by Pamela Poad FNP-BC, CHt
Integrative medicine is a healing-oriented practice that looks at the whole person: body, mind, spirit, and all aspects of lifestyle. As an Integrative, Family Nurse Practitioner, I have seen many positive and negative patient outcomes. These include acute illnesses, ranging from the common cold to the deadliest cancer, and everything in between. Disease can, unfortunately, show up when least expected, creating life-shattering consequences for the person diagnosed, and for their loved ones. Our nation is not well. The epidemic of chronic illness raging across North America is clearly out of control. Heart disease and cancer remain the top two causes of death over the last 5 years, attributing to 50 percent of all deaths, with chronic lower respiratory disease, accidents, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes close behind. The aging population is most often susceptible. People are overwhelmed, confused and fearful. Most people turn to the media and internet, to tell them what to do and many find the latest diet craze for a short time until something else catches their eye. Virtually every one of us will be touched, in some way, by a life-threatening disease. I have seen people facing this kind of situation every day in my career working in the medical field for over 32 years. This is heart wrenching to me because as an Integrative Family Nurse Practitioner, I know from experience that stress reduction, nutrition, lifestyle intervention, and a unique genetic based approach can lead to prevention and in some cases reversal of disease.
I remember feeling helpless at my first job as a registered nurse. My dear friend, at the age of 25 years old was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and passed away in the hospital on my shift. Everyone who knew this beautiful young lady was devastated; how could this happen? She was so young. My mind obsessed about helping people to avoid this life-threatening disease. Shortly after, my career shifted into acute care as I was accepted into a Critical Care Nurse Internship program and landed a job in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. With what I saw after working 8 years, in the CICU, I thought there must be a way to reduce the risk and prevent these terrible outcomes before the patient gets to the point of having a heart attack, damaging the heart or not making it out of the CICU! I became a Family Nurse Practitioner to make a difference, inspiring people to take control of their health on every level. I have focused on an Integrative Family Nurse Practitioner approach for the past 17 years.
Although we all want to age well, there have been far too many young Americans having heart attacks or strokes, and many have been life-ending events. In fact, every 43 seconds someone in the United States has a heart attack; 2,200 people die from heart disease in the U.S each day; 50% of patients who have a heart attack or stroke have normal cholesterol levels. Sadly, every year heart disease and stroke cost the nation over $316 billion dollars. There is science behind staying well and all aspects of physiology are affected by nutrition, exercise, and stress modification. The pathways to health, or to illness, vary from person to person and are largely determined by each individual’s unique genotype. Diet can change how different genes express themselves and how they will adapt to different environments. Prevention is the key!
I believe that escalating rates of disease are directly connected to the nutritional environment that exists in the USA today. Research shows that the majority of chronic illness, such as heart disease, obesity, dementia, and cancer are inflammatory diseases and related to the “food” we eat in our homes, senior centers, hospitals, schools, and restaurants. The majority of this research that links diet to health is ignored. In addition, nutrition is not taught in medical schools and most health practitioners are not aware of the major connection between our health and the Standard American Diet.
Taking this a level deeper, research shows that escalating rates of obesity, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, neurologic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, autism, and multiple sclerosis are directly related to the interaction between an individual’s genotype, and their diet and lifestyle choices. General dietary recommendations such as “Eat a low- Carbohydrate diet” or “Eat a low- fat diet” can be detrimental to a person’s health. This means that there is no “one diet fits all”. The significance of knowing which APO E genotype you have helps to individualize a person’s treatment plan and recommendations for nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle factors that lead to an integrated disease prevention program and a healthy lifestyle.
We have all heard the saying “you are what you eat”. Now, more than ever, research shows this to be true. The food we eat today becomes the cellular makeup of our tissues tomorrow. Eating the right diet for your APO E genotype is one of the best investments you can make in your health. Everybody has a different genetic design—so why expect one diet or exercise plan to fit all? When a person follows the nutritional, exercise, and lifestyle recommendations for their particular genotype, they have a far greater chance of attaining optimum health, avoiding-and in many cases reversing-chronic disease.
If you’ve tried other methods to improve your health without success, then it’s time to think differently.