Heart Health

Healthy Heart, Long Life

The heart has two basic systems of function—plumbing (heart valves, blood and vessels) and electrical (heart muscle, heartbeat rhythm and rate). The blood carries nutrients, oxygen, hormones, and immune cells. When this flow of blood is disrupted, a wide variety of problems show up.

If we have an imbalance of dietary nutrition, or take in too many toxins, these will also be carried through the body and cause illness. If we are not moving our bodies enough, the flow of blood can become stagnant and create another set of ailments. It’s not hard to imagine why the #1 cause of death worldwide is heart disease. Thankfully, naturopathic medicine has solutions – often simple ones – for all issues related to the heart.

Heart problems can look like other health conditions and go undiscovered. For example, heartburn, viral illness, hormone conditions, urinary problems, stress headache, and muscle strain can all actually be due to, or involve, a cardiovascular issue. 

Common heart symptoms:

Initial Symptoms

Palpitations

Increased or decreased pulse

Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Dizziness

Increased blood pressure

Nausea

Fatigue

As Disease Progresses

Chest tightness or pain

Upper back, neck, shoulder, or arm pain

Abdominal cramping or pain

New headache or migraine

Blurry vision

Fainting

Ringing in the ears

Fatigue at rest

Swelling of the legs, ankles, or feet

Chronic cough or wheezing

Sweating without exercising

Night sweats

Bloating

Decreased libido

Erectile dysfunction

Other hormone issues

Urination problems

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How do you know if your heart is healthy?

Heart disease can be sneaky. You may not know you have a heart problem until several symptoms start to show up. As the most common cause of death, it is important that each person check in with a doctor about how their heart is doing at least once or twice a year. There are several common risk factors for heart problem. Every item you can check off below increases your risk of current or future heart disease:

Nutrition deficits

Low level of physical activity

Smoking or chronic exposure to tobacco smoke

High body fat to muscle ratio

Oral contraceptive use

Women, in general

Persons of African American descent

Persons over age 65

Unmanaged, long-term stress, anxiety, or anger

Improper balance of electrolytes in the diet or excessive high sodium intake

Excessive high sugar intake

Long-term, alcohol drinking of 1 or more drinks daily

Some prescription, over-the-counter, and drugs of abuse

High cholesterol

Already having a heart condition

Diabetes

Head injury

Sleep issues

Family history of heart problems

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Heart Health Assessment

Based on the health history relayed during a visit, it may be necessary to order some labs and imaging. It is important to delineate how deep the problem has gone and if it now involves other organs. Alternately, it is possible another organ is the cause of the illness.

Here’s an example of what may be run:

Basics

Complete blood count

Comprehensive metabolic panel

Lipid panel with particle ratios

Iron and Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC)

Hemoglobin A1c (HgbA1C)

Ferritin

Homocysteine

High-sensitivity-C Reactive Protein

Thyroid panel

Urinalysis (UA), Complete

Electrocardiogram

More Advanced

Food Allergies

Thyroid Antibodies

Uric Acid

Fractionated Bilirubin

Neurotransmitters

Lactate Dehydrogenase (LD)

Gamma Glutamyl Transferase (GGT)

Coenzyme Q10

Magnesium, Phosphate (as Phosphorus)

Fibrinogen Activity

Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)

B vitamin genetics

25-Hydroxyvitamin D (D2, D3)

Lung Function Testing

Exercise or Nuclear Stress Test

Doppler ultrasound

Chest X-Ray

Holter (or event) monitor

Echocardiogram

Most Common Heart Problems

In general, nearly all of the most common heart problems can be traced back to an imbalance in the diet and a lack of exercise which lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) and/or high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia). 

Once either of those heart issues is present, there are downstream issues that will develop if they are not treated. It is much easier to correct the heart problem at the initial presentation of elevated blood pressure (hypertension) or high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), rather than wait until it turns into another type of heart disease.

High Cholesterol (Hypercholesterolemia)

Although genetics can play a role in causing an increase in cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association, lifestyle is the biggest contributing factor, and even kids as young as 9 could be at risk.

Especially if there is:

Nutrition deficits (eating out a lot, eating pre-made foods often, chronic dieting)

Low level of physical activity

Smoking or chronic exposure to tobacco smoke

High body fat to muscle ratio

If you identify with any of those lifestyle factors, have diabetes, hypertension, or you know of family members with cholesterol issues, diabetes, or hypertension, it’s a good idea to get some labs done. Identifying and treating high cholesterol can prevent:

Fat buildup in your arteries that can cause blockage (atherosclerosis)

Blockage of the main artery to your heart (Coronary Artery Disease or CAD)

Heart attack

Stroke

Disease of the arteries in your arms and legs (peripheral artery disease or PAD)

Gallbladder disease

Liver disease

Long-standing high cholesterol can lead to certain cancers

Pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas)

Notice that “sterol” is the ending. Any medical word ending in -sterol means that the substance is a hormone or acts like a hormone. If you have certain hormone imbalances, high cholesterol may be involved. It’s important to investigate cholesterol issues if you:

Take oral contraceptives

Have increased levels of any sex hormone

Have a cortisol imbalance, adrenal fatigue, chronic stress or anxiety

Have hypothyroidism

Have an autoimmune disease

Have a chronic viral infection or get sick “all the time”

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High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

There are times when blood pressure increases and doesn’t stay there, such as during a competition, high stress situations, or when we get anxious or upset. Blood pressure can increase when an illness occurs or when there has been too much caffeine or sodium intake. The problem is when blood pressure increases and does not go back down. This is called hypertension. Like high cholesterol, even kids need to be screened for high blood pressure if they fit the picture below. People who are more likely to have problems with high blood pressure are women, persons over age 65, and those of African American descent. 

Hypertension can arise from:

Smoking or chronic exposure to tobacco smoke

Unmanaged, long-term stress, anxiety, or anger

Improper balance of electrolytes in the diet or regular high sodium intake

Regular high sugar intake

Long-term, daily alcohol drinking of 1 or more drinks

Other nutrition deficits

Low level of physical activity

High body fat to muscle ratio

Some prescription, over-the-counter, and drugs of abuse

High cholesterol

Diabetes and other organ diseases

Head injury

Sleep problems

Genetic diseases

If hypertension is left uncontrolled, it can cause problems with your eyesight, sexual function, metabolism and memory. It can cause chronic headache or migraines, as well as heart attack, stroke, heart rhythm problems, issues with your kidney function, and even dementia.

Naturopathic Approach to Heart Health

Heart problems can be scary, but so much can be done. Regarding overall heart health, naturopathic principles teach us to start with the least invasive therapies first: nutrition, exercise, stress management.

When those things aren’t enough to create balance, we move to the next level: flower essences, homeopathics, hydrotherapy.

If the heart problem is already established and some mild physical symptoms are present, herbal medicine and/or basic nutritional supplements will be added in.

As heart disease, valve disease, rhythm defects and such continue to progress, more aggressive methods are needed such as targeted nutriceuticals, hormone therapy, injection therapies.

Sometimes, it is necessary for a heart patient to take medication. Our naturopathic doctors are highly knowledgeable about these, and able to create an effective treatment plan.

No matter where you are with your heart health, a naturopathic doctor can help. Make an appointment for a free 10 minute consult today!

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