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Autoimmune Disease and Heart Health

Many individuals live with autoimmune conditions where the body’s immune system engages in an inflammatory response. Autoimmune disease and heart health are related to this underlying inflammation and the medications prescribed for such conditions.

This article will discuss how we address cardiovascular health in our clients who experience autoimmune conditions.

Autoimmune Diseases in Western Medicine

Thanks to advances in lab testing and the development of biologics, many previously tragic autoimmune conditions can now be managed quite well.

Some medical conditions include lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Crohn’s disease, and Ulcerative Colitis. Among the most common are Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, RA, and Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM).

Due to the nature of our healthcare system, it’s common to have multiple specialists involved who cannot properly communicate with each other.

The gastroenterologist works with the individual on the proper infusion regimen, and the primary care doctor coordinates care.

Autoimmune Diseases Affecting Heart Health

This study offers a thorough overview of the increased risk of heart disease in certain autoimmune diseases. The increased risk is listed as a hazard ratio, a statistical lingo where 1 would indicate no increased risk, 2 would indicate double the risk, 0.5 would be half the risk, and so on.

Inflammation may be at the heart of this relationship, and the goal at DNH is to measure and help decrease any potential inflammation in the body.

Since inflammation accelerates atherosclerosis, it’s an important tool. However, it should always be gentle, holistic, and with the individual in mind.

Autoimmune diseases are taxing enough on the person, add to it the fear of heart disease, and only add to inflammation. That is not the point of this article.

Though the risk of heart disease is higher in autoimmune conditions, it’s certainly not a guarantee that any negative consequence will occur.

Improving Cardiovascular Health

Different groups, from the ADA to the AHA to the CDC, constantly debate current goal lipid levels. What should your ideal lipid panel look like?

Education and empowerment have been our mantra at DNH since the beginning. We are good at compiling relevant information and empowering our clients to make their own best health decisions.

An individual with Rheumatoid Arthritis who rarely has any flares and is well-managed with a single agent may do well with a low ApoB. In contrast, someone with more aggressive disease and other autoimmune diseases would benefit from a stricter Heart Health regimen.

We recommend clients measure their inflammatory markers, have lower fasting insulin levels, decrease visceral fat, adopt a slightly higher-protein diet, and decrease excess oil/fat intake.

Factors the Client Can Modify

The following factors, directly and indirectly, affect inflammation in the body. Modifying these factors decreases cardiovascular risk, as does the autoimmune condition itself.

Adopted from the wonderful book of Integrative Rheumatology.

  • Mind
    • Breathing techniques
    • Reduce reactivity
    • Prayer
    • Creative outlets
    • Laughter and lightheartedness
  • Body
    • High fiber diet
    • High-quality proteins
    • Low-glycemic carbohydrates
    • Healthy fats
    • Supplements
  • Activity
    • Zone 2 training
    • Zone 5 training
    • Resistance training
    • Stretching
    • Meditation
    • Nature exposure
  • Spirit
    • Employment
    • Relationships
    • Purpose, hope, and meaning
  • Treatments
    • Physical manipulations
      • Massage
      • Acupuncture
      • Herbals
      • Topicals
      • Prescription medications
    • Psychotherapy
    • Guided Imagery
    • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

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