Measuring Risk of Disease

Our perceptions of the world and the environment in which we live are sending us to early grave...

More on this in a minute.

There was a time when people roamed the Earth and they needed to constantly be on the lookout. If you happen to have young kids there’s a solid chance that in the past couple of years you have watched a movie called “The Croods”.

If not, it's about a family of ancient cave dwellers who have yet to discover fire. Every time they leave the cave, they are worried about being attacked by predators and in constant worry over where their next meal will come from.

They had every right to be cautious. Poisonous snakes, saber toothed tigers, and giant bears (as if regular sized bears aren’t frightening enough). The continuation of the family genes and ultimately the species relied on a certain amount of paranoia.

There was such a prevailing fear that to this day it is still hardwired into our genes.

This is to say that our default setting is to assume that danger could be right around every corner, when in reality, more often than not in modern day America, we are far removed from that danger.

Few places left on this gorgeous Earth are truly wild, yet we go out of our way to manufacture fear on a routine basis.

Despite what social media, mass media, the commercial industry (particularly the pharmaceutical industry) and our very own governmental organizations would have you believe, fear and loathing should be at an all time low, but because we already have a built in bias for fear, and because we have a hard time prying our eyes away from our smart phones and TV’s we live in a perpetual state of fear that eventually "locks" our brain and our body into fight or flight physiology. Once this occurs, we open ourselves up to all types of chronic disease, a weakened immune system, disregulation of hormones and a brain that reacts slower and less effectively.

Here’s where I can go one of two ways: 1.) I can dive heavily into the research talking about how the hippocampus and amygdala in the brain has a built in system for remembering fearful events and how this affects the prefrontal cortex, hindering our ability to think clearly, negatively affecting our hormones, and how it throws our autonomic nervous system into a state of disarray leading to cancer, cardiac disease, diabetes, stroke, anxiety, PTSD, depression and a plethora of other less than ideal chronic diseases leading to an early death while destroying our purpose in life, or 2.) I could take this information  and let you know that there are ways of reversing this damage?

I’ll go with option 2 (for those interested in option 1, here is a link to one of the best heart rate variability studies out there).

For decades, scientists have struggled to define stress. Because they couldn’t define it, they couldn’t accurately measure it. Because they couldn’t accurately measure it, they couldn’t effectively treat it. Those days are pretty much gone.

There is a device that measures heart rate variability which subsequently measures stress. Here's how it works: It takes readings from the heart via a pulse from a peripheral artery and then measures the minor variations in terms of milliseconds between each pulse. It then takes this information and determines how much or how little sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous control your heart is under.

The heart has dual innervation, partially under sympathetic control and partially under parasympathetic control.

Sympathetic control takes seconds to affect the inter-beat variance. Parasympathetic control takes only milliseconds. As a result, the Pulse Wave Profiler (the device we use to measure heart rate variability) can detect your dominant nervous innervation to the heart and also to what degree you are “locked” into a state of sympathetic or parasympathetic physiology. As with almost all things in this world, balance is the key! The farther you are away from having balance (meaning low heart rate variability), the closer you are to hearing that you have a disease there is no cure for.

So what the heck do you do if you have low variations in heart rate? Glad I asked.

  1. You have to cut off the source of your fears and threats and begin to change your perception! If that means giving up watching the news and scrolling through Facebook for hours on end, so be it. Maybe you need to quit watching those shows that put your state of internal physiology into panic, or you might need to ditch that abusive relationship or quit the job you despise going to everyday. At least this way you’ll have your health long enough to find new ones. Whatever your major stressors might be, the time is now to make them go away.
  2. You have to start moving to the point of sweating. If you haven’t done this in a long time, go slow and build up. This has to be done 3 times per week for at least 20 minutes. If you are capable, I recommend high intensity interval training (HIIT). This is getting long so if you are unsure of what I mean, this link provides not only some useful info about HIIT, but also a video demonstration that requires no equipment (Now what’s your excuse?). This type of movement will balance out the levels of serotonin, glucagon, insulin, cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine, while increasing levels of human growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor.
  3. You need to have a free and clear nervous system capable of adaptation. Find a chiropractor in your area who does heart rate variability testing. If they do more than that, great! Static electromyography, thermography, range of motion and heart rate variability are always tested in our office and are excellent tools for assessing your starting point as well as progression.
  4. Meditate. Quiet your brain at least once per day for about 15 to 20 minutes and do nothing but listen to your breath go in and out. Your mind will wander and won’t know what to do at first. That’s okay. It will eventually shut up. In the meantime, pay no attention to it and focus in on the breaths. Incorporate this with yoga or Thai Chi and you will greatly decrease the amount of time it takes to get your health back!

This is not an all inclusive list by any means but will help get you on your way. You should also understand that in order to get your health back, you will never find a microwavable version. There is no miracle cure for any type of lifestyle disease and simply covering up the symptoms does not equal a cure. If you have any questions feel free to comment and I will do my best to answer in a timely manner.

-In Health,

Dr. Andrew R. Burns


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