About Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease refers to disease of the heart and blood vessels. Most often cardiovascular disease is the result of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries caused by a build up of plaque on the artery walls. This plaque build up restricts the flow of blood through the arteries. If these arteries become too narrow, blood can no longer flow through, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. A heart attack, another form of cardiovascular disease, occurs when a blockage in the arteries stops the flow of blood to a portion of the heart, causing that part of the heart to die. A stroke, also a form of cardiovascular disease is when the blood flow to a portion of the brain is occluded, causing the affected part of the brain to cease to function or die. Other types of cardiovascular disease include heart valve problems, arrythmia (abnomal heart rhythm), heart failure (heart does not pump blood properly).
What are the Causes of Cardiovascular Disease?
There are several factors that can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Smoking, including second-hand smoke, can affect the lining and inner layers of the arteries the feed the heart (coronary arteries), leading to cardiovascular disease. Nutrition also plays an important role in development of cardiovascular disease as high levels of trans-unsaturated fats and cholesterol can lead to plaque formation. Elevated blood sugar due to insulin resistance and inflammation of the arteries are also risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease. A family history of cardiovascular disease may also predispose one to developing a similar condition.
What are the Symptoms of Cardiovascular Disease?
Cardiovascular disease can present differently in men and women. Women are more likely than men to develop cardiovascular disease with no obvious symptoms, a condition known as silent coronary heart disease. Cardiovascular disease may remain undiagnosed until a heart attack, stroke, or other complication occurs. Common symptoms of cardiovascular disease include angina (chest pain), pain in the jaw, neck, throat, abdomen or back, indigestion, heart burn, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, fatigue, heart palpitations, and swelling of the feet, legs, and ankles.
Tools to Detect Cardiovascular Disease
Approximately 50% of men and 64% of women who die suddenly of cardiovascular disease experience no noticeable symptoms. Carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) is a non-invasive, ultrasound test that measures thickening of the carotid arteries, allowing doctors to detect cardiovascular disease early, even before symptoms appear. There are also specific blood tests that can detect molecular markers of increased risk including C-reactive protein (CRP) and homocysteine, which can determine cardiovascular age and health of the arterial tree. Elevated CRP and homocysteine are stronger predictors of cardiovascular disease than cholesterol alone.
How to Treat Cardiovascular Disease
Treating cardiovascular disease requires a multi-system approach as follows:
- Assessment of inflammatory markers and treatment, if warranted.
- Assessment of nutrition and develop an eating plan that supports cardiovascular health and proper metabolism of cholesterol.
- Assessment of medications and supplements the patient is currently taking and whether or not these medications are causing nutrient deficiencies.
- Assessment of cholesterol and cholesterol metabolism.
- Supplementation to support strength of the heart, optimal circulation of blood, and management of inflammatory processes.
Additionally, it is important to understand the emotional landscape of a person who has been diagnosed with heart disease. There can be “emotional congestion” in the heart that has not been dealt with, from grief to anger to fear, which may need to be off-loaded and dealt with emotionally. Our doctors are prepared to help patients process whatever emotions exist.