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  • Writer's pictureDr. Cassandra Paiano, ND

Heart Disease 101

Heart-related diseases are the second leading cause of death for both Canadian men and women. Heart-related disease includes coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease. What is coronary artery disease? Coronary artery disease (CAD) refers to the inflammation and build-up of fatty tissues along the inside of the coronary arteries. This build-up of fatty tissue, and inflammation contributes to narrowing of these arteries, which can decrease, or block the flow of blood to the heart. The coronary arteries deliver blood flow to the heart muscle. Therefore, a reduced flow of oxygen and nutrients can lead to a heart attack, and possibly death. Risk factors associated with CAD include the following:

  • Smoking

  • High LDL cholesterol

  • High triglycerides

  • High blood pressure

  • Physical inactivity

  • Obesity

  • Diabetes

Controlling risk factors is the key to preventing illness, and death from CAD.

Naturopathic medicine involves the practice of preventative medicine.

Here are some preventative measures that can be done by a naturopathic doctor, and can help to reduce and control risk factors associated with CAD.

1. Run a Lipid Panel 🫀

A lipid panel is a group of tests that measure the amount of cholesterol, and other fats in the blood.

Cholesterol and triglycerides are important for cell structure, cell signaling, and hormone production, however they can be harmful when they build up in the blood.

High levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), often referred to as the "bad" cholesterol can increase the risk of CAD because it promotes the build-up of plaque and inflammation within the coronary arteries.

High density lipoprotein (HDL) is associated with a reduced risk of CAD. It is often referred to as the "good" cholesterol, because it picks up cholesterol in the blood, and carries it to the liver to be excreted from the body.

2. Screen for Diabetes and Insulin Resistance 🍭

Diabetes, and unregulated blood sugar levels are associated with an increased risk of CAD. Chronic exposure of elevated blood sugar levels to the heart and arteries can cause damage to the coronary arteries.

Fasting glucose, fasting insulin, hemoglobin A1c and screening for insulin resistance are all routine tests that can be ordered by a naturopathic doctor. These tests provide important information that help to reduce and control the risks associated with CAD.

3. Blood Pressure Readings 💥

Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls generated with each heartbeat, as blood is pumped from the heart, into the blood vessels. The pressure is greatest when blood is pumped out of the heart, and into the arteries. The pressure is lowest when the heart relaxes - this is in between beats.

The top number, systolic pressure, is the pressure inside the artery when the heart contracts and pumps blood through the body. The bottom number, diastolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart is at rest, and is filling with blood.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure causes damage to the coronary arteries by decreasing elasticity of the vessels, and decreasing the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart.

A naturopathic doctor can perform the above diagnostic tests to identify, prevent and/or control the risk factors associated with CAD.

Due to the lack of associated symptoms, CAD is often referred to as the "silent killer".

It is always important to be proactive about your health, especially when it comes to heart health!

Working with a naturopathic doctor is a great place to start!


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