“What’s your hidden heart attack risk? The Bale/Doneen Method gets to the heart of the matter”

In Non-fiction on August 13, 2013 at 7:40 am


Written by Alex Ashley

“The current standard of care assumes that if your blood pressure and cholesterol are okay, then you’re fine,” explains Amy Doneen, medical director for the Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention Center in Spokane.  “And if and when something does happen, then the patient is treated and they launch a ton of resources.  What I do is different.”

Doneen’s business cards and informative literature sport an eye-catching subtitle: “Breaking ground with the Bale/Doneen Method.” And for good reason.  Everything about her approach to heart health, it might seem, laughs in the face of the current standard of care you would likely receive through our current healthcare system, founded on what she calls an “end-stage disease paradigm.”

The Current Standard of Care

 “It’s set up to treat after there’s been an event,” she explains.  “It’s set up to rescue a patient, rather than to educate and prevent.”

Doneen cites the June 19 death of famed Sopranos actor, James Gandolfini, as a perfect example.  He died of a heart attack while on a vacation to Italy.  “Here’s a man,” she says, “who had no idea what his chances were for being the victim of a heart attack, or of cardiac arrest, and then suddenly he was dead.  My job is to prevent that from happening before a patient even realizes it could happen.”

Doneen is certainly qualified for the job.

Her C.V. is salted and peppered with honors, recognition and published work—all in the name of the work she admires: Preventative medicine.

“I was working on my dissertation in school, and I was struck by the topic of heart attacks in women, and how the topic was so overlooked and being missed,” she says.  “That discovery sort of led me into this field of study and practice.”

Her interest in preventative medicine didn’t stop at a dissertation.  She went on to team up with Dr. Bradley Field Bale, a renowned heart attack and stroke prevention specialist, and together they eventually founded the Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention Center in Spokane, Washington.  The entire clinic is based around the “Bale-Doneen Method,” a world-renowned methodology for preventing vascular disease.  

Segregating the Body

One of the approaches that makes the Bale-Doneen methodology so successful, Amy says, is viewing the human body for what it is: a body.  “The current medical system segregates the body.  So you have a specialist for the nose, a specialist for the feet, a specialist for the eyes, and so on,” she explains.  “My specialty is the circulatory system, all the little cardiovascular pathways that connect throughout the body.”

A problem occurs, however, when medical professionals fail to discern how one part of the body may be affecting another.

“Part of how I work,” she continues, “is that I lay all the pieces of the puzzle out on the table.  Then, I begin to see how they do or do not fit together.  I look for untreated risk factors that the standard healthcare system is not set up to address.”

She cites the example of oral hygiene and health.

“What if a patient has a periodontal infection [an infection of the gums]? It may not even be something you can see, yet such an infection can cover a space the size of the palm of your hand, without you even being able to necessarily see it.  That sort of infection can actually lead to the development of a vascular disease.”

At the Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention Center, Doneen runs test after test, covering all the bases.  She does an extensive laboratory analysis; she analyses the genetics of a patient; she looks for hidden vascular disease in the walls of the arteries.

She says: “It’s important to put all the chips on the table, and ask ‘what is the best possible course of action to take.’”

Knowledge is Power

Another key ingredient to the Bale-Doneen recipe is focusing on education.  “Knowledge is power,” Amy says.  “There’s a lot to misunderstand about vascular disease, so people need to be educated.”

In line with that, Dr. Bale and Amy Doneen have developed and implemented education programs for both the public and the medical community that they hope will increase awareness in the area of vascular disease, as well as give healthcare providers a level of continuing education on how to identify and treat it.

“Patients don’t always realize it,” Doneen explains, “but they are capable of making educated decisions regarding their healthcare.  But they need to be educated.  They need to have a knowledge, for example, of how lifestyle choices affect vascular inflammation.”

Aside from educating the public, Bale and Doneen both sport impressive resumes as public speakers and lecturers, traveling the world to present their methodology to healthcare professionals, giving countless talks on their subject of expertise.

“They’re working within guidelines that are usually 20 years behind the research available,” admits Doneen.  “It takes time for evidence to mount up that will eventually prompt a revision in the system of how things are done…” Still, the practices of individual doctors and healthcare providers are benefiting from Bale and Doneen’s method of healthcare.  

The Road Ahead

In addition to the already impressive accomplishments behind them, Bale and Doneen have many exciting medical ventures ahead, including the release of a book, which they co-wrote together, entitled: “Beat the Heart Attack Gene.” It will be released in January 2014.

“And I want to keep helping people, and educating people about the subject,” Doneen says.

And, when asked what, if anything, in particular she would like people to know, she replies…

“People need to know it is their responsibility to seek out prevention, even if it isn’t covered by their insurance.  It’s a couple hundred bucks to help prevent an attack, versus a couple thousand bucks to recover from an attack.

“Also,” she says, “a lot of people are misinformed that vascular disease is ‘a normal stage of aging.’ The truth is, there is nothing normal about it.  There is nothing okay about it.  Not everyone has it, and nobody should have it.”

She also says gives a word of caution.

“People also need to realize that prevention is for everybody.  Vascular disease is not choosy about who it selects as its victims.  My oldest patient at the clinic is 97 years-old.  My youngest patient is 19.  It could be someone who’s morbidly obese, or someone who just ran the Iron Man competition.  They could both be at risk.  That’s why preventative medicine and research is so important.”

But Doneen, in light of the all of her with, and that of her colleague, Dr. Bale, sums it all up in a single thought.

“If I’m doing my job right,” she says, “you won’t know that you ever needed me.”

Published: Spokane Prime magazine, August-September 2013.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: