Health recommendations are constantly changing. As scientists investigate new therapies and practices, the body of evidence supporting the use of complementary and alternative approaches to achieve optimal health and well-being is growing.
Mimi Guarneri, MD, a cardiologist and medical director of Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, incorporates the latest findings in her heart care practice. Her prescriptions include interventions intended not only to heal the body, but also to mend the mind and soul.
Here are four surprising things in her tool kit that she suggests incorporating into a healthy lifestyle plan.
While seafood of any sort contains omega-3 oils that can benefit your heart, it turns out that not all fish are created equal. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, your choice of wild vs. farmed salmon should be guided by your individual health concerns. Farmed salmon contains more heart-protective omega-3 oils, but it is also far more likely to be contaminated with concentrated environmental toxins. A middle-aged man with a high risk for heart disease will benefit more from farmed salmon, while young children, women of child-bearing age who are planning to conceive, and pregnant women are advised to reduce their exposure to contaminants by choosing wild salmon or other sources of fatty acids.
There is a growing body of evidence that mental and spiritual practices, including Judeo-Christian prayer, yoga, Zen, transcendental meditation and other relaxation techniques, are associated with quantifiable physical benefits including lower blood pressure, better blood lipid profiles, improved immune function, fewer stress hormones and better overall health outcomes. Research published in the journal American Psychologist looked at a wide variety of previously published studies on such practices and concluded that many were methodologically sound and presented evidence of efficacy. So whether you’re a believer or a skeptic, any regular activity that focuses and calms the mind may also help your body thrive.
Dr. Guarneri has personally investigated and published papers on the effects of biofeedback on heart patients. In this technique, a therapist teaches you to control such measurements as blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, muscle tension, the skin’s temperature and ability to conduct electricity. While the mechanisms of biofeedback on health improvements are not fully understood, people who use this technique report symptom improvement from conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, tension and migraine headaches and urinary incontinence
One of the newest innovations in preventive medicine, genetic testing can reveal your inherited risk for a wide range of diseases and disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and obesity, as well as whether you process a dozen commonly used drugs differently than other people. Armed with individualized information, people who know they have an elevated risk for diabetes, for example, may be able to make proactive lifestyle choices that delay or even prevent the onset of the disease.