A “Paradigm Shift” in Treating Cardiovascular Disease: Dr. Mimi Guarneri
Posted on Jul 30th, 2012 by Angela Dunn
Interview with Mimi Guarneri MD
Dr. Guarneri will be speaking at the 10th Annual Restorative Medicine Conference on the "Paradigm Shift
" in treating cardiovascular disease. Dr. Gaurneri's focus is on treating the whole person–body, mind and spirit–and providing an integrative approach to heart health. Board-certified in cardiology, internal medicine, nuclear medicine and holistic medicine, Dr. Guarneri is the Founder and Senior Consultant for the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine.
You can listen to or download the 12-minute interview via SoundCloud here or read the excerpt below.
Please share your philosophy about cardiac health and explain the "Circle of Care".
Dr. Guarneri: When I was initially trained, the focus was on the physical body. And not even the whole body. Because I am a cardiologist, I was trained to just focus on the heart. That focus was really narrow–about drugs and surgery. As I began to spend more time with my patients, I began to really understand that the risk factors, for example, for cardiovascular disease, are much more than just cholesterol and high blood pressure. These are important. But other risk factors, like stress, social isolation, depression, anxiety–these are ones that are frequently overlooked. My approach has become to look at the whole person–mind, body, spirit–and really see where are we at in all of these areas.
"We tend to interrupt patients."
In training other cardiologists in this integrative approach, what questions do you suggest that they ask patients?
One of the most important things is to always take a good, good history, and to let a person speak. We tend to interrupt patients every few seconds.
One of the most powerful tools in my practice, for example, is food. Food is truly medicine. I can help more people just by changing the food that they put into their body. For example, many people are eating too much white processed flour, too much sugar, too many simple carbohydrates–that leads to inflammation, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, arthritis. Some people have food sensitivities that they never recognized–gluten, dairy, corn, etc. All of these things can lead to inflmamation which then leads to heart disease.
So the first thing I teach my fellows to focus on is what someone is eating. Then we look at: What is the role of nutraceuticals? if someone has Vitamin D deficiency, if someone doesn't have the right Omega-6, Omega-3 Index, for example–how do we begin to supplement to support health?
Of course, we want to keep everyone active, physically active. We want to address the mind-body issues, the psycho-social factors. We screen our patients for depression, anxiety, stress, social isolation. We really want to have an understanding of who this individual is.
Integrative Strategies for Cardiac Health
What are some strategies you implement for these stress factors regarding cardiac health?
We have a very robust series of strategies which can include everything from walking out in nature, to yoga and meditation. The first thing I teach my patients is how to breathe. Simple five seconds in, five seconds out, just to relax their body … We teach a lot of mindfulness techniques. Also, practicing forgiveness, appreciation, gratefulness–things that make us look at our life from a different set of lenses.
What is the reaction of your fellow cardiologists in learning about these integrative strategies?
Most cardiologists know that depression, stress, social isolation are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, but they haven't been given any tools in their toolbox, other than anti-depressant medicine–which by and large don't work, certainly not for mild to moderate depression. We have our medications, and we like to use them when we need them. But now, we're giving them tools like yoga, mediation, breath work, mindfulness, chanting, just being present. These are tools that physicians can use now to teach their patients very easily, and they are really grateful for that.
It all empowers the physician.
What changes have you seen in the last five years incorporating integrative strategies for cardiovascular health?
I think we are on an upkick. The country is recognizing that we can't continue to do healthcare the way we're doing it. We keep just treating disease. People are breaking down. They're breaking down younger and sooner. We have millions of children who are obese, have diabetes. We're recognizing we need something other than the "ill to the pill" mentality. For the first time, we're recognizing as a country, it's not one single thing. It's about food. It's about physical activity. It's about having safe parks, bike lanes you can bike in. It's about looking at how we respond. What is our resiliency? How do we handle stress and tension? It's looking at the whole picture, and really, it's integrative medicine that for years has been saying: "This is important!"
I think for the first time ever, we have hospital systems, and physicians all over country, saying: "Show me how to it." It's a paradigm shift, it really is.
It's saying–let's get to the underlying cause, let's prevent the problem in the first place. And if somebody has a problem, let's ask the question–why? Why are they diabetic? Why are they hypertensive. And let's get to that underlying cause and fix that.
For acute care, heart attacks, stroke, trauma, there's nothing better than Western medicine. We save lives. No one can argue that. But where we were really not trained, is to prevent problems in the first place, and to handle chronic disease through a different set of lenses. Chronic disease requires a new model, and that model depends on integrative principles.
Our biography does become our biology.
Hear Dr. Guarneri Speak at the Restorative Medicine Conference
We invite you to register to hear Dr. Gaurneri speak at the Restorative Medicine Conference, Sept. 13-16, 2012, in San Diego! Dr. Guarneri will discuss fundamental integrative approaches for cardiac health. She will also present an entire talk on "resiliency" and how we can really reverse the damage that stress illicits.
"I'm thrilled that physicians, nurses and other healthcare practioners will be coming to the Restorative Medicine Conference. The more we work together to shift the paradigm, the more we can start thinking differently … and the better we all become in our practice." - Mimi Guarneri MD