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Natural Awakenings Lehigh Valley

Improving Cardiovascular Health

Feb 08, 2014 01:41AM ● By Dr. Thomas B. Wachtmann DC


According to the American Heart Association, over 82 million Americans have at least one type of heart and blood vessel disease, or cardiovascular disease (CVD). The most common form is found in over 76 million people known as high blood pressure, also called hypertension. In addition, 27 million Americans are diagnosed every year with heart disease and another 8 million have been affected by stroke.

Heart disease includes numerous problems, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis, a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow. If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow and cause a heart attack or stroke.

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die.

An ischemic stroke—the most common type—happens when a blood vessel that feeds the brain gets blocked, usually from a blood clot.  When the blood supply to a part of the brain is shut off, brain cells die. The result will be the inability to carry out some of the previous functions as before, like walking or talking. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel within the brain bursts.  The most likely cause is uncontrolled hypertension.

Congestive heart failure means the heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should. The heart keeps working, but the body’s need for blood and oxygen isn’t being met. This can get worse if it’s not treated.

Arrhythmia is an abnormal rhythm of the heart. There are various types of arrhythmias; the heart can beat too slow, too fast or irregularly. All can impact how well the heart works and may not allow it to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.

Heart valve problems, such as stenosis or regurgitation, don’t allow the valves to open enough to allow adequate blood flow or allow the blood to leak backward, respectively. Mitral valve prolapse is when the valve leaflets bulge or prolapse back into the upper chamber, allowing blood to flow backward through them.

Carotid artery disease, aortic aneurysms and peripheral artery disease (PAD) are probably the three most serious non-cardiac vascular diseases that afflict Americans and are certainly the ones that produce the most potential for death, disability and dismemberment. Carotid artery disease typically occurs when the carotid arteries, the main blood vessels to the brain, develop a buildup of plaque called atherosclerosis, or become too hard and inflexible called arteriosclerosis. When the buildup becomes severe it can cause a stroke, which can be fatal or permanently disabling.

Aortic aneurysms occur when the wall of the aorta progressively weakens. This causes dilation or bulging of the vessel. If not diagnosed and treated, the aneurysm will grow larger and eventually rupture. An aneurysm that ruptures has an 80 percent fatality rate. The vast majority of people with aneurysms are never diagnosed until they experience fatal rupture. If the aortic aneurysm is electively detected and treated, the risk is more in the range of 2 to 3 percent.

PAD is a blockage in the circulation to the arms or legs due to atherosclerosis or other diseases. PAD can impair circulation to the extremities and lead to serious disability or amputation. Between 25 and 30 million people over 70 have PAD. These people are three times as likely to die of heart attacks and strokes as those without it.

The good news about all of this is that most of it can be prevented. To a large extent, it is our choice whether we get cardiovascular disease or not. Diet, exercise and proper nutritional supplementation are key factors that can be implemented if one is willing to make some changes.


Diagnosis of the Problem

Research shows that symptoms and disease are simply the end result of something else gone wrong. Functional Diagnostic Medicine is a diagnosis and treatment system that gets at the root causes of illness without surgery or drugs and provides a detailed assessment of the body at the cellular level and various systems within the body. By using the knowledge gained from proper screenings, health problems can be accurately treated at the source. The screenings can also provide advanced warnings for those in danger. High quality screenings can reveal those at greater risk for the leading killer (heart disease) and disabler (stroke) by using the data on portable diagnostic ultrasound images. 


Supporting the Body to Heal Itself

Nitric oxide is an emerging secret for powerful cardiovascular protection. Only recently identified, scientists were awarded a Nobel Prize in 1998 for their discoveries concerning nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. Since that time, significant evidence has come forward on its incredible potential and myriad uses.

When nitric oxide levels in the arteries become deficient, the barriers break down, cardiovascular protection is lost and the heart is more susceptible to defect. As a potent vasodilator, nitric oxide expands the arteries, which in turn help regulate blood pressure and enhance the blood flow to vital organs. Nitric oxide is naturally produced in the endothelial cells of the arteries, but as a gas, it only has a lifespan of a few seconds.

Nitric oxide cannot be brought in from the outside, but its production can be stimulated through amino acids and antioxidants, such as arginine and citrulline. These elements can markedly boost production of nitric oxide and stabilize the molecule, preventing it from being inactivated by oxygen radicals. Several key nutritional products may be recommended, which have been extensively documented to have a positive effect on either reversing cardiovascular disease, or preventing it in the first place.

One supplementation product I recommend is packed with pharmaceutical grade l-arginine, an amino acid that the body converts to nitric oxide to help enhance the cardiovascular system. Formulated in collaboration with leading researchers and cardiovascular specialists, l-arginine also helps improve immune function, helps to build muscle and reduce adipose tissue body fat and may boost energy levels.

For the best possible heart health, it is imperative that we know our own personal risks and then make educated decisions to support our bodies natural healing processes. 


For more information or to schedule an evaluation, call Dr. Thomas B. Wachtmann DC at Twin Ponds Integrative Health Center at 610-395-3355


What is a Carotid Artery Screening?


A carotid artery screening, also known as a duplex scan, is a non-invasive, abbreviated vascular ultrasound study done to assess the blood flow and wall structure of the arteries in the neck that supply blood from the heart to the face and brain. There are six carotid arteries – three on each side.

The term duplex refers to the fact that two modes of ultrasound are used—Doppler and B-mode. The Doppler portion evaluates the velocity and direction of blood flow to indicate stroke risk and the B-mode obtains the image of the intima and media wall thickness for heart disease risk.

A carotid artery screening is used to assess possible blockage or narrowing of these arteries before any symptoms occur. Plaque (a build-up of fatty materials), thrombus (blood clot) and other substances in the blood stream are easily identified. It is not necessary to wait until these factors create a symptom—or even worse, death.


What do we do if the carotid arteries become blocked? Think F.A.S.T.

Face – Is one side droopy? Is your smile crooked?

Arms – Can you raise them together? Can you control movements?

Speech – What did you just say? Repeat your address – sound right?

Time – Call 9-1-1 immediately. Time lost is brain lost.

Twin Ponds Integrative Health Center in West Lehigh Valley, is hosting a Carotid Artery Ultrasound and Blood Pressure Screening from 3 to 8 p.m., February 19. For more information, call 610-395-3355 or visit

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