Heart Health – A Naturopathic Doctor’s Approach

 

 

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 (Stats Canada, 2019) and the leading cause of death in America (CDC, 2019).

Heart disease involves plaque build-up and hardening of your coronary arteries (the arteries that supply blood to your heart muscle). There are 3 main risk factors for developing heart disease: hypertension, dyslipidemia/hyperlipidemia (elevated lipids- triglycerides and 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 calculation is recognizing the factors that contribute to your overall risk. These include your age, HDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, smoking status and diabetic status.

How can we do our best to improve the natural progression of aging and prevent heart disease? Reduce the risk factors involved!

All cholesterol “is bad” right? Wrong! The first impression most patients have about cholesterol is 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, 1 handful raw unsalted nuts (ideally almonds and walnuts) and omega-3 fatty acids (fish). LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and high blood pressure are improved by limiting animal products, processed foods and alcohol.

Smoking triples the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke in middle-aged men and women. Quitting is one of the best things you can do to prevent heart disease and stroke. Strategies to help you with this include: behaviour changes, addiction counselling, acupuncture and nervous system support.

Other risk factors not included in the FRS include being overweight/obese, inactivity and excess stress. Over 60% of Canadian adults are either overweight or obese. Being overweight can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Obesity can double your chance of heart disease. A modest weight reduction of as little as 5% of body weight can reduce your high blood pressure and total blood cholesterol. Even at a healthy weight, excess fat carried around the waist can increase your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and thus heart disease. People who are not active have double the risk of heart disease through increases in blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. Exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health.

Are there differences in risks for men and women? The average age for a first heart attack is 65 years of age in men, and 72 years of age in men. What is interesting is the women are at lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) up until MENOPAUSE. Once in menopause, the incidence of CVD is higher for women than men. In menopause there is a significant reduction in estradiol (a type of estrogen) produced from the ovaries. Estradiol has a protective effect on heart health- it keeps your vascular system relaxed and flexible, promoting optimal blood flow and keeping blood pressure down. It supports healthy cholesterol by lowering LDL and increasing HDL cholesterol and it modulates blood viscosity. Women at most risk are those with early menopause (before 45 years of age), those who have had complete hysterectomies (ovaries also removed), and women with premature ovarian failure. Estradiol replacement in these women up until natural menopause (around 50 years of age) has a protective effect on heart health.

What can you do? To reduce your risk of heart disease in order of priority includes smoking cessation, start exercising (ideally 20 min/day), lose weight, and reduce stress. Take advantage of professionals around you ie. guidance from a personal trainer, regular message therapy treatments for stress relief or an individualized treatment plan from a Naturopathic Doctor.

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!

 

Dr. Deanna Walker, ND
Naturopathic Doctor, Clinic Co-owner

 

 

Dr. Deanna focuses her practice on Hormone Optimization and has a special interest in conditions resulting from Hormone Imbalances and Menopause. She has clinical experience and success treating patients with irregular periods, PMS, acne, hot flashes, anxiety, depression, low libido, painful intercourse and vaginal dryness. She has seen first-hand how debilitating these symptoms can be for women and loves helping them gain back control of their lives.

Dr. Deanna has and continues to receive extensive training in Hormone Health including Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy and uses this often in practice. Her training involves understanding the complexity and interplay between sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone), adrenal hormones (DHEA and cortisol) and thyroid hormones (TSH, free T3 and free T4). She is also proficient in acupuncture, herbal medicine, clinical nutrition, lifestyle counselling and is a certified Intravenous (IV) Therapist.

Being a Naturopathic Doctor continues to be an educational journey that excites Deanna on a daily basis. She is passionate about educating and empowering others to improve their quality of life. She looks forward to the challenge of helping her patients overcome obstacles in achieving their life goals.

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