In Canada, cardiovascular disorders are one of the leading causes of death.
According to a 2018 Statistics Canada census, heart disease was the second most common, just behind cancer.
There are a number of different types of heart disease, one of which is atherosclerosis.
Heart disease can be a frightening thing to deal with, but there are naturopathic treatments for atherosclerosis which may help.
Let’s talk about atherosclerosis.
What Is Atherosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis goes by many names.
You may hear it referred to as arteriosclerosis, or simply “hardening of the arteries”.
In fact, atherosclerosis is a specific type of arteriosclerosis. Sometimes the two are used as synonyms though.
Whatever you’d like to call it, it’s a disorder that affects your arteries.
Your arteries are your body’s highways – they carry oxygen and nutrients to the different parts of your body.
Over time, plaque can build up along the walls of your arteries. This can restrict blood flow and cause them to lose elasticity.
The plaque is made up mostly of cholesterol and fats.
If the plaques burst, it can lead to blood clots.
Symptoms Of Atherosclerosis
Disturbingly, you may not feel any symptoms of atherosclerosis at all until the blood flow through your arteries becomes restricted or blocked altogether.
At this point, symptoms include:
- Chest pain that often gets worse with physical activity
- Emotional stress
- Pain in the jaw, neck, shoulders, back, or arms
- Shortness of breath
- Abnormal heartbeat
In some cases, atherosclerosis can lead to a stroke if the artery blocked is one that leads to your brain.
Symptoms of a stroke include:
- Sudden confusion
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty comprehending others
- Vision problems
- Loss of balance
- Sudden, severe headaches
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty walking
- Numbness or paralysis on one side of your body
If you believe you or someone you know has just had a stroke, bring them to your nearest emergency room immediately.
What Causes Atherosclerosis?
Though research suggests this process begins as a result of an injury to the inner lining of the arteries, these injuries often come about due to unhealthy lifestyle factors.
Some of these factors include:
- High cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
- Tobacco use
Whatever the cause, your body will send white blood cells to repair the damage.
The muscular layer of your artery may grow as a result as well, which can restrict blood flow and cause fats to begin building up.
Lifestyle Changes As Treatment For Atherosclerosis
In most cases, atherosclerosis is preventable, and there are treatments available which can help.
In particular, here are some lifestyle factors which may help.
1. Quit Smoking
As if you needed yet another reason to give up the habit.
Tobacco use can be the initial cause of the damage to your arteries.
Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of developing atherosclerosis. If you already have it, quitting can help prevent it from getting worse.
Quitting smoking will also reduce your risk of dozens of other illnesses, so let us join the chorus of health professionals in suggesting you quit.
The research is very clear that regular exercise can prevent atherosclerosis by helping keep your arteries more supple as you age.
Exercise encourages blood circulation, as well as stimulating your body to actually replace aging and damaged cells inside your arteries.
It doesn’t take a lot of exercise either – simply going for a walk for a kilometre or two can make a significant difference.
3. Manage Your Stress
A 2019 study by Bo-chen Yao Et Al outlines how significant a factor chronic stress is to the development of atherosclerosis.
In fact, there’s a direct correlation between chronic stress and plaque buildup in the arteries.
Finding ways to manage your chronic stress can go a long way toward improving your atherosclerosis.
4. Eat A Cleaner Diet
A diet high in cholesterol and unhealthy fats can contribute to plaque buildup in your arteries.
Avoid heavily processed foods and stick in general to a heart-healthy diet.
This includes fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, nuts & seeds, legumes, and whole grains.
5. Maintain A Healthy Weight
Obesity is very clearly associated with atherosclerosis. There’s an abundance of research on this, including this 2016 study from Sandfort Et Al.
Fortunately, following the above factors will in most cases take care of this point on its own.
Natural Supplements For Atherosclerosis
Following the above lifestyle factors can help with atherosclerosis, but there are some natural supplements which have been proven to make a difference as well.
Read on to find out what they are.
1. Omega-3 Oils
Omega-3 oils have a well-earned reputation for being heart-healthy. They can lower levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) and increase levels of HDL cholesterol (the good stuff), as well as decrease inflammation.
In addition, a study published just a few weeks ago, in January 2020, found that low levels of omega-3 oils are associated with the earlier development of atherosclerosis.
2. Folic Acid
Folic acid, better known as vitamin B9, is increasingly being used to address atherosclerosis.
It helps by lowering the levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid which has been associated with atherosclerosis in higher levels.
In addition, a 2017 study found that folic acid supplementation may be an effective treatment for atherosclerosis.
3. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant found in a wide variety of different whole foods.
It helps by stopping LDL cholesterol from causing oxidative stress in your bloodstream. It also supports your heart’s general functioning.
Research into coenzyme Q10 for atherosclerosis is ongoing, but it seems promising. This study from late 2019 discusses it further.
Traditionally, the medical model has viewed atherosclerosis as tied specifically to arterial damage which ends up building up plaque, but we’re coming to understand the problem as much more nuanced than that.
Inflammation, the abundance of free radicals in the bloodstream, and issues with dysfunction in cellular mitochondria have all been linked with atherosclerosis. And because coenzyme Q10 helps address these issues in general, it’s thought to be able to help with atherosclerosis.
Further research needs to be done, but it seems promising.
Book An Appointment With Annex Naturopathic
Do you suffer from atherosclerosis?
Are you concerned you may be at risk for developing it?
If so, you don’t need to deal with it alone.
Book an appointment at Annex Naturopathic, and speak with one of our naturopathic doctors. We’ll help you understand your risks and options, and build a treatment plan that works with your lifestyle.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
Annex Naturopathic Clinic is a clinic in Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions from Drs. Marnie Luck, ND, and Tanya Lee, ND