Dr. Ailin Barseghian, a UCI specialist in preventive cardiology and integrative heart health
“It’s a whole-person approach,” says Dr. Ailin Barseghian, a UCI specialist in preventive cardiology and integrative heart health who will be seeing patients at UCI Health Newport Beach, opening in August. Steve Zylius / UCI

Your doctor diagnoses you with high blood pressure, orders various tests and sends you home with a prescription to keep it under control.

That’s the old-school model of a typical healthcare experience.

UCI Health, with its emphasis on evidence-based integrative health, is new-school, with world-class specialists who treat the immediate symptoms of heart disease and other conditions, as well as the mind and spirit of patients.

In addition to running traditional tests, integrative health doctors and nurses also conduct sophisticated diagnostic assessments and examine patients’ health history and lifestyle in depth – including diet, exercise habits and other factors – to devise a treatment plan.

“It’s a whole-person approach,” says Dr. Ailin Barseghian, who specializes in preventive cardiology and integrative heart health at UCI’s Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute.

An assistant clinical professor in the School of Medicine, she is one of many physicians who will be offering this integrative approach to wellness at UCI Health Newport Beach, a multispecialty medical office opening in August in the Newport Center business complex surrounding Fashion Island.

The emphasis on integrative health at the new clinic, located at 2161 San Joaquin Hills Road, is being spearheaded by UCI Health cardiologist Shaista Malik, executive director of the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute and founding associate vice chancellor for integrative health at UCI’s Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences.

UCI Health Newport Beach’s services will include integrative cardiology, gastroenterology, dermatology and pain management, along with such therapies as acupuncture, massage, naturopathic medicine, mindfulness and yoga.

Reducing risk factors

“With advanced testing and other supportive treatments,” Barseghian says, “we can personalize care for each individual and help reduce their risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”

To be sure, traditional cardiologists also recommend that patients improve their diets, exercise a certain number of times each week and make other lifestyle changes, she says, but “with integrative cardiology, we work as a team that includes an exercise specialist, a dietitian and other therapists to help guide people.”

With a patient who has high blood pressure, for example, the goal is to get to the root of the problem, Barseghian explains: “We assess nutrition and fitness, as well as sleep patterns and any possible stressors – such as whether someone is going through a divorce or a difficult time on the job – to see if there’s an underlying cause. We might also try acupuncture, which studies show can lower blood pressure if a regular regimen is maintained.”

What’s different about UCI Health Newport Beach, she adds, is that specialty care and most integrative health services are available in one location. The clinic is 7,000 square feet and will employ 13 non-provider staff members, with about five providers working each day.

“It’s certainly a unique resource in this area,” Barseghian says. “Some of these complementary therapies, like acupuncture, aren’t new. We’re just including them when it comes to assessing the overall health of our patients.”

Dedicated physicians

Barseghian, who graduated from New York Medical College, did most of her training at UCI. She completed an internal medicine residency and cardiovascular disease fellowship at UCI Medical Center, followed by a fellowship in interventional cardiology at Lenox Hill Heart and Vascular Institute in New York City.

She’s been on the faculty at UCI for five years and currently is seeing patients at the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute in Costa Mesa, UCI Health Tustin and the UCI Health Cardiovascular Center in Orange.

“When I did my general cardiology training here,” she says, “I linked up with Dr. Malik. She had already started the preventive cardiology program, and I focused my training on that. She was my mentor.”

Stress management, Barseghian notes, is an important element of integrative cardiology.

“For instance,” she says, “it’s not uncommon to see blood pressure or a heart rate change based on stressors, especially prolonged or situational stress. And those are hard to manage with traditional pharmaceutical therapy, because the stressor still can surpass the medication benefit. So the focus then becomes finding ways to manage that stress to avoid a surge in blood pressure.”

“I love my work,” Barseghian continues. “In medicine, the biggest drive is your connection with your patients and having the opportunity to help and guide them. As an interventional cardiologist, I put in stents and treat heart attacks, and I see the disease progression. Being able to concentrate on prevention from the integrative standpoint just gives me more tools beyond the traditional pharmacological one.”