This blog post is the first in the series called “The Inflammation Age”. Follow the series to learn more about functional and integrative medicine approach to heart health, and the impact it may have on your health, vitality and longevity.
In the ground-breaking study, researchers at the National Institutes of Health identified DNA elements that function to turn on the genes responsible for chronic and debilitating inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. These powerful switches, called DNA “super-enhancers” are the key finding in unraveling the complexity of environmental-genetic interactions underlying inflammatory diseases:
“Identifying autoimmune disease susceptibility genes can be a challenge because in most cases a complex mix of genetic and environmental factors is involved. Genetic studies have shown that people with autoimmune diseases possess unique genetic variants, but most of the alterations are found in regions of the DNA that do not carry genes. Scientists have suspected that the variants are in DNA elements called enhancers, which act like switches to control gene activities.”
We have known for some time that inflammation is a fundamental common pathway that functions in development and progression of heart disease, stroke, heart failure and even cardiac arrhythmia, such as atrial fibrillation. The genetic “switches” are turned on by the environmental and toxic exposures, lifestyle factors (such as exercise, stress and nutrition) to usher in a cascade of events that eventually results in overt expression of disease. By the time these diseases and symptoms come to medical attention, the changes on a deeper, biochemical level, may have become irreversible, and even heritable. An emerging science of epigenetics and metabolomics is exploring these phenomena. However, even at such a late stage, integrative approach may be of benefit. Focusing on relationships of genetic factors and lifestyle and environmental exposures, and modifying the metabolic environment of the body, is a powerful strategy for prevention AND treatment of heart disease and risk factors.
The metabolic portal provides a unique and powerful solution in identifying and managing your inflammation, and its role on various body systems. Fundamentally, it provides a way to maximize your anti-aging opportunity. Many people mistakenly focus most of their effort on their appearance, whether it includes aggressive workouts and restrictive diets to accomplish weight loss, cosmetic procedures, or using supplements or diets endorsed by various celebrities. While some of these efforts will bear fruit, the long term, durable results are very unlikely. The true anti-aging effort involves intense, coordinated focus on fighting inflammation by identifying and correcting an individual’s metabolic disturbances. Once these corrections take hold, all else falls into place: the heroic efforts are not needed, the “yo-yo” weight loss/weight re-gain cycle stops, mood and vitality improve. There is just one catch: this approach requires commitment, persistence, and participation. In the next post in this series, we will explore how traditional and functional medicine models are different in their approach to chronic disease, and how you can find your wellness zone.