Cardiovascular disease is defined as disease of the heart and/or blood vessels.
One in three people die of cardiovascular disease worldwide and it is still the number one(heart) and third(stroke) causes of death in the United States. In children under 15 years of age cardiovascular disease ranks as the second cause of death after accidents. Today one in three people has some form of cardiovascular disease.
Heart disease kills more women than men in the United States. Cardiovascular disease of all forms killed 419,730 women in 2008, while all forms of cancer combined killed 270,210 that year. (1) Women over 40 are generally careful about having their annual mammograms and pap smears but how many of you are having your heart disease risk evaluated each year? Cardiovascular disease kills 10 times more women than breast cancer each year in the US(1).
Heart Attack Symptoms
Men typically experience the classic signs and symptoms of heart attack with crushing left sided chest pain that radiates to the left arm or jaw.
However, women commonly report weakness or fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, nausea or vomiting, and palpitations. At least 40% of women have no chest pain. They may have upper back, neck, shoulder or abdominal discomfort.
If I have healthy cholesterol numbers and normal blood pressure am I still at risk for cardiovascular disease?
Yes you are! More than 50% of heart attack victims have what is considered to be “normal” cholesterol numbers and may or may not be taking statin drugs. Blood pressure elevations is commonly a mid to late stage indicator of issues of your blood vessels rather than an early marker.
What testing do you do to assess if I’m at risk for cardiovascular disease?
A naturopathic doctor advocate more in depth testing than monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure to assess your risk of cardiovascular disease. Clearly obesity, smoking, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise are all independent risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In addition, there are tests for inflammatory markers, clotting factors, oxidation, genetic predisposition, hormones, nutrient deficiencies, glucose, and your LDL and HDL particle size to determine if you are at increased risk.
For patients with high cardiovascular disease risk, are often referred to cardiology specialists for further evaluation and intervention. However, the reversal of cardiovascular disease is a healthy lifestyle as proven by Dean Ornish, M.D. and other leading cardiologists who emphasize diet and lifestyle therapies similar to what we recommend. Please watch the movie FORKS OVER KNIVES to be convinced!
What kind of treatments do you prescribe to reverse my risk for cardiovascular disease?
The foundation for all good health is an anti-inflammatory diet, appropriate exercise and rest. A ND will look at each of your individual risk factors for cardiovascular disease assessed from the above testing and make supplement and plant medicine prescriptions based on your specific needs.
What are some nutrient deficiencies that predispose me to increased cardiovascular disease risk?
Vitamin K2 is an important nutrient necessary to prevent chronic inflammation, osteoporosis and arterial calcification. Many patients are told to avoid leafy green vegetables which are high in Vitamin K1 if they are taking Coumadin to prevent clotting. Vitamin K2 can be eaten in egg yolks, organ meats and cheese and dairy products.
The B vitamins, vitamin C and D3 are important for preventing endothelial damage from scarring and inflammation. Omega 3 fatty acids have also been shown to prevent plaque formation.
Plant compounds in berries, cherries, pomegranate and green tea all protect the endothelial cells from inflammation. Garlic helps to reduce oxidation of LDL which promotes inflammation.
How does hormone optimization protect me from cardiovascular disease?
Women in menopause and men with low testosterone(2) and elevated estradiol are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease because low levels of sex hormones are associated with less removal of cholesterol from arterial walls. As mentioned above women are more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than men after age 40.(1)
Adrenal and thyroid hormone optimization are necessary as well to prevent plaque formation. A study in 2010 showed women with very low DHEA levels had twice as much risk of dying of coronary artery disease than women with high levels. (3)
The beauty of naturopathic clinical practice is we integrate all these risk factors and therapies when evaluating and treating our patients. Contact a licensed ND for your cardiovascular disease risk assessment and personalized treatment plan to prevent these primary causes of mortality in the United States.