February is all about the heart, so this month is a good time to talk about heart health. The conventional medicine approach to treating and preventing heart disease is at best misguided, and at worst harmful. Many people believe they are treating the cases of heart disease by lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and/or lowering blood sugar with medication. But the real question is what causes high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar in the first place—it is certainly NOT a medication deficiency!
If you say your genes are responsible, you are mostly wrong. It is the environment working on your genes that determines your risk. In other words, it is the way you eat, how much you exercise, how you deal with stress, the state of your hormones, and the effects of environmental toxins that are the underlying causes of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. That is what determines your risk of heart disease, not a lack of medication.
The research clearly shows that changing how we live is a much more powerful intervention for preventing heart disease than any medication. The “EPIC” study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine studied 23,000 people’s adherence to 4 simple behaviors (not smoking, exercising 3.5 hours per week, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. In those adhering to these behaviors, 93% of diabetes, 81% of heart attacks, 50% of strokes, and 36% of all cancers were prevented. And the INTERHEART study, published in the Lancet, followed 30,000 people and found that changing lifestyle could prevent at least 90% of all heart disease.
These studies are among a large evidence base documenting how lifestyle intervention is often more effective in reducing cardiovascular disease, hypertension, heart failure, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and deaths from all causes than almost any other medical intervention.
This is because lifestyle doesn’t only reduce risk factors such as high blood pressure, blood sugar, or cholesterol. Our lifestyle and environment influence the fundamental causes and biological mechanisms leading to disease: changes in gene expression, which modulate inflammation, oxidative stress, and metabolic dysfunction. Those are the real reasons we are sick.
Disregarding the underlying causes and treating only risk factors is somewhat like mopping up the floor around an overflowing sink instead of turning off the faucet, which is why medications usually have to be taken for a lifetime. When the underlying lifestyle causes are addressed, patients are often able to stop taking medications and avoid surgery (under a doctor’s supervision, of course).
In our office, we investigate your particular case, including your health, family, and environmental history to find the root cause of any cardiovascular issue. We then fix the causes by addressing inflammation, toxic metals, hormone imbalances, and diet. The conventional medicine approach is to mask the symptoms (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, etc.) with medications. However, the only way to truly treat and prevent heart disease is by identifying and fixing the root cause, whatever that may be.
If you would like more information regarding any of the treatments, therapies, or services offered at The Institute of Natural Health, please contact us at (314) 293-8123 or visit us at the theinstituteofnaturalhealth.com. Dr. TJ Williams is the Clinic Director for the Institute of Natural Health and the host of the radio program Wellness 101, which provides common-sense, science-based strategies for a healthy life. Wellness 101 airs Sundays at 2:00pm on FM NewsTalk 97.1.