Ask a Naturopath Heart Health

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I’ve just been diagnosed with hypertension. I know it means high blood pressure, but is it really a big problem? Angela F, via email

Yes, hypertension can be a big problem and is sometimes called the silent killer because the symptoms are often not noticed until a disease state is well progressed. Left untreated, hypertension can cause several serious complications, including:

  • Stroke
  • Coronary artery disease and heart attack
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Kidney problems
  • Disorders of the retina, that can lead to blindness
  • Impotence in men and decreased orgasm in women
  • Memory problems and dementia.

Fortunately, there are many treatment options available for hypertension. Depending on the severity, treatments include lifestyle changes an/or blood pressure medications. Stress is a well known contributor to high blood pressure and if stress is an issue for you then relaxation techniques including yoga, massage, tai chi or meditation may be helpful. Of course, check with your doctor before undertaking any new physical activities.

What is an absolute cardiovascular risk?  MickM,viaemail

cardiovascular risk factorsAbsolute cardiovascular disease risk CVD is the probability that an individual will develop a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke within 5 years. Preventative actions based on an individuals absolute risk may be more effective and efficient than those based on a single risk factor because they acknowledge the effects of combined risk factors. To determine an individuals risk, a comprehensive cardiovascular risk assessment takes into consideration the persons;

  • age
  • gender
  • BP
  • cholesterol
  • diabetes status
  • kidney function
  • family history
  • weight
  • smoking status
  • nutrition and diet
  • alcohol consumption
  • physical activity

I have a family history of atherosclerosis and heart disease, what tests would confirm my own risk? Mrs. F, Brighton, via email

This type of testing should be carried out by your GP or a cardiologist (heart specialist). They would likely conduct a complete health history, including all risk factors and family history. The doctor may also conduct a physical examination, plus arrange for X-rays, an ECG, ultrasound, nuclear scan and /or angiography to evaluate the health of your blood vessels and heart.
My dad is in his early 60’s and recently been diagnosed with angina, what causes this? Brian G, Hoppers Crossing Vic
angina-symptomsAngina pectoris means strangled chest and this is the sensation often described by the patient suffering an attack. Often the pain occurs during exercise because the hearts beating rate increases as more oxygen is required by the muscles to sustain the activity. Angina pectoris is the severe pain which is caused by a reduction of blood flow and oxygen (ischaemia) to the heart.

Common causes include;

  • atherosclerosis or plaques of the artery walls
  • arteriosclerosis or calcification & hardening of the arteries
  • scar tissue from rheumatic fever as a child
  • spasms in the muscles of the coronary walls
  • blood clots preventing normal flow of blood through the heart.

My naturopath recently told me to stop drinking licorice tea, why? Anna ..via email

It is difficult to answer this question without further health information, however I would suspect that your naturopath is concerned about your blood pressure. Licorice, or Glycyrrhiza glabra, has a range of great health benefits but is also known to increase blood pressure in some individuals when used continuously or at high doses. Licorice induced hypertension is well known in herbal medicine and a well trained herbalist or naturopath will monitor your BP if prescribing long term or high dose licorice treatments.

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