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Checking in with Your Heart


Checking in with Your Heart

by Dan Gleason, DC

Heart disease can be silent, and people with heart problems often do not have specific symptoms that would sound the alarm bell; high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol are all too common, yet they may not be specific enough. The good news is that today’s lab tests can help us stop wondering if we’re at a higher risk and do something about it before disaster strikes.

Today, several lab tests can be allies in predicting cardiovascular events:

homocysteine blood test  

Higher homocysteine levels are usually predictive of increased risk for heart attack. This normally circulating amino acid becomes “abrasive” to the coronary arteries leading to plaque formation. This is an inherited predisposition that can be mitigated by optimizing certain specific B vitamin levels, especially vitamin B6, B9 (folic acid) and B12.

lipoprotein (a) or Lp (a) blood test

High blood lipoprotein (a) levels may mean that you have a high risk for incident coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke. Like homocysteine, elevated Lp (a) is another inherited risk marker but can be lifesaving because it shows up years before heart events occur.

hs-CRP blood test

C-reactive protein (CRP) is produced by the liver in response to inflammation and utilized by the immune system to heal injury and halt infections. Levels of CRP increases when there is inflammation in the body, indicating systemic inflammation associated with cardiovascular problems and low-grade or “stealth” infection that can lead to clots and emboli. While total cholesterol levels do not reliably predict heart problems, elevated oxidized (damaged) LDL does. Particle size testing via the Boston Heart Panel, Berkeley Heart Panel or Labcorp NMR test can help determine this risk. 

Insulin, Diet and Lifestyle

A very common causative factor in heart disease is insulin resistance. Westerners regularly eat too many sweets and starches in processed forms, and this carbohydrate overload contributes to many other common diseases. In-depth glucose testing is crucial to determine where one is on the diabetic spectrum and becoming wary when fasting glucose levels go above 85, HbA1cabove 5.4, fasting insulin above 5 and/or triglycerides above 100.

Other indicators include waist size above 40″ in men and 35″ in women. Being overweight is not merely a cosmetic issue, but a significant indicator of increased risk of heart disease and a shorter life expectancy. While obvious symptoms like fevers, bleeding, pain or rash can prompt medical attention, being overweight is too often ignored.

While most of us would choose to lose weight if it was as simple as counting calories and exercising more, this approach seldom works. To lose weight and keep it off requires major changes in thinking, moving and eating. Lifestyle and behavior-positive apps like Noom provide support and insight into ways of thinking. Exercise and monitoring heartrate triggers the body into aerobic (oxygen plus fat burning) mode. Stimulating heart rate no higher than 180 forty minutes three times a week is optimal aerobic exercise. Paying attention to when we eat is just as important as what we eat. A low carb intermittent fasting approach often yields good results in the long run.

Being Heart-Wise

Taking care of the heart has never been easier, and doing simple things like requesting predictive tests, exploring intermittent fasting and personal eating habits with professional counselling or using pro-heart apps can ensure a better future. Not waiting until overt symptoms arise and listening to the body’s warning signs—especially the symptom of inability to lose weight—are vital. 

Recommended full-body approach:
Dr. Phil Maffetone – founder of the 180 formula and MAF test

Dr. Dan Gleason is the owner of The Gleason Center located at 19084 North Fruitport Road in Spring Lake. For more info: go to TheGleasonCenter.com or call 616-846-5410. See ad page 6

Photo credit: NataliMis/DepositPhotos.com

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