Are you at risk?

What you can do about it?

Today’s subject is cardiovascular disease. This includes heart and blood vessel health and the regulation of blood pressure.

You will notice that I have place Heart at Level #9 of the Functional Medicine Health Pyramid. You are probably wonder why it is near the top instead of at the bottom of the FMHP. This is all make sense once you have read this article.

I will discuss cardiovascular health in two major sections:

  1. Heart and blood vessel health as it pertains to cholesterol and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries and plaque).
  2. High blood pressure.

Cholesterol and atherosclerosis

Cholesterol…the villain of heart and blood vessel health has been a very popular subject for decades. It has been blamed as the sole cause of heart disease for a

long time. The problem with this assertion is that it is not entirely correct. Let’s take a look at how cholesterol “sticks” to your arteries and causes atherosclerosis and blocked blood vessels and even stroke. First of all, cholesterol does not attach itself to healthy blood vessels! Traditional medicine believes that if your total cholesterol is below 200, then you are in good shape and not at risk for heart disease and stroke. The problem with this statement is that most people who end up hospitalized for heart attack or stroke have cholesterol is “normal”… 200 or less. Many of them have been taking their cholesterol-lowering medication as well.

If cholesterol medication works so well, then why is heart disease…aka “cholesterol” still the number one cause of death in this country? This is because cholesterol only sticks to damaged blood vessels! It’s not because 200 is a “magic number”…stay under 200 and you are safe, go higher than 200 and cholesterol now just starts sticking to your blood vessels. If you stop for a moment and think about this you will see how ridiculous this sounds. And if the “magic number” of 200 was correct, then we could eradicate all heart disease…and it would not STILL BE THE NUMBER ONE CAUSE OF DEATH.

Here is a physio—LOGICAL answer to this problem. Cholesterol sticks to blood vessels that are in a chronic state of inflammation and damage and it WILL STICK TO YOUR ARTERIES WHETHER YOUR CHOLESTEROL IS 150 OR 350! Inflammation in it’s many forms is the ROOT CAUSE of cardiovascular disease…NOT cholesterol.

This is WHY Heart is at Level #9 on the Functional Medicine Health Pyramid and WHY you need to correct lower levels if your goal is to prevent heart disease. The lower levels are what keep your blood vessels healthy and cholesterol-free.

Common Causes of blood vessel damage:

  1. High inflammation foods in the diet (Level #1)
  2. Lack of nutrients including antioxidants (Level #1)
  3. Increased toxins in the body (Level #2)
  4. High blood sugar and insulin (Level #3)
  5. High stress and high levels of inflammation (Level #4)
  6. Chronic infection or inflammation from the immune system or autoimmunity (Level #5)
  7. Low thyroid function causes increased inflammation and even higher levels of cholesterol (Level #6)
  8. Hormonal imbalances have a significant impact on heart and blood vessel health and inflammatory states (Level #7)
  9. Poor Brain and neurological function is a primary cause of high blood pressure; and this increased pressure directly damages blood vessels (Level #8)


A good functional medicine doctor understands these relationships and can help you determine your risk factors and what to do about them.

High Blood Pressure

Ask your doctor what causes high blood pressure They will usually give you some vague or scripted answers. “Too much salt” or “Lack of exercise” or “You are overweight” or “it is common as you get older” or “its genetic”…lots of general answers…simply because they don’t know why.  So, how is blood pressure controlled in a healthy body? It’s your Brain / nervous system.

How do I know this?

Well first of all most people with high blood pressure have been diagnosed with Essential Hypertension…here is a quote from Healthline…

“Essential hypertension is high blood pressure that doesn’t have a known secondary cause. It’s also referred to as primary hypertension. Blood pressure is the force of blood against your artery walls as your heart pumps blood through your body.” In this case, a secondary cause would be another known disease causing high blood pressure; like an adrenal gland tumor or kidney disease, etc.

So, the CAUSE of Essential Hypertension is not known.

There you go, nobody seems to know what causes high blood pressure. Ok, so lets now look at what kind of medications are used to lower blood pressure:

Common Medications to treat high blood pressure

  • Thiazide diuretics. …
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. …
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). …
  • Calcium channel blockers.
  • Beta blockers

These medications basically do 1 of 2 things. They decrease your blood volume which will reduce pressure, or they override the failure of the nervous system which should keep blood vessels relaxed…which lowers blood pressure. Your body has mechanisms to regulate blood volume and blood pressure via the nervous system. A properly working nervous system keeps your blood pressure in a healthy range. It is the job of your nervous system to detect when blood pressure goes too high to too low and correct it. To raise blood pressure it will increase heart rate, constrict blood vessels and increase blood volume. To reduce blood pressure it can reduce heart rate and relax blood vessels. It can also detect levels of nutrients like sodium and potassium which have a significant impact on blood volume and make corrections as needed via the kidneys.

Losing weight and exercise can also help lower blood pressure…if you have less body fat, pressure can be reduced because you don’t need to push blood through all of that fat. Exercise improves neurological health so you will have improved function of blood pressure regulation and heart health.

So how do you improve your Heart health? Once again, by supporting the lower levels of the FMHP. I also recommend an appropriate exercise program to support and improve Brain function.

In my next article I will be covering Genes which I have placed at Level #10 of the FMHP.

I hope you have found value in this information.

I wish you health, happiness and a better quality of life!

To learn more functional medicine in Wheaton, St.Charles, or other surrounding areas, contact us today!

If you would like more information about functional medicine and integrative medicine or Dr. Sexton go to

Do your own research, inform yourself and ask lots of questions. When collecting information, you MUST consider the source. There is no shortage of false, misleading, outdated, profit-driven and utterly biased information in healthcare today; even from the most respected sources and organizations.

This approach to healthcare is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate, or prevent any disease. Why? The FDA enforces its position that these words can only be used with drugs. This approach does not use drugs.