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Have you or a family member been blindsided by a sudden heart attack or stroke?

We often feel like we’re healthy if we’ve had routine labs checked as part of our annual physical.  What we may not know is there are risk factors that are “under the radar” and can cause serious problems. Fortunately, there are tests to determine if these hidden risk factors are of concern for increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Lipoprotein a (Lp a) is a special type of cholesterol particle that is genetic.  It is not routinely tested.  This accounts for a good percentage of heart attack and stroke risk that goes undetected.  Although statins have been used in high risk people to help with high cholesterol and inflammation, statins do not lower lipoprotein a.

Metabolic screen for prediabetes, including metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance can be important for determining risk. A very high percentage of people have blood sugar problems and don’t know it. Even a normal hemoglobin A1c can underestimate the risk.  Fasting insulin levels and a glucose tolerance test can help.

Hidden Inflammation is a major root cause of many chronic illnesses.  Even if your cholesterol is in the normal range, if you have high inflammation you can still have an event. Testing for hsCrp is helpful, but to look for additional hidden inflammation LpPLA2 and MPO can test for a “body on fire”.  

Get pictures of your arteries. If you don’t know what your arteries look like, then you don’t know your true risk.If you do an ultrasound evaluation of the carotid arteries (CIMT), this will help you know more about your risk.  A stress test only picks up tight blockages and a heart attack can occur even from a 30-40% blockage.

For more information you can contact our office at 517-324-9400 or visit our website . You can also check out these additional resources:

“Beat the Heart Attack Gene”, Drs. Bradley Bale and Any Doneen

“What your doctor may not tell you about heart disease”, Dr. Mark Houston

“Clean”, Dr. Alejandro Junger

“Wheat belly”, Dr. William Davis

“Plant Paradox”, Dr. Steven Gundry

Dr. Alicia Williams is a Board Certified Cardiologist specializing in Integrative Cardiology. For more information visit our website.

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What is CIMT and should I have it done?

Carotid Intima Media Thickness (CIMT) is a measurement of the thickness of the wall of the carotid artery, the artery in the neck that feeds blood to the brain.  CIMT is an advanced ultrasound test which is safe and non-invasive.

CIMT gives us important information regarding the risk for heart disease and stroke. The test measures the thickness of the inner two layers of the carotid artery—the intima and media. Even before plaque forms and narrows the arteries, the artery can be injured or stressed by increased blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol along with many other risk factors. The more severe the thickness of the layers, the higher the risk for future events.  The test can also detect plaque build-up in the walls of the artery (fatty deposits and calcium) which is even more important. When there is thickness or plaque in one artery it can be happening in other arteries also. This is the start of ATHEROSCLEROSIS or hardening of the arteries. This can be happening even without any warning sign.

It can be scary to uncover something in our arteries that could signal future heart disease or stroke. The good news is that early detection gives you a chance to make important changes, guided by your healthcare provider, to reduce or reverse your risk. The goal is to detect problems early and get the proper help to prevent and reverse any damage.

CIMT is a well-studied ultrasound test to help detect pre-clinical vascular disease. With improvements in technology, it has become possible to reproduce measurements and provide a safe, non-invasive and cost-effective way to track vascular health over time.


The traditional heart risk factors of blood pressure, diabetes or pre-diabetes, high cholesterol and tobacco can still misidentify your risk. Especially if you have a family history of premature artery disease such as heart attack, peripheral vascular disease or stroke.

Health challenges such as obesity, sleep apnea, hormone imbalance (including thyroid), autoimmune disease, toxins, stress, steroid use and depression can all increase heart and stroke risk. If you had high blood pressure or blood sugar problems during pregnancy, you would benefit from monitoring your risk factors closely to reduce future risk. Also, men with erectile dysfunction should consider checking their vascular health with CIMT.

Some additional cardiac health factors to consider:

  •                 How healthy is your diet?
  •                 Do you exercise regularly?
  •                Is your body at a healthy weight and body composition?
  •                 Are you stressed?
  •                 Do you snore?
  •                 Are your teeth and gums healthy?


• Discuss the results with your health care provide. This is very important so your personal medical condition can be considered.

• Tracking blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol are critical. There are also advanced blood tests that can help uncover special risk factors

• Lifestyle factors can greatly impact your heart health. While lifestyle improvements will not create instant change there are many things you can do to reduce risk in the long term. Eliminating any tobacco use is critical.

If you are interested in a unique cardiac screening we offer several options to help reduce risk factors as well as educate and empower you to be at your healthiest.

For more information or to schedule a CIMT contact our office at 517-324-9400 or visit our website.

Dr. Alicia Williams is a Board Certified Cardiologist specializing in Integrative Cardiology.

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Are you tired more than you would like to be?

I hear this often from many patients that come to see me. Many times they are worried and also ask, “Is my heart okay?” The Human heart beats around 100,000 times in a single day. So, if someone lives up to 70 years, his or her heart will beat for 2.5 billion times. The heart pumps the blood and sends it to different tissues and organs in our body through 60,000 miles of blood vessels! The heart supplies itself its own blood supply. When the heart pumps it fills the arteries that surround the heart called the coronary arteries. That alone is enough to make you tired. Our heart requires a large amount of energy and if we do not provide our bodies enough healthy fuel, we run the risk of heart disease. If we at least supply the body some basic requirements we can make a big difference in heart health. Dr. Dean Ornish, a leader in Preventative Cardiology, outlines basic requirements that appear to be critical for preventing and reversing heart disease. More vegetables, stress reduction, increased movement, quit smoking, and LOVE MORE are at the core of his reversal of heart disease program. If you have concerns about your heart risk we can help you. You want your heart to be strong and happy and so do we!

Dr. Alicia Williams is a Board Certified Cardiologist specializing in Integrative Cardiology. For more information visit our website.

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EVENT- CFOH Open House

Click HERE to RSVP today!

Join us as we open our office for an evening of fun! Meet our practitioners, learn about services offered, and enter to win great prizes. Take a tour of the office, sample products and services, and enjoy snacks and beverages.

There will be something for everyone, whether you’re a seasoned CFOH patient or you’re brand new to us!

Thursday, October 25th 5:30 to 7:30 PM
at The Center for Optimal Health
1520 Ramblewood Drive
East Lansing, MI 48823


Dr. David Pawsat
Dr. Christine Blakeney
Dr. Alicia Williams, Integrative Cardiologist
Integrated Health- Renee Hubbs, Acupuncturist
Mid Michigan Pedorthic Clinic- Keela Yount, Pedorthist
Radiance Skin Studio- Tammy Kosnik, Esthetician
Rachel Redmond, Ayurveda Practitioner and Acupuncturist

This event is free and open to the public.

Click HERE to RSVP today!

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EVENT – Healing Spices for Weight Loss

Call the office at (517) 324-9400 to RSVP.
Healing Spices for Weight Loss
Free Workshop!

The Center for Optimal Health
1520 Ramblewood Dr., East Lansing

Thursday, September 28th, 5:30-6:30pm

What you’ll learn:
How to increase your metabolism with spices
5 (or 10!) spices that aid digestion, clear toxins from the body and promote weight loss
How to easily add spice into your daily diet

Rachel E Redmond, Acupuncturist and Ayurvedic Practitioner

Call the office at (517) 324-9400 to RSVP.

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When we witness such tragic events like the human and animal suffering in Texas we obviously want to help, but at a distance it is easy to feel overwhelmed and ineffective. One of the biggest stress-inducing challenges we face is the overwhelming amount of information from TV, news outlets and social media. It seems like the world is in constant chaos. We need information, but when the information goes past being a wave and turns to a Tsunami, we need to pause and decide if this is immediately life-threatening, or just too much information.

How we deal with stress can be important for our day to day health, especially heart health. Stress affects our blood pressure, sleep, daily habits and many other health issues. It greatly impacts our entire life and our relationships. Many symptoms can emerge; shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations and ongoing fatigue should be evaluated by a physician. When we become consumed with stress it goes beyond being helpful (escaping from a dangerous situation) to being potentially a chronic problem. With the development of more sensitive testing stress-induced heart attacks are diagnosed more often (even more often in women) and stress related disorders are rising in all age groups.

Stress will never go away but how we respond to it can be changed. If you’re feeling the effects of stress consider the following stress reducing techniques.

  • Turn off the TV, phone and social media
  • Spend time in a quiet space, in nature if possible.
  • Yoga, meditation, tai-chi, prayer or chanting, creating music, spending time with pets or other activities that bring you joy can allow the brain to “detach” from your usual routine.
  • Special techniques such as biofeedback, acupuncture, manual medicine, nutritional support, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) can also be very helpful.

If you’re suffering from symptoms of chronic stress it’s important to consult your physician. The Center for Optimal Health offers multiple options for stress management including NeurofeedbackOndamedAcupunctureOsteopathic Manipulative MedicineNutritional Support.

By allowing ourselves to relax we can better comfort those around us. If we learn to calm our stress, we can also offer our own positive solutions to the problems our world faces.

Written by Alicia Williams, D.O.

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CONVERSATIONS FOR THE HEART – What is a statin drug and do I need it?

Statin drugs are more than cholesterol lowering medications. They can also lower inflammation (irritation) in the body.
Statins are best used to reduce cardiovascular disease and mortality in those who are at high risk. Especially as a secondary prevention in people who have documented blood vessel disease. The ASTEROID trial showed shrinkage of plaque in arteries while on statin therapy. Examples of statin drugs include: atorvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin, simvastatin and pitavastatin.

Statins are standard of care for treatment of heart disease and other vascular disease such as stroke and peripheral vascular disease (poor blood flow in other arteries such as aorta, carotids and leg arteries). They have the most benefit in high risk groups with documented blood vessel disease, for prevention of a second event, and in people with very high cholesterol (LDL over 190) for primary prevention of heart disease. They are recommended for diabetics age 40-75 with LDL cholesterol of 70-190 mg/dl because of the high risk of heart and blood vessel disease in diabetes.
There is controversy using statins when trying to prevent vascular disease in the first place. The balance of benefit and risk should be discussed with your health care provider.
There can be side effects with statin use. For example, statins can cause muscle pain (myalgia) and, although rare, inflammation of muscles (myositis). This can result in decreased exercise tolerance and possibly impact the health of the spine because of muscle weakness in the back. There can be increased risk of developing diabetes, especially in women, which may be dose related. Liver function should also be monitored. Finally, there is a possibility of interactions with other medicines.
Other possible side-effects that have been reported can include effects on memory, headaches, neuropathy, sleep disturbance, sexual dysfunction, GI side-effects, and cataracts.
If someone is at high risk, the need for medication to prevent heart disease events often outweighs the chance of serious side effects. But it is critical to have good information before taking any medicine. If you start a medicine don’t forget that a healthy lifestyle and nutritional support are still very important.

Q: “WOW, this is a lot to take in, should I really take these medicines?”

A: These medicines are very important for people with high risk.
If you have had a heart event, stroke or have very high cholesterol, then you fall into the high-risk group.
If the medicine causes side-effects, there are options to use different statins, a different dosing regimen or combine with a different medicine. It is very important to discuss this with your doctor. Don’t just stop your medicines before talking with your doctor. If you are at high risk and stop your statin, you may be at higher risk for more events.

Q: “What if I haven’t had a heart event and my cholesterol is not that high. How do I know if I am potentially higher risk?”

A: There are different ways to calculate risk, all are an estimate. A famous one is the Framingham Risk Calculator which estimates a 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease. You can go on line and enter your gender, age, cholesterol level, blood pressure and smoking history and a score is produced. This is only a basic risk score and it can miss other factors that can lead to a heart attack such as irritation or Inflammation in body. A different scoring system may be more accurate. It is called a Coshec Risk Score* and this is recommended by Dr. Mark Houston. Dr. Houston is an expert in hypertension and has vast knowledge on the prevention and reversal of heart disease. Recommended reading by Dr. Houston: What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Heart Disease.

*COSHEC risk score includes age, tobacco use, blood pressure, cholesterol, height, creatinine (kidney function), homocysteine (a heart risk factor), prior heart attack or stroke, LVH (the thickness of the heart muscle), diabetes, elevated blood sugar (in a non-diabetic).

Q: “What if I have risk, but have bad side effects from Statins. Is there anything I can do to protect my arteries?”

A: Fortunately there are many factors that can help heart health. Lifestyle can make a HUGE difference. My favorite approach is applying Functional medicine. This involves a detailed, scientific look at the big picture as it relates to not only the heart, but the entire body. What we eat, how we move, sleep, what kind of stresses we are under can hopefully be modified to allow better health. Although procedures and some medicines can be potentially life-saving, we need to look at what the body truly needs.
We don’t need to give up on acute care medicine but we can try to reduce chronic problems by creating the proper environment for correcting the underlying concerns.

It should be noted that the Framingham Risk Calculator is a basic heart risk calculator. For a more complete heart health assessment contact The Center for Optimal Health to schedule an appointment (517) 324-9400.

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Considering Resilience – 10 week class at CFOH

Resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

How are the skills we learn and the choices we make promoting or discouraging our resilience?
It starts with energy. When we are always tired, just going through the motions, we are unlikely to think about such interesting concepts as resilience.

Let’s start with nutritional and hormonal balance. Do you have a sluggish thyroid? Hashimoto’s? Are you getting proper sleep? Do you have irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, reflux, leaky gut? Chronic joint pains? Fibromyalgia? Depression? Menopause symptoms? Poor ability to detoxify? Are you being prescribed several medications? Any of these many exhaust you and make you too tired to think about your long term goals.

During our twelve week class studying resilience we begin by learning how functional medicine enables us to improve energy at the cellular level. Topics include appetite control, anti-inflammatory diet, gut health, stress mechanisms and stress reduction techniques, hormones and their regulation, toxins and detoxification pathways, genes ,exercise choices.

We will then work on specific exercises that promote our communication skills and increase the well -being in ourselves, our families, and our communities.

January through March Dr. Blakeney will teach a weekly class in resilience at The Center for Optimal Health in East Lansing, Michigan on Wednesdays from 5:15 to 6:15PM. The is no cost for the 10 week course.

Call (517) 324-9400 with questions and to reserve your spot!

Written by Dr. Christine Blakeney.