Have you ever questioned why the number of people suffering with cardiovascular disease is rising?
There are a magnitude of potential causes, and everyones causes are generally different.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a collective term for diseases of the heart and blood vessels, mainly including coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure/cardiomyopathy. There are many factors that may contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, including:
- Smoking and binge drinking
- Lack of exercise
- A diet rich in refined carbohydrates/sugars and unhealthy fats
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Poor liver excretion of fats
- Diabetes and gall bladder disease
- Family history (genetics)
Two of the main disease processes involved in the development and progression of CVD are atherosclerosis and dyslipidaemia.
Atherosclerosis is the hardening and/or narrowing of the arteries due to a build up of plaque (made up of cholesterol, fat, calcium and other substances) inside the arteries. Because arteries carry blood to the heart (and other areas of the body), the build up of plaque in the arteries reduces the flow of blood, which can eventually result in stroke or heart attack. Depending on which arteries are affected, various diseases can develop as a result of atherosclerosis. For example, Coronary Heart Disease is due to plaque build up on the coronary arteries, which reduces blood flow to the heart muscle.
Dyslipidamia is an imbalance of lipids (fat and cholesterol) in the blood, which in most patients presents as hyperlipidaemia (meaning high levels of fat in the blood). Elevated LDL-Cholesterol and triglycerides have been associated with CVD. HDL-Cholesterol, on the other hand, has been found to be protective against CVD. Statins (simvastatin, atorvastatin, rosuvastatin, etc.) are the most commonly prescribed treatment for high cholesterol. Whilst statins can be effective, they can actually deplete the body of important nutrients and cofactors that are involved in body processes, such as energy production and muscle function. Therefore, if you are using a statin to stabilise your cholesterol levels, you may also need additional nutrient support.
Our Practitioners may help in the prevention and management of Cardiovascular Disease, through focusing on:
- Reducing triggers of stress and stress management strategies – stress increases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which can affect the cardiovascular system (leading to increased blood lipids, altered blood pressure, and atherosclerosis).
- Assist in the achievement and management of a healthy weight – there is a strong association between excess body fat and increased blood pressure, therefore, weight loss may be an important factor in the management of CVD. Exercise, particularly yoga, has been shown to be beneficial in patients with high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Dietary changes – just as poor food choices can increase the risk of CVD, healthy food choices can help to prevent or manage CVD. Dietary interventions may focus on an increased consumption of vegetables and fruits, assessing intake of various minerals (including sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium), increasing antioxidant status to reduce vessel damage, reducing refined carbohydrates and sugars, and increasing certain foods that promote healthy blood lipid levels, such as essential fatty acids from fish (EPA and DHA). A Nutritionist is often incorporated into Naturopathic plans.
- Reducing inflammatory and homocysteine markers– elevated homocysteine levels are considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is made in a process called ‘methylation’. Therefore, reduced methylation function can lead to a build up of homocysteine. Dietary changes and specific nutrients can help to reduce homocysteine levels. Genetic mutations such as MTHFR gene may affect this. Inflammation is a driver of CVD. Markers such as hs-CRP can be easily tested. CRP is an inflammatory protein that is associated with CVD.
- Assess bile and digestive enzyme production- bile acids help to manage cholesterol levels and enzymes help digest fats.
Nutritional, herbal and/or lifestyle therapies alone may be effective in the management of cardiovascular disease, however, can also be beneficial when used alongside other medications prescribed.
We are more than comfortable to work alongside your doctor and/or cardiologist in cardiovascular management.
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