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Understanding Diastolic Dysfunction and Natural Treatment Approaches

Relax. We know how important it is to rest. Relaxation resets our system, allowing us to have enough energy to go about our day. But did you know that the heart also relaxes? Between each beat of the heart, this muscle relaxes for just a moment. 

But what happens when the heart can’t relax fast enough? This condition is called diastolic dysfunction, and it’s estimated that over 50 percent of adults over 70 years old have it.

Left untreated, diastolic dysfunction can result in heart failure. However, despite what many people are told, there are effective ways to lower the risk of diastolic heart failure.

Understanding the cardiac cycle 

The heart is a muscle. It’s best described as a two-story home with four rooms called chambers. The upper level of this home has two rooms known as the atria. The bottom floor has two rooms known as the ventricles. 

The primary job of the heart is to send oxygenated blood throughout the body. Blood provides cells with oxygen and nutrients and removes carbon dioxide and waste. 

When the heart beats, the top two rooms of the heart (atria) squeeze and push blood into the lower rooms (ventricles). This period in which the heart muscle relaxes and the ventricles fill is called diastole. 

Once the ventricles are filled with blood, they squeeze, sending the blood to the arteries, where it is delivered to the rest of the body. This contraction is known as systole. 

Most people have heard of systole and diastole concerning their blood pressure. The pressure on the blood vessels increases when the heart pushes blood through the body during systole. This represents systolic blood pressure, or the top number of the blood pressure. Conversely, when the heart relaxes between beats and the ventricles refill with blood, the blood pressure drops. This represents diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number of a blood pressure reading.

Historically, systole was considered the working part of the cardiac cycle, while diastole was the resting phase. However, science now shows that diastole is not passive. In fact, it’s a complex energy-requiring process. 

What is diastolic dysfunction?

When the heart is healthy, contracting and relaxing as expected, the body receives the oxygen it needs to function at optimum capacity. However, in some circumstances, the heart’s lower chambers become less elastic and more rigid. 

Stiff ventricles are unable to fully relax during diastole. As a result, they can not fill completely, reducing the amount of blood pumped to the rest of the body. This inflexibility of the heart and the resulting poorly-filled ventricles is called diastolic dysfunction. 

Diastolic dysfunction is often graded, levels 1 thru 4. Grade 1 diastolic dysfunction is the least severe, most common, and most easily reversible.

Is it dangerous? 

Although diastolic dysfunction may not produce immediate symptoms, it tends to progress over time. If left untreated, it is incredibly dangerous and even life-threatening.

As the heart’s top chambers try unsuccessfully to pump blood into the ventricles, pressure may begin to build. As a result, fluid begins to back into the lungs or blood vessels, eventually producing pulmonary congestion and fluid in the legs and abdomen. At this point, a person is typically diagnosed with diastolic heart failure, also referred to as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.

According to studies, individuals with diastolic dysfunction have a much higher risk of death, even if the systolic function is normal and the heart is otherwise healthy. 

What are the symptoms of diastolic dysfunction?

One of the reasons that diastolic dysfunction is so dangerous is that it often doesn’t produce symptoms until the disease is advanced. Once symptoms develop, a person is typically in diastolic heart failure. 

Individuals with diastolic dysfunction may notice a gradual decrease in energy and exercise capacity. Once diastolic dysfunction is advanced, the primary symptom is shortness of breath, or dyspnea. Frequently, dyspnea associated with diastolic dysfunction comes on quickly and is severe in nature. Other symptoms of diastolic dysfunction may include: 

  • Labored breathing during exercise 
  • Difficulty breathing when sleeping or lying down
  • Chronic cough
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Weight gain
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, abdomen
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat

How do I know if I have diastolic dysfunction?

Doctors typically diagnose diastolic dysfunction is typically through an ultrasound of the heart called an echocardiogram. This non-invasive test can indicate how well the heart muscle is functioning. It can also measure diastolic relaxation and the extent of ventricle stiffness. 

Blood work can also help detect problems related to diastolic dysfunction. For example, B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) is sometimes elevated in those with diastolic dysfunction. This is because the heart typically releases BNP in response to elevated pressure in the heart. 

A BNP only gives a small glimpse into the health of the heart, so it is best in conjunction with other blood work, such as our comprehensive health assessment testing (CHAT). Testing tells us the areas we need to fix in order to recover.

Who is most at risk for diastolic dysfunction? 

The heart becomes less efficient at relaxing as we get older. As a result, as we age, the risk of diastolic dysfunction increases, especially for women.  The number one cause of diastolic dysfunction is high blood pressure. Additionally, it’s more common in those with: 

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnea
  • Fatty liver disease
  • High cholesterol 

As with most cardiac-related conditions, diastolic dysfunction is often a result of an unhealthy lifestyle. In addition, diastolic dysfunction is a result of defective energy metabolism of the heart and increased oxidative stress. 

Diastolic dysfunction is more common in those who smoke, drink alcohol, or have poor lifestyle habits. Individuals with unhealthy diets and those with a sedentary lifestyle are at the highest risk of developing the condition. 

Can diastolic dysfunction be cured?

Most doctors will tell you that there is no treatment for diastolic dysfunction. After all, there are no current therapies effective in improving these patients’ outcomes. 

However, knowing that diastolic dysfunction is worse in those with high oxidative stress, it makes sense that reducing free radicals in the body may help to improve outcomes. 

The foundation of health starts with eating a whole-food-based organic diet, getting daily sun exposure, moving the body, and getting quality sleep. Next, address environmental pollutants and stress. Finally, get regular chiropractic adjustments to improve diastolic function. 

Many nutrients may help improve diastolic dysfunction, including: 

  • Magnesium

Magnesium is essential for proper heart function. Studies have found that oxidative stress impacts the mitochondria of heart cells and contributes to diastolic dysfunction. However, magnesium can negate those effects. For example, a recent study found that magnesium deficiency caused reversible diastolic cardiomyopathy associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. 

  • Potassium

Potassium is necessary for muscle contraction, including that of the heart. Studies have found that a high potassium diet helps the ventricles relax, thus warding off diastolic dysfunction. 

  • Omega 3s

Omega 3 fatty acids offer many protective benefits to the heart. They have been shown to reduce inflammation, lower triglycerides, and prevent blood clots. Moreover, studies have found that omega-3s may help improve diastolic function in patients with heart failure. 

  • CoQ10

CoQ10 is an antioxidant that the body produces naturally. It has been shown to improve cardiac health by lowering blood pressure, heart failure deaths, and heart attack risk. Multiple studies have found that this mitochondrial energizer reduces the risk of diastolic dysfunction and improves the heart’s pumping ability. 

Other helpful nutrients that help to improve diastolic function include berberine, curcumin, green tea extract, resveratrol, and silymarin.  You can find all of these ingredients combined in one supplement called OptiLipid

The Diastolic Dysfunction Supplement Plan 

To best optimize your left diastolic function, we’ve developed a supplement plan that covers all of your nutritional needs. If you are concerned about diastolic dysfunction and are looking for natural treatment options, consider adding the following to your daily regimen. 

SupplementDose
Daily Defense2 scoops daily
Magne 52 capsules twice daily
Potassium Boost1 tsp daily
CardiOmega1 capsule daily
Cardio CoQ101 capsule daily
OptiLipid2 capsules daily

Next steps

The scariest thing about diastolic dysfunction is that most people aren’t even aware that it exists. However, once symptoms develop, heart failure is often on the doorstep. If you are worried about how well your heart relaxes, consider a free consultation with one of our health coaches. Your 100 Year Heart may be just a phone call away.

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About Dr. Keith Smigiel NP, DC

Dr. Keith Smigiel

Dr. Keith Smigiel is a regenerative medicine physician and pain management specialist. He takes an integrative approach to medicine, focusing on customized solutions tailored to individual needs. Using advanced, non-surgical treatments, Dr. Smigiel stimulates your body’s ability to naturally heal itself.

Dr. Smigiel helps people suffering from conditions such as chronic pain and erectile dysfunction, to hair loss and weight gain. Combining treatments such as PRP Therapy, Ozone, Neural Prolotherapy, and IV Infusions with functional rehabilitation, he helps you look and feel better.

He heals the body, instead of just treating the symptoms!

With his professional qualifications as a certified family nurse practitioner, a doctor of chiropractic, and a fellow of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Smigiel offers patients comprehensive care from a broad perspective of conventional and alternative medicine. He also has extensive experience in functional rehabilitation and chronic pain management.

Dr. Smigiel is married to Angela and has two children, Sophia and Larz. When he’s not busy helping patients, he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, motocross, and boating.

About Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller is one of the nation’s leading heart rhythm specialists. Dr. Kneller is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Internal Medicine.

As a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society (FHRS) and Certified Cardiac Device Specialist (CCDS), Kneller provides comprehensive patient care, combining best medical practice with invasive procedures using state-of-the-art technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders.

Beyond guideline-directed therapies, Kneller is passionate about optimized personal health. With a deep interest in complimentary alternative medicine (CAM), he strives to reduce the need for pharmaceuticals, invasive procedures, and exposure to harmful radiation. With Natural Heart Doctor, he strives to help each and every client to Live Well, Eat Well, and Think Well to attain their 100-year heart!

About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

Dr. Lattanza Office Visit with Patient

As a Naturopathic Physician, I am trained to treat the whole person and get to the root cause of disease.

I went to Arizona State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a depth in physiology and minor in Spanish. After my undergraduate degree I was working on prerequisite classes towards medical school, which is when I came to learn that my values identified best with the principles of naturopathic medicine. I knew that I wanted to help patients identify the causes of disease and be able to offer treatments which would improve their health rather than simply treating symptoms.

I dedicated the next 4 years to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona where I attained my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. I served as Class President all 4 years, Board of Trustees – Student Trustee, spoke as the Club President for our branch of Toastmasters, and was voted by my peers and attending physicians to earn the Outstanding Leadership Award for the Class of 2020. Throughout medical school I took it upon myself to work alongside MDs, DOs, chiropractors, and functional medicine practitioners in addition to naturopathic physicians.

As a Spanish speaking student, I was able to volunteer with community clinics around Phoenix and provide free healthcare to low-income families. Due to this combined exposure, I came to find my passion in treating cardiometabolic and digestive disorders that are all too common, yet largely preventable. I took the opportunity to learn the broad spectrum of healthcare so I can ensure that I am able to provide my patients with the best options.

About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

Dr. Wolfson Office Visit with Patient

Dr. Jack Wolfson is a board-certified cardiologist, Amazon best-selling author, husband, father, and the nation’s #1 Natural Heart Doctor.

For more than two decades, more than one million people have enjoyed the warmth, compassion, and transformational power of his natural heart health courses and events.

Dr. Wolfson is the founder of Natural Heart Doctor Scottsdale, his heart health practice in Arizona, and Natural Heart Doctor, an online resource center with natural health information. Doctors from across the globe reach out to Dr. Wolfson for training and education in holistic health practices.

He has been named one of America’s Top Functional Medicine Doctors and is a five-time winner of the Natural Choice Awards as a holistic M.D. Dr. Wolfson’s work has been covered by more than 100 media outlets, including NBC, CNN, and the Washington Post. His book “The Paleo Cardiologist: The Natural Way to Heart Health” was an Amazon #1 best-seller.

Dr. Wolfson and his wife Heather have four children and are committed to making the world a better place to live. They provide for those in need (including animals) and support natural health causes through their philanthropic efforts.

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Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

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We use specially formulated natural vitamins and minerals that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. Ideal for people in Arizona.

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Stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being with acupuncture at Natural Heart Doctor.

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Our health coaches use evidence based skillful conversation, clinical interventions, and strategies to engage you actively and safely in health behavior changes.

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We use the most advanced testing in the world to assess heart health and to identify the root cause of your health issues.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.