specific treatment strategies on an individual, person-by-person basis.

Smoking: Here Functional and Conventional Medicine totally agree. Stop. Please stop. Please, please, please stop. Do everything in your power to just stop.

Even More to Think About:

Beyond these conventionally accepted cardiovascular risk factors, Functional and Integrative Medicine addresses other important and often overlooked considerations as well:

Sex hormones: As we age, our ability to produce optimal amounts of testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone declines. Sometimes rapidly. Sometimes slowly. But always and inevitably. It has long been recognized that maintaining more optimal/youthful sex hormones — in appropriate balance — can reduce cardiovascular risk. At COEM, we offer the most accurate, comprehensive sex hormone assessment available. (In case you’re interested, this involves a specialty lab and urine collections, not a simple blood draw.)

Gut health: Our GI tracts harbor trillions of microbes, including bacteria, yeasts, and viruses. While there’s still much to learn about this “microbiome,” we’ve already learned a lot, including the important roles some of these microbes play with regard to both disease causation and prevention. One thing we know for certain is this: Without a healthy gut, we will find ourselves at heightened risk for any of a number of health problems, including cardiovascular disease. At COEM, we offer a broad range of tests to evaluate gastrointestinal health.

Focusing on specific nutrients: As with every part of the body, the heart needs a number of specific nutrients to function well, like magnesium, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin C, CoQ10, L-Carnitine, L-Arginine, Niacin, and so on. At COEM, we can assess the nutrient status and offer targeted strategies as appropriate.

Toxins: We live in a toxic world. Every day, thousands and thousands of toxins are spilled or billowed into the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. And toxins — as a rule — are inflammatory. Functional Medicine looks for, and — as appropriate and able — offers solutions to eliminate toxins (i.e., detoxification). At COEM, we can test for toxins and recommend specific strategies to detox.

Allergies: Allergies trigger inflammation. Inflammation damages blood vessels. Even conventional journals/studies are recognizing that people with allergies — particularly poorly controlled allergies — are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease than their non-allergic counterparts. Allergies aren’t just annoying. They can be dangerous. At COEM, we offer a very sophisticated approach to allergy testing and treatment.

IV EDTA: Before a heart attack actually occurs, a blockage begins to form in one or more of our coronary arteries. We call that blockage a plaque. While it may contain cholesterol, the plaque actually starts in an area of the artery that — for whatever reason — has become inflamed. We now know that these plaques/blockages can be removed before they trigger a heart attack. How? Well, intravenous EDTA, that’s how. (If you’re curious, EDTA stands for ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid; see why we use the abbreviation?). At COEM, we offer IV EDTA.
At this point, if you’re still reading, you get the idea. A few take-home reminders to offer in closing:

• In functional medicine, the goal is always prevention.
• Functional Medicine has a vast array of assessment/diagnostic tools available — tools not typically appreciated or used in Conventional Medicine — to dig deep into the potential root cause(s) of any given disease, including cardiovascular disease.
• As for treatment, Functional and Integrative Medicine focuses on and emphasizes natural remedies. We don’t throw the prescription pad away, but it’s typically our last resort.
Concerned about heart disease? Interested in learning more? At COEM, we can help. Call today and schedule an appointment. We serve patients from Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Summerville, North Charleston SC, Ladson SC, Hanahan SC, James Island SC, John’s Island SC, Daniel Island SC, all of South Carolina, Nationally, and Internationally. Patients routinely fly into Charleston to be evaluated by COEM and to enjoy this beautiful city which is a Condé Nast and Travel and Leisure Top Domestic and International Tourist Destination.