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Natural Awakenings Oklahoma

Functional Medicine and Heart Health with Dr. Michelle McElroy

Feb 01, 2022 10:09PM ● By Shanna Warner

Functional Medicine and Heart Health with Dr. Michelle McElroy


by Shanna Warner

Aging Gracefully was founded more than 15 years ago by Dr. Michelle McElroy, an OB/GYN and functional medicine physician with more than 20 years of medical experience. McElroy is passionate about finding the root causes of disease and offering solutions for her patients. She answered several questions about heart issues, motivation, exercise and simple changes for a healthier life. 

Let's talk about heart health. What are some of your best tips for keeping it healthy?
The heart is a muscle. It needs to be worked out just like your other muscles. Do some aerobic exercise that raises the heart rate and increases your breathing, 35 to 45 minutes, three to five times per week. Take pharmaceutical-grade fish oil daily. Don't smoke or take drugs, and use alcohol and caffeine in moderation.

When we talk about “root causes” of heart problems, what are some of the issues that you see that can lead to heart problems?
Smoking is the number one cause of heart disease. It is sugar that raises cholesterol and changes the cholesterol from big and buoyant to small and dense, which causes damage to the blood vessels. Elevated homocysteine causes damage to the blood vessels. You can have your doctor draw this with your blood work. It is not covered by Medicare, but most other insurances will cover it. And a sedentary lifestyle is just as bad as smoking.

We know that high blood pressure can contribute not just to heart problems, but also strokes. Are there natural ways to reduce blood pressure?
Exercise; low carb/high good-fat, plant-based diet; magnesium; garlic and nitric oxide-boosting supplements. 

How much does diet play into blood cholesterol issues? Can you really make your blood healthier by eating healthier? 
Diet plays a huge role in blood cholesterol, but not the way most people think. It is sugar, not dietary cholesterol or saturated fat, that raises cholesterol. High fructose corn syrup raises triglycerides and can lead to fatty liver. High cholesterol is a lab result, not a diagnosis, and it is not the cause of heart disease. Heart disease and clogged arteries are caused by inflammation, sugar and oxidation. 

What role do hormones play in the heart and overall health? 
Numerous studies show that estradiol improves cardiovascular health by lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol.

We know that exercise and staying active matter. How do you keep your patients motivated?
I have my patients pick an exercise that they enjoy. You can't stay motivated if you hate what you are doing. You also need to set reasonable goals. You are not going to see immediate results from just about anything. Give yourself at least two months to see results. Start slow, listen to your body and increase intensity and duration of exercise when you are ready.

What do you think is a good target goal for exercise for someone that has never exercised before? Do you think there is one exercise that is better than another?
The best exercise is the one you will do! Start slow, maybe 10 minutes a couple of times per week. Then work up to 35 to 45 minutes, four or five times per week.

How much water do we really need to drink each day? What about tea and coffee—they are liquids, so do they count as water?
Humans are approximately 60 percent water, and you need to drink one-half to one ounce per pound of body weight daily. If you drink eight ounces of a caffeinated beverage, you need to drink 16 ounces of water to counteract the diuretic effect. Eat and drink to live; don’t live to eat and drink. Also, make sure you are drinking filtered water and not out of plastic.

We know that mental attitude matters in overall health, too. How do you stay positive during the challenges of life and what do you recommend your patients do?
To stay positive I list things that I am grateful for. It is very hard to be depressed or down when you are grateful. I also pray when things aren't going my way. I recommend my patients keep a daily gratitude journal. I also recommend they write down their goals for wanting to be healthier. The more specific you can be about the goal, the easier it will be to obtain. 

When you’re targeting root causes of disease, are there simple ways to make big changes?
Make small changes first. Make sure you are drinking clean water—nothing out of plastic; move every day; add one more fruit or vegetable to your day; cut out one soda a day; eat all of your food in a 10-hour window; get seven to eight hours of sleep and get all electronics out of your bedroom. Any one of these is a good place to start, then add more as you are ready.

Location: 715 W. Main St., Ste. K, Jenks. For more information and to schedule a free discovery call, visit

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