Cardiovascular Disease: Better Testing for this American Killer

Cardiovascular disease claims more lives each year than cancer, chronic respiratory disease and accidents combined.   It remains the leading cause of death in the United States despite current guideline driven care and good therapeutic efforts.  There are many reasons for this, but one of the main problems has to do with the insufficiency of conventional blood tests used to screen for cardiovascular disease.

Conventional medicine relies on standard blood tests, along with a proper history and physical exam, in order to substantiate the need for a particular medication that will hopefully be paid for by insurance.  In other words,  the need for the blood test is ultimately insurance driven.  To that end, testing fails abysmally at looking for the cause of any cardiovascular imbalance.  Without causal information, an individualized, holistic treatment plan that truly has the power to restore health cannot be created.

In 21st century America, there are two major goals that must be met when considering a blood draw.  The first goal, as stated above, is information: The test must provide comprehensive information that will help the physician make a proper therapeutic decision that ultimately improves their patients’ health with minimal side effects.  The second need is financial: The test must be affordable.  However, a thorough, highly informative blood screen is unlikely to be covered by insurance, and is therefore not performed.   For example, even after someone has had a myocardial infarction, I rarely see testing performed for Apoprotein B, Apoprotein A-1, Lipoprotein (a), myeloperoxidase, glycosylated serum protein or homocysteine.   I present this list not to make your head swim but rather to make the case that highly discerning tests exist that are largely ignored by both mainstream medicine and insurance companies as being a valid part of a basic cardiovascular screen.

I’ll explain this from a different perspective.  Cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and clots develop in response to five major imbalances: inflammation, cholesterol imbalances, an increased tendency to develop clots, genetic blocks and dysregulated metabolic processes (e.g. diabetes and chronic disease).  Unless a test is able to assess all of these categories, the physician will not have the proper perspective to develop an effective, individualized treatment plan.   The result?   The statistics in the first two sentences of this article speak for themselves.  Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States.

The solution to this problem is readily available.  Many cardiovascular panels exist today that not only offer a comprehensive, highly informative perspective on a patient’s cardiovascular risk but also are extremely affordable.  By “affordable” I mean that there is often no cost to the patient, and  that is not a misprint.  The test results, coupled with a proper history and physical exam, allow the practitioner to develop a treatment plan that gets results.  The test we use is run by Boston Heart Diagnostics (look them up on line).  This panel thoroughly examines the categories of imbalances listed above, using both standard medical tests as well as modern biochemical parameters that allow for a very deep perspective on our patients’ health.  As a simple example, after a myocardial infarction (heart attack), the standard of care is to place a patient on a statin drug.  Testing is rarely done to see if that patient has a genetic predisposition that prevents them from metabolizing that drug.  Muscle pain and short term memory loss may develop, not to mention a poor response to drug therapy and quite possibly a second heart attack.  By examining this genetic component, we can then develop a suitable and highly effective combination of botanicals, nutrients and dietary changes that dramatically alter the patient’s health for the better.  At the very least (albeit a distant second choice) we can recommend an alternative statin drug that will produce better results.

The take home message is this: Mainstream medicine falls short in providing an affordable, intelligent and effective method of assessing cardiovascular health.  Consequently, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in America.  Alternative practitioners employ testing that, coupled with their knowledge of nutrition and botanical medicine, gets the results needed to change this statistic.

Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic on 1012 E. Jackson St.  He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions.  He can be reached at 541-770-5563.  Please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.