Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note, where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health.
This week I had the amazing opportunity to interview a new found friend of mine in Dr. David Beckner.
Dr. Beckner is an Interventional Cardiologist at Cardiovascular Associates in the Tri Cities. This means that he opens up blockages in the coronary arteries, as well as all the other things that Cardiologists do.
He’s also very interested in prevention of heart disease, which is sort unusual for a Cardiologist.
Dr. Beckner has spent time at The Cleveland Clinic, where he focused on prevention of heart disease with the integrative doctors up there. In my opinion, they are the gold standard in integrative medicine.
So we have a lot of common interests, as he is really into integrative medicine.
The group of Cardiologists at Cardiovascular Associates are amazing. They have a really special group. If you have a cardiac event, this place offers world class services. It’s the gem of our whole healthcare system up in the Tri Cities, in my opinion.
I’d love for you to check out the conversation I had with Dr. Beckner!
You can find that interview here.
In this Note, I want to share some of the high points of our conversation and a few of the things I learned from him.
Preventing Heart Disease
When we say integrative medicine, what we really mean is prevention. We’re trying to prevent heart disease, and everything else that’s related to it.
We all want to live longer and healthier, and it’s the healthspan that we want to focus on. Healthspan is that period of time where you feel great and are still able to function.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in any modern country. That’s what we’re trying to prevent.
In this conversation I learned about the Pritikin Institute, which is a place for intensive cardiac rehab. According to Dr. Beckner, it’s extremely effective in patients who have had a heart attack.
There are only a few groups of people who qualify. For one, you have to have had a cardiac event. But the outcomes are remarkable.
Unfortunately, our part of the country is a hotbed for cardiovascular disease. It’s one of the worst areas in our country for development of cardiovascular disease.
And much of this is based on our lifestyle.
One thing that Dr. Beckner mentioned in the interview, and something he and I have talked a lot about, is that “it’s not so much your genetic code as it is your zip code”.
So much of our behaviors have to do with what we see and the people around us.
We used to think that genetics couldn’t be changed. We now know that that’s not true at all. You can change a lot of this with your lifestyle alone! Especially with what you eat.
Dr. Beckner says diet and exercise are everything. Ultimately, many people want a quick fix. But it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Changing someone’s lifestyle is what the Pritikin Institute has been so effective at.
Getting To The Root Of The Problem
After learning about the Pritikin Institute and all the good it’s doing for patients who have had a cardiac event, the question now becomes can we get to these people before they have a heart attack?
As doctors, if you don’t keep an open mind and study this stuff you’re going to be practicing based on things you learned many years ago.
What we were taught in school about diet is a great example of this, and as a result we have an obese country.
The focus has to be on reducing obesity in my opinion.
With tools like the Cleveland Heart Panel and CT Calcium Scoring, we can predict who is going to have heart disease and who isn’t.
The Cleveland Heart Panel and knowing how to interpret it, is the best thing I do in my practice.
We have the resources to predict heart disease in my opinion.
Everything mirrors heart disease. If you try and prevent heart disease, you’re also taking care of your brain (preventing Dementia), preventing diabetes, and even cancer!
What we do can prevent cancer!
Dr. Beckner gave an amazing example of what’s happening in our healthcare system that really resonated with me. He said that people’s health is like having a faucet that’s turned on, and all this water is running down and getting on the floor. And all the doctors in the system have different mops to mop up the floor.
But it makes more sense to simply turn the faucet off. This is the preventive part!
He also mentioned a term that you’re probably going to hear me say more, and that’s “InflammAGING”.
All disease is the result of inflammation if you look at the root cause of it.
Obesity and weight are what we’re talking about, and lack of exercise. Obese people with metabolic syndrome, a lot of it is inflammation. It creates inflammation.
How much better would people feel if they got rid of the weight? Once they do that, there is a cascade of positive events after.
When I see a patient, the biggest marker I look at is their weight. Abdominal obesity is an inflammatory producing machine.
It’s easy to look at, but we don’t address it enough.
It’s a lot more complex than just exercise more and eat less. It’s a metabolic life long disease of insulin resistance. We dig into it from that perspective.
Knowledge Is Everything
80% of people who have heart attacks didn’t know they had heart disease until they had a heart attack.
This is a staggering statistic.
What that tells us is that these patients are walking around and they have no idea they’re on the verge of a heart attack.
The thing is that there’s good screenings available! The Cleveland Heart Panel, Coronary Calcium Scores and Carotid IMT Ultrasounds.
We must identify those people who are at higher risk.
The best part of my conversation with Dr. Beckner was towards the end when he talked about behavioral change.
He said that a lot of doctors think that people won’t change. He then said that he doesn’t believe that. In his experience, when people begin to realize that that extra 30 pounds they are carrying around is hurting their knees and their back, or that diabetes is caused by this extra weight, they will change if given knowledge and encouragement by their physician.
A lot of people just don’t understand some of these things. And that’s what we have to change.
So much of it is knowledge. We have the tools. Our opinion is that with this knowledge people would change, and they would become healthier.
Everything in the healthcare system is about mopping the floors.
Let’s turn off the faucet.
You can change your genetics. You can change everything by what you’re eating.
This is legitimate stuff that we’re doing, and we are so fortunate that we have people who are interested in this in our community.
Thank you Dr. Beckner for your support.
Please check out my interview with Dr. Beckner. Help us share this message.