Heart Disease Prevention in the Time of COVID

In Dr. Karen M. Pendleton, Health and Beauty by Lola Magazine

May I have your permission to share my family’s heart stories?

Reminiscing on the Thanksgiving 1984 family celebration, my mind goes back to all relatives in attendance at our dining room table. Grandfather Joseph Pendleton had come over from Monroe, but this year without Grandmother Velda Pendleton to participate in our family fellowship and feast. We had a grand time as always. Everyone was around the table and there was so much love and plenty of traditional Thanksgiving cuisine. After watching football games, we wrapped up with a little dessert and coffee/tea. As the evening grew old, Papa Pendleton, as we affectionately called him, went around to hug everyone “goodbye” in anticipation of his drive back to Monroe with my cousins. 

What a joyous day! As my immediate family prepared for bed, we received a phone call. The news was not good. Papa Pendleton had died of a massive heart attack. It is now clear to me that my grandfather possessed an underlying heart disease. And, I truly believe he could have also died of a broken heart…broken because, for almost a year, he had been without his beloved Velda. You see, Granny Pendleton had developed Alzheimer’s disease and died the year prior. In this day and age, Alzheimer’s disease is considered type 3 diabetes. As I think about the summers spent in Monroe with Papa and Granny Pendleton, I remembered Granny had a really strong sweet tooth! We now know that sugar is addictive and inflammatory.

In addition to being classified as type 3 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease represents microvascular disease (small vessel disease). The same microvascular disease can not only affect the brain but can affect the kidneys, the extremities, and in men, the penis. Thus, when there is compromised blood flow in those particular organs, then there will be a compromise to the function of those organs. This is represented as kidney disease, peripheral vascular disease (PVD), and erectile dysfunction. My story began with my paternal grandparents, so now on to my Father. 

At the young age of 54 years, my sweet daddy was diagnosed with heart disease that required a double coronary artery bypass graft (CABG). In my father’s late sixties, he developed carotid artery disease requiring a carotid artery endarterectomy (rotor rooter procedure as termed by the lay public). Next, in the summer of 2006, while having lunch with my parents I noticed asymmetry to my father’s face as he chewed his food. Immediately, I perform an exam by simply asking daddy to smile and to frown. It was clear one side of his face was not properly functioning. And, I tested him for arm weakness, which was not present.

“FAST” is an acronym for the four warning signs of a stroke.

And, I did call 911, in light of this medical emergency. Daddy was admitted and underwent an evaluation. Throughout his hospitalization, he received excellent care, therapy and adjustment of his medications to control his heart disease, hypertension (blood pressure) and hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol). Unfortunately, my sweet father, Dr. Louis Pendleton developed dementia (microvascular disease of the brain), and on 01/14/2007, daddy received his wings and ascended to Heaven. 

I share these stories with you because we should know in both men and women heart disease (heart attacks and strokes) is the number one cause of morbidity (sickness) and mortality (death). As a side note, we as women typically are focused on our breast health. This is important but it’s not breast cancer that causes sickness and death. It is heart disease!

On several occasion since daddy’s homegoing in 2007, I have had the opportunity to speak before audiences. I always share this… “The knowledge I now possess, I wish I had owned it very early in my career because I truly believe that my father would not only be alive…he would be thriving! However, I count every blessing because I still have my mother, Barbara Chocolate Pendleton in good health and she will celebrate her 89th birthday on 09/10/2020!”

In our lifestyle/functional medicine practice, my partner Dr. Jack Ward and I continue to be very proactive in educating our patients, along with managing them with cutting-edge, data-driven, and evidence-based resources. This practice style gets to the root cause of any diseases and institutes optimal care…not just the standard of care. In general, those patients who have embraced these principles are ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired” and desire more tailored and guided medical care.

Fast forward to April 2019. It was my 35th Tulane University School of Medicine (TMS) class reunion. I enjoyed catching up with all of my classmates in attendance, particularly one of my favorites, Dr. Felix Bopp, and his wife Dr. Barbara Bopp, who was a couple of years behind us at TMS. The four of us had such an amazing conversation, sharing our life, family, and practices.

When they discovered Dr. Jack and I had been involved in lifestyle/functional Medicine for 20 years, they wanted to continue the conversation, given their 8-year history of being in the wellness space. Over the summer, we did just that. In October 2019, they invited us to a preceptorship, organized by the developers of the BaleDoneen Method of early heart disease prevention. Unfortunately, we had a date conflict with a commitment to a women’s retreat in Mexico. But in April 2020, Dr. Jack and I completed the BaleDoneen Preceptorship.

Between October 2019 and April 2020 a lot of wonderful things transpired including two sad events. Dr. Barbara’s younger brother (age 48 years) suffered a major stroke three days before Christmas; and an office staff member’s husband also had a stroke during the holidays.

The second sad event: Living in the age of COVID-19.

With intense passion, the four of us have committed to the development of the Bopp Health and Well-being Program. This is similar to the pairO’docs Bio-Rejuvenis Wellness Program. Given the understanding that the majority of diseases, particularly heart disease, is rooted in inflammation, we take an innovative approach to patient evaluation. First of all, patients undergo a 15-minute, non-invasive ultrasound used to view and measure the inner and middle wall thickness of the carotid arteries (the neck arteries that supply blood to the brain, eye and skin of the neck, face and scalp). The ultrasound is termed carotid intima media thickness (CIMT) and can determine inflammation and/or plaque within the artery walls. Inflammation and/or plaque equals increased thickness of the artery walls.

Secondly, the patients are evaluated with an extremely sophisticated panel of blood work, the Cardio-IQ panel. This is not the ‘standard of care’ labs. The Cardio-IQ include categories such as Advanced Lipids, Inflammatory Markers, Metabolic Markers, and Genetic Bio-markers.

Did you know there is a heart attack gene, 9P21?

Our aim is to identify inflammation and reverse it, as well as implement measures to stabilize plaque before it ruptures. Rupturing of a soft plaque typically leads to the formation of a blood clot and potentially an “event,” i.e., heart attack or stroke. In the age of COVID-19, it is very clear that having comorbidities like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer can be the tipping point in how well a patient progresses through this viral disease and/or if they succumb. 

To illustrate this concept, this calls for another personal story. I have a group of classmates from Howard University that pledged Alpha Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in 1978. In October 2018, my pledge line celebrated our 40-year reunion at the Homecoming festivities. At the close of our reunion, we vowed to keep in even closer contact. During the 2020 Easter season, I sponsored a Palm Sunday brunch via a Zoom call. In light of the Coronavirus quarantine, spending quality time with my Sorors (line sisters) in this fashion was a real blessing!

While on the Zoom call, I received a couple of phone calls and text messages. One of the calls was from a girlfriend and fellow physician in Chicago. She informed me that my relative, also a physician, was diagnosed with COVID-19, intubated and on a ventilator in the ICU.

Speaking of comorbidities, this particular relative has had issues controlling her blood pressure and her insulin-dependent diabetes. Once again these comorbidities not only can dictate the positive or negative outcome from this virus but these comorbidities can contribute to heart disease.  Happily, she survived and is on a better lifestyle journey! 

With this collaboration between pairO’docs Bio-Rejuvenis and Bopp Dermatology and Facial Plastic Surgery, we are committed to giving our patients optimal care as it relates to heart attack, stroke and dementia prevention. The protocol includes having the CIMT, the Cardio IQ bloodwork, and the follow-up appointment to review the results of the aforementioned tests. Then, the patient can make a wise decision to enter the Health and Well-being Program, with the following unique benefits: 

A comprehensive assessment and tailored management of medical issues and lifestyle habits based on the 10 Tenets (previously discussed in another Lola Magazine issue)

24/7 access to the physician (typically me, Dr. Karen): in-office; via phone, i.e., land line and office mobile; secure e-mail; and Telehealth platform

Advocacy, i.e., we will be your voice in communicating with others involved in your care

HIPPA-compliant account with www.gethealthie.com

Online training modules/course based on the 10 Tenets (market value: $110.00)

Partners-In-Wellness: access and/or attractive price points on resources/products.

To better guard yourself, I encourage you to schedule a visit with me; and undergo the very important CIMT and Cardio IQ bloodwork. Do so by contacting me at drkaren@pairodocsonline.com or call 504-273-7167.

In closing, more now than ever, we have to be vigilant about our total health, and in particular, our heart health. This will totally impact your healthspan, which is far more important than your lifespan.