How is your heart beating these days? Do you get winded easily? If you could rate your heart health on a scale of 1-10, what would yours be? Second to cancer, heart disease is the leading cause of death in Canada. In 2013 it accounted for 20% of all known deaths. Heart disease involves plaque build up and hardening of your coronary arteries. How can we do our best to reduce the natural progression as we age and prevent heart disease? There are 3 main risk factors for developing heart disease: hypertension, dyslipidemia (elevated cholesterol) and diabetes. All 3 of these factors are influenced by lifestyle factors and genetics.
The tool I like to use with my patients is calculating their Framingham Risk Score. This is a tool to measure your 10-year risk of having a cardiovascular event (heart attack or stroke). What is useful in this exercise is seeing the factors that contribute most to your risk. This includes your age, your HDL cholesterol, your total cholesterol, your systolic blood pressure, if you are a smoker and if you have diabetes. It is helpful to see what you can influence in this list, particularly your HDL cholesterol.
The first impression most patients have about cholesterol is that “its bad” and that it should be as low as possible. But what many people do not know is that there are many different types of cholesterol and not all are “bad”. LDL cholesterol is our “bad” cholesterol and ideally you want this number to be low. HDL cholesterol is our “good” cholesterol. You want this cholesterol to be as high as possible.
How can we increase our HDL cholesterol you might ask? Some tips include regular exercise (ideally 20 min/day), 2 tbsp raw olive oil, raw unsalted nuts (ideally almonds and walnuts) and omega-3 fatty acids (fish). Hypertension and LDL cholesterol are most affected by inactivity and a diet high in animal products, processed foods and alcohol.
A Naturopathic Doctor can work with your Medical Doctor to optimize your heart health to ultimately increase your lifespan! Our recommendations can be done in conjunction with medications you may be on. If you would like your risk calculated and an individualized approach to improving your heart health, please book an initial consultation.
Let your heart beat a little better this year, we are here to help!
By Dr. Deanna Walker, ND