Graham Beaton BHSc, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death amongst Canadians, being responsible for over 74,000 deaths in 2002. In Canada in 2002, 32% of male deaths and 34% of female deaths were attributed to cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease, diseases of the blood vessels and stroke. There are many simple and effective steps that can be taken in order to reduce your risk and promote cardiovascular health. This article will detail the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and will outline the approach of the Doctors of Naturopathic Medicine at the Rosedale Natural Health Clinic for treating and preventing cardiovascular disease.

There are two sets of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, those that can be modified to reduce risk and those that cannot. Modifiable risk factors include high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, stress, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and being overweight. Non-modifiable risk factors include age, gender, ethnicity and family health history.

There are two main types of cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is known as the bad cholesterol since high levels of it promote a build-up of fatty plaques in the walls of your arteries. This build up of plaques, called atherosclerosis, impedes the normal blood flow thus increasing your risk of circulatory problems, heart disease and stroke. HDL is known as the good form of cholesterol because it helps to carry LDL cholesterol away from artery walls, preventing build-ups of fatty plaques, and reducing cardiovascular risk.

Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is a measure of the force of your blood against the walls of your arteries. It is characterized by two numbers, the top one that represents the amount of pressure caused by the contraction of your heart (termed systolic blood pressure) and the bottom number that reflects the remaining pressure when your heart is relaxed (termed diastolic blood pressure). Normally, blood pressure should be below 120/80 mm Hg. When blood pressure is elevated (called hypertension), damage occurs to the walls of the blood vessels causing scarring. Fatty plaques become deposited in these scars, leading to the narrowing of arteries and impairing normal blood flow. Furthermore, high blood pressure stresses the heart leading to its weakening, and it can cause blood vessels to burst. If this happens in the brain, it is called a stroke.

Diabetes is a condition where the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot effectively use the insulin that it produces. This causes sugar to build up in your blood, causing damage to the blood vessel walls and may lead to atherosclerosis.

High levels of stress and or prolonged periods of stress increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Those with high levels of stress may have increased cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, making them more prone to develop heart disease.

Smoking and exposure to second hand smoke have negative health effects, including increasing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Smoking contributes to the build-up of plaque in your arteries, increases the risk of blood clots, reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, and increases blood pressure.

Alcohol Intake
Drinking too much of any type of alcohol increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. It can raise blood pressure, and can raise triglyceride levels. Triglycerides, another type of fat found in your blood, contribute to cardiovascular disease if levels are too high.

Physical Inactivity
Physical inactivity and being overweight are major contributors to cardiovascular disease. By becoming more active and reducing your weight, you can reduce your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and help to prevent type II diabetes.

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors
Age, gender, family health history and ethnicity are all risk factors that you cannot control. As people age, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases. For men this happens after the age of 55 and after menopause for women. Having a close family member (parent, brother or sister) with cardiovascular disease also increases the risk. People of First Nations, African or South Asian descent are more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes, thus they are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

A proper assessment is necessary to identify and address cardiovascular disease and its underlying causes. In order to identify cardiovascular disease and its risk factors, a thorough case history is taken, and a detailed family health history is sought. A physical examination and laboratory tests are then completed in order to assist in diagnosis. Based on the information gathered, a safe, effective and comprehensive treatment plan is prepared which comprises a combination of dietary, supplement and lifestyle interventions. We also take measures to establish heart healthy behaviors in order to prevent the occurrence of future cardiovascular disease.

If you have any questions regarding our approach to cardiovascular disease, or how Naturopathic Medicine can help you, please give the Graham Beaton, Naturopathic Doctor a call at 613-290-6115.