Profile Sameer Azhak, MD
Please describe your professional training. How did you develop your interest in integrating nutrition and lifestyle approaches into your professional work?
My professional training began in allopathic medicine, I am a graduate of Saint George’s University School of Medicine. I then went on to specialize in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Presently I am board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine. I am also board certified in Nuclear Cardiology by the Certification Board of Nuclear Cardiology. I developed my interest in integrating nutrition and lifestyle in my practice early on in my career as a cardiologist. Specifically to control blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose in patients who could not tolerate their prescription medications. Unfortunately in the allopathic world there is little access to this type of treatment and thus most of my expertise was self taught initially. The years following led to an increasing proportion of the work I do in this area followed by more researching the studies available in this field. My passion for lifestyle and nutritional therapies stems from my own issues with obesity as a child.
What is your current position or practice?
Currently I am an invasive cardiologist in private practice in the Northern New Jersey area. I work in a private practice with eight cardiologists and serve as the “preventionist” in our group and have developed a name for myself in the region as “the doctor who treats hypertension, cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, obesity etc. without medications. As such I have had increasingly more referrals to me for this type of treatment, including from primary care physicians in the area.
If not mentioned above, how do you integrate nutrition and lifestyle teaching into your clinical work?
Presently I integrate lifestyle and nutrition into my clinical practice on a case by case basis. That is, each individual patient is assessed as to their readiness for change and with each successive visit they are educated more as to harmful effects of processed foods, excess consumption of animal products, dairy foods, high glycemic index foods, etc. As I have been successful in educating patients about these issues they have become more willing and accepting of true prevention by achieving nutritional excellence in their diets. Accordingly, scores of patients have been able to successfully wean down doses of their medications and eventually eliminate some medicines altogether. Although I do not follow any particular school of thought, I am well versed in the principles found in many landmark books and studies such as those of Drs Campbell, Essylstyn, Furhman, Weill, Barnard and Ornish to name a few.
How did you change your own diet and lifestyle, and over what time period?
My own lifestyle changes have also be a slow and ongoing process. Beginning from my early twenties when “carbs” were labeled as bad and the “atkins Diet” seemed to be a panacea and finally to the here and now where there is undeniable evidence that a whole foods plant based type of diet is the direction of the future. As such, I have been successful in treating my own issues such as hypertension, sleep apnea and hypercholesterolemia which are now all controlled without medications and without continuous positive airway pressure. I have successfully lost over 100lbs and continue to lose as I work towards my own personal goal weight as well.
What were the greatest challenges in creating your current position and what were the most helpful resources you used to overcome these challenges?
The greatest challenges in my current position were mainly lack of access to studies about nutritional therapy in the major medical journals of the allopathic arena. This challenge forced me to look elsewhere for the evidence based data to support the therapies I provide as well as the education I offer to my patients. As such I attend conferences that focus on control of risk factors for heart disease from a prevention standpoint such as the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine’s Annual Nutritional Health Conference which I attend regularly.
Without needing to give specific financials, would you characterize your current compensation from this work as providing the financial equivalent of a ‘side job’, full time job, or several full time jobs?
The work described above comprises a significant portion of the work I do on a daily basis. In my clinical practice I see cardiac patients in the hospital and office.
What advice would you give to other clinical professionals hoping to integrate nutrition or lifestyle into their career?
My best advice I can offer to other clinical professionals is to educate your patients. Treatment begins with knowledge. The time spent educating them will pay dividends in their health in the future. It can begin as simply as planting the seed of an idea in the mind of a patient not yet ready for change. Welcome challenges to current thinking thus we may all reach a higher level of understanding of disease processes.
Can individuals reading this practice profile contact you for more information? If so, what is the best way for them to do that?
Yes, I can be contacted through the website www.advancedcardiologypractice.com
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