Holistic approach to heart health a breath of fresh air

Feb 1,2012
Integrative medicine — defined as combining conventional medical care with complementary therapies for which there is demonstrated safety and effectiveness — has made its way into the healthcare mainstream. Patients have become increasingly interested in exploring additional options for prevention and treatment of medical conditions.

Samaritan Health Services is part of this trend. In recent years, Heartspring Wellness Center — Samaritan’s integrative medicine outpatient clinic — has enjoyed rapid growth. With locations in Albany and Corvallis, Heartspring offers numerous services —including primary care, acupuncture, massage therapy,counseling, naturopathic medicine and more.

Now, integrative medicine is making its way into another specialty at SHS — cardiology care within the Samaritan Heart & Vascular Institute. Elizabeth Monson, ANP, was hired in 2010, bringing with hera background in integrative medicine. With a master’s degree in Applied Healing Arts (in addition to her education as a nurse practitioner), she was responsible for the development of integrative medicine training and treatment programs at the University of Maryland Medical Center.When she was hired by the Samaritan Heart & Vascular Institute, there was shared interest in her applying those skills in Corvallis.

“I was really pleased that Samaritan was open to using integrative approaches in the care of heart patients,” said Monson. “I think there’s a profound benefit to patients when a multitude of healing approaches can be utilized.”

Elinor DeSosa, 79, is using — and enjoying — Monson’s holistic approach. After suffering a stroke in 2008, DeSosa has had increasing trouble with shortness of breath.

“I’ve seen a number of doctors and had many tests and there have been no answers as to why I have so much trouble breathing,” explained DeSosa, who lives in Otter Rock. “It’s been very frustrating.”

In 2011, DeSosa was referred to an electrophysiologist at Samaritan’s Heart & Vascular Institute for treatment of atrial fibrillation, hoping the cure of that condition would alleviate her breathing difficulties. After the procedure, which restored a normal heart rhythm but did not improve her breathing, DeSosa scheduled an appointmentwith Monson to discuss her condition.

“The first thing I did was to go over all her medical records and explore a couple of additional tests,” said Monson. “I asked her if she was open to using complementary therapies to address her symptoms and she was immediately interested.”

Monson performed clinical acupressure on DeSosa, focusing on the heart and lung meridians by pressing certain points on the body to stimulate and restore the movement of energy through these organs.

She also used Reiki, a therapy that creates healing fields in and around the body through the use of low-frequency electromagneticwaves emitted through the hands.

“I noticed that her breathing became deeper and more relaxed, and that the color improved in her face,” said Monson of DeSosa’s first treatment.“I then taught Elinor self-acupressure and breathing techniques so that she could assist with her own healing process at home.”

Monson also recommended DeSosa try yoga, which she says can improve wellness for just about anyone.

“Yoga and other movement therapies such as Tai Chi and Qigong can be really helpful to reduce stress, improve circulation, and has even been shown to lower blood pressure. These therapies benefit most individuals because they also work to restore energy flow within the body.”

For DeSosa, the ultimate goal is to breathe normally again and get back to her other wise good health. “This is the first time in years I’ve felt like I’m improving. I’m looking forward to working more with Liz to find a long-term solution.”

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