Who is the Culprit?

Believe it or not, cardiovascular disease is not only about cholesterol. It is actually about INFLAMMATION in the setting of cholesterol. 

Cholesterol is not water soluble and can’t move around the body freely, so it needs to be carried by proteins called lipoproteins. Low density lipoproteins (LDLs) carry cholesterol from your liver, where it’s made, to the parts of your body where it’s needed to do its work. High density lipoproteins (HDLs) carry cholesterol from cells and blood vessels that have used it in the periphery of your body, back to the liver for disposal. 

LDL cholesterol has gotten a bad rap, but actually LDL cholesterol itself is not always the problem. The real problem is what happens along with it: inflammation.

LDL cholesterol has an affinity for inflammation. If the endothelial (inner) lining of the blood vessel in any part of your body is inflamed, LDL cholesterol may attach to the inflamed blood vessel, enter under the lining, and begin to collect. When this happens, your immune system recognizes the cholesterol as a foreigner and launches an inflammatory response, sending immune cells to “eat” the cholesterol, leading to an even bigger inflammatory response. The cycle persists. Though this starts at a microscopic level, as plaque continues to grow, it may push into the blood vessel wall and may occlude blood flow. When this happens in the blood vessels that feed the heart, you start to experience coronary heart disease and the arteries of the heart cannot deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart. If the plaque becomes dislodged or ruptures, it can cause a blood clot which can cause blockage and even heart attack. 

The Functional Approach

Cardiovascular diseases are the #1 cause of death in the United States. We are losing hundreds of thousands of people a year to a preventable threat. The functional approach to cardiovascular health doesn’t aim at treating the symptoms, but strives to fix the problem at its root – inflammation.

Some inflammation is great. Acute inflammation is necessary for many functions in the body, including immune responses. But when inflammation gets out of control and becomes chronic, it becomes a problem that can lead to heart disease (as well as arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and many other conditions). Uncontrolled, chronic inflammation can be caused by an infinite number of insults to the body, such as:

  • High blood sugar
  • Stress (emotional or physical)
  • Poor sleep
  • A viral infection
  • Mycotoxin, mold
  • Immune dysfunction
  • Heavy metals, chemicals, toxins
  • Pro-inflammatory foods like simple sugars, enriched white flours, and fast foods

To think we can treat heart disease by lowering cholesterol or blood pressure with medication alone is a little like using only a bucket to bail water out of a sinking boat. You have to fix the hole in the boat! Taking a statin or blood pressure pill won’t change the reason you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure

At Functional Medicine of Idaho, we consider ourselves “inflam-ologists.” Our job is to get to the root of the inflammation. High blood pressure and high cholesterol don’t just happen out of the blue. They are signs of imbalance and underlying dysfunction that can often be fixed. 

How Can I Prevent or Reverse Cardiovascular Disease?

While genetics do contribute to coronary heart disease, there are many other factors completely within our control that can influence the risk of heart disease. Research shows lifestyle changes can be a more powerful intervention to prevent heart disease than medication.

Addressing and fixing the root causes of disease will benefit most chronic disease. These modifications will help you become more heart-healthy: 

  1. Eat a healthy, plant-rich diet. Eat 8 – 10 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables every day. Colorful produce contains disease-fighting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, fiber, and anti-inflammatory molecules. 
  2. Eat clean protein and eat healthy fats (avocados or extra virgin olive oil). 
  3. Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
  4. Eliminate hydrogenated oils and trans fats. Avoid all processed junk foods, process sugars, and sugary drinks, including diet sodas.
  5. Avoid or reduce alcohol.
  6. Move your body for 30 – 45 minutes, 6 days a week. Cardio and weight training exercises both have cardiac benefits.
  7. Manage your stress by using active relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, breathing, or whatever you enjoy doing. Using active relaxation techniques activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar, lower inflammation, and boost metabolism. 
  8. Sleep well. 

FMI is here to partner with you to get to the root cause of what is causing your inflammation. Click below to start the new patient process. 

Stephanie Ritari, PA-C

Stephanie Ritari is a board-certified Physician Assistant who offers primary care for adults at the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center. She specializes in Internal Medicine and has spent the majority of her career in the field of cardiovascular disorders.

Stephanie has more than 15 years experience as a Physician Assistant in a variety of medical areas, including cardiology and electrophysiology. Holistic practices have long been a part of Stephanie’s lifestyle, with a particular focus on clean living and nutrition. She has embedded functional principles into her conventional medicine practice throughout her career. After watching family members struggle to find answers for their chronic illnesses, Stephanie became more interested in finding ways to take a root cause approach in her own practice. Wanting to provide a proactive, comprehensive, and preventative scope of care for her patients, Stephanie began studying functional medicine. In 2021, she joined Functional Medicine of Idaho, where she is able to provide evidence based, root cause medicine.

Stephanie earned her Bachelor's of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Montana and her masters in Physician Assistant Studies from Rocky Mountain College. She is currently working towards her certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine. 

In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys spending time with her husband, son, and dog doing outdoor activities including biking, hiking, and skiing. She also loves interior design and traveling, and is hoping to start her own garden in the near future.

Dr. David Musnick, MD, IFMCP

David Musnick is a board-certified medical doctor who offers in-person and telemedicine care from the Functional Medicine of Idaho Eagle clinic (coming soon). Dr. Musnick offers Functional Medicine, Sports Medicine, Functional Immunology, and Primary Care for adults and teenagers. He specializes in sports medicine, internal medicine, frequency specific microcurrent (FSM), scars, homeopathy, prolotherapy, and low-level laser treatments. 

Dr. Musnick is interested in getting to the root of underlying causes and factors that affect healing, including diet, sleep, exercise, stress, GI health, brain region health, toxins, hormones, infections, and electromagnetic fields (EMF). In medical school, Dr. Musnick spent a year studying nutrition. He has always been interested in the complex interrelationships of different systems of the body. Taking on challenges in the past, he created new treatment programs to heal the brain after concussion, treat chronic pain, arthritis, and tough SIBO and IBS cases. Dr. Musnick wants to help his patients achieve the highest level of health, vitality and function. 

After his internal medicine residency in Seattle, Dr. Musnick completed a fellowship in sports medicine where he became interested in helping patients get back to optimal musculoskeletal health and eventually back to their favorite activities. He quickly learned that many areas of the body were interrelated and started learning more about nutrition, supplements, and other facets of functional medicine. Dr. Musnick has more than 24 years of experience in Functional Medicine and achieved a very high level of both experience and expertise with many health conditions. He is also the author of the book, Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness, and helped in writing textbook chapters on arthritis and concussions.

Dr. Musnick received his Doctorate of Medicine from the University of California, San Francisco. He is certified through the Institute for Functional Medicine as an IFMCP. He also studied in the French school of Homeopathy. He is uniquely rare in that he teaches Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM) and how to integrate it with functional medicine. 

In his spare time, Dr. Musnick enjoys hiking, nature photography, cooking healthy food, mountain biking, and skiing.

IFM Certified Practitioner

Aaron Dykstra, DNP, FNP-C

Aaron Dykstra is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. He offers pediatric primary care, including well-child checks and acute visits, in the Pediatric Department of the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center.

Functional and alternative therapies were a part of Aaron’s life from a young age, and he has implemented these principles into his conventional medicine practice throughout his career. Aaron has more than 8 years of experience in a variety of medical disciplines, including pediatrics, obstetrics, mental health, and nutrition. He has practiced in rural health clinics in California and Oregon. For the last 5 years, Aaron has had a passion for working with children and implementing positive change through the family unit. Aaron joined the Functional Medicine of Idaho Pediatric Team in 2021. His enthusiasm for educating children and parents about living a healthy lifestyle allows him to provide preventative and acute care for infants, children, and adolescents. 

Aaron obtained his Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Brigham Young University. He earned both his Master’s of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice through the University of Arizona. He has obtained a Family Herbalist and Family Nutritionist certifications through The School of Natural Healing by Dr. Christopher. He is currently working towards his certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Outside of work, you will find Aaron spending time with his wife and 5 kids, mountain biking, running, or camping in the backyard. Aaron is a big fan of Master Chef and enjoys cooking.

Nadia Kravchuk, DNP, FNP-C

Nadia Kravchuk is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. She offers functional pediatric primary care, including well-child checks and acute visits, in the Pediatric Department of the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center.

Nadia and her family immigrated to the United States in 1989 where they first settled in Oregon and then moved to Idaho in 2001. Complementary medicine practices were embedded into her lifestyle at a young age, and she has implemented these principles into her conventional medicine practice throughout her career. She has more than 15 years experience in a variety of medical environments, including emergency room, intensive care unit, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, family practice, and aesthetics.

Nadia joined Functional Medicine of Idaho so that she can combine functional principles with the foundations of conventional medicine to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. As an avid gardener, beekeeper, and sustainable living enthusiast, she understands the importance and role of optimizing nutrition, sleep, physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being. She has a passion for pediatric functional medicine and understands that early recognition and interventions can correct imbalances, prevent chronic illness, and improve overall outcomes for children.

Nadia obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Northwest Nazarene University. She earned both her Master’s of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice through Frontier Nursing University. In 2017, she was the recipient of the HCA Excellence in Nursing Award. She is currently working towards her certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Outside of work, you will find Nadia working on her urban homestead, hiking, foraging, camping, snowboarding, and spending time with her husband and her dog, Wolfy. She is also fluent in both English and Russian.