Call (503)408-0790

To schedule an appointment

Lee Dennis, ND

Naturopathic Physician

Call (503)408-0790

To schedule an appointment


Namaste Natural Healing Center
12616 SE Stark St
Portland, OR 97233

Heart Disease

There are a number of problems that can occur with the heart, but heart disease generally refers to coronary artery disease, which occurs when one or several of the coronary arteries becomes occluded or blocked by one or more plaques. Since the coronary artery is responsible for supplying blood to the heart muscle itself, you can imagine that this might be a problem. Coronary artery disease generally begins long before there are any signs, but it can eventually lead to angina (chest pain due to lack of oxygen to the heart muscle) or an actual heart attack. A heart attack occurs when an artery in the heart becomes blocked to the degree that a sufficient amount of blood can no longer reach a part of the heart muscle to supply oxygen. When this happens part of the heart muscle dies. This is called a myocardial infarction, or heart attack.

Unfortunately, there are often very few signs of heart disease before it becomes problematic. Heart disease is thought to be caused by an abnormal functioning of the inner lining of the arteries leading to the formation of arterial plaques. This is known as endothelial dysfunction. While we may not know all the causes of or triggers for endothelial dysfunction, there are plenty of known risk factors that increase ones likelihood of developing heart disease. These include age, sex (male), family history, poor diet, lack of physical activity, high stress, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, exposure to environmental toxins/heavy metals, sleep apnea, blood lipid abnormalities, folate metabolism abnormalities and high homocysteine. The best way to prevent heart disease is to identify and address these risk factors before any signs of heart disease develop by talking to your doctor and having the appropriate laboratory tests ordered.

How does naturopathic medicine approach heart disease?

Naturopathic medicine is a holistic form of medicine, meaning that naturopathic doctors (NDs) look at the patient from a broad viewpoint. Rather, than focusing only on the one or two symptoms you're having, naturopathic doctors take a step back and look at the rest of your life as well. How is your diet? How is your stress? How is your energy, your sleep and your mood? At our clinic, we take into account not only your physical health, but your mental/emotional health and your spiritual well-being as well. Since all these systems are integrated to make you you, it is important to address each of them. This is especially important in regards to a condition like heart disease that has such a wide range of risk factors. Ordering lab tests without discussing your diet, level of physical activity or stress level would only address one small part of the range of risk factors.

Lab Testing: Our holistic approach also means that we can offer comprehensive laboratory testing. Did you know that only 25% of those with heart disease have abnormal cholesterol that shows up on a typical lab test? Fortunately, there are many additional lab tests that can provide insight into your cardiovascular health. For more information on some of these tests see our blog entry: The Truth About Heart Disease Part III: Comprehensive Risk Assessment.

How are naturopathic treatments for heart disease different?

Here in Oregon, NDs have the ability to prescribe many of the medications typically prescribed for heart disease or associated conditions, such as blood pressure medications. This is not, however, necessarily our first choice. At Namaste Natural Healing Center, we have much to offer beyond the typical prescription medications.

Diet and Nutrition: What we eat has a tremendous influence on our health and this is no different regarding heart disease. Fruits and vegetables are a key component of any healthy diet and they can go a long way in preventing and treating heart disease. A healthy balance of fats is important to limit excess inflammation and thereby limit arterial plaque formation. Individual nutrients can also play an important role in heart disease - nutrients such as niacin, folate, antioxidants like vitamins C & E and even minerals like magnesium. For more information on a healthy diet for heart disease check out our blog entry: The Truth About Heart Disease Part IV: Diet and Nutrition.

Herbal Medicine: Herbal medicine has been around for thousands of years and has a proven track record. Even modern science is proving the benefit of many of these traditionally used herbs. You've probably heard of a few of them - like echinacea, peppermint or chamomile, for instance. There are a number of herbal medicines that benefit the heart and help with heart disease. But, which ones are used will depend on what risk factors an individual presents with. Hawthorne (Crataegus oxycantha), for example, is an herb with a tremendous affinity and benefit for the heart. Hawthorne can help to decrease blood pressure, open up the coronary artery, normalize the heart rhythm and strengthen the contraction of the heart muscle. What's even better is that it has relatively no side effects and no known toxicity! Hawthorne is food for the heart! Fortunately, hawthorne is just one of many. There are several other herbs that can benefit individuals with heart disease or risk factors for heart disease.

These are just a few of the possibilities for what naturopathic medicine has to offer for heart disease. We are happy to work in collaboration with other primary care physicians or your cardiologist to help you achieve your health goals!

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