Reduce your risk of Heart Disease with these Naturopathic Tips!

A woman sitting in the lotus position with her legs crossed.Kim Whitaker, Naturopathic Doctor and MD Candidate

Heart disease and stroke are two out of the top three leading causes of death in Canada, costing the Canadian economy more than $20.9 billion per year. According to 2007 statistics, 1.3 million Canadians reported having heart disease. The rates include 500,000 Canadians living with heart failure and 40,000 cardiac arrests occurring each year. That’s one heart attack every 12 minutes.

Most shocking about these rates, are that these are preventable conditions. 90% of Canadians possess at least one modifiable risk factor for heart disease or stroke. What this means is that the power is within us to make the changes we need to prevent these devastating conditions.

Change is within us:

  • High blood pressure is a risk factor and lowering it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Cholesterol is another risk factor and adults should be screened at men over 35, women over 45, OR those with risk factors screen over 20.
  • Smoking: quitting smoking is the single largest change a person can make to lower all-cause mortality. Smoking has been considered responsible for 1 in 5 deaths in America, and I’m sure Canada is not too far behind.
  • Misuse of alcohol. Heavy drinking, and bingeing, can lead to an overall increase in blood pressure, increased clumping of platelets leading to an increased likelihood of heart attack or stroke. Safe levels of alcohol are considered one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. While at-risk use, or problem drinking involve more than seven drinks per week or more than three drinks per occasion in women, and more than fourteen drinks per week or more than four drinks per occasion in men.
  • IInactivity: Canadian physical activity guidelines state: Children and youth “should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily” and adults “should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.”
  • Obesity: Obesity is increasing in prevalence in North America. Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of over 30 kg/m2. By this definition, 60% of Canadian adults are obese. Furthermore, children who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults than normal weight.
  • Diabetes is a chronic disease where the body cannot produce insulin (type 1 diabetes) or has decreased sensitivity to insulin, leading to difficulty utilizing available sugars (type 2 diabetes). Regardless of the type of diabetes, sugars build up in the bloodstream leading to long-term damage to organs, blood vessels, and nerves. Diabetes is an independent risk factor for heart disease and stroke. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, 1 in 4 Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes, and they predict that by 2020 if current trends continue, 1 in 3 Canadians will be affected.

What can you do?

A large review of over 55 trials concluded that current interventions result in small reductions in risk factors, including blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking, and have little or no impact on the risk of coronary heart disease. This implies that what our countries are doing to address this problem is not in fact working.

We need to take matters into our own hands and really make meaningful lifestyle changes to impact our quality of life. A randomized control trial published by the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (Seely, 2010) demonstrated that Naturopathic treatment plans, particularly dietary advice, lifestyle counseling, and well-researched supplements, together decreased cardiovascular risk and dramatically reduced costs compared to typical medical approaches. Furthermore, the safety of the Naturopathic approach was established, and no adverse effects were reported necessitating withdrawal from the study.


  • Heart disease has a major impact on the quality of life and life span of Canadians
  • Most Canadians (8 out of 9) possess one or more modifiable risk factors predisposing us to developing heart disease
  • These risk factors can be successfully modified with nutritional and lifestyle modifications and a few key supplements
  • Consult your doctor to find out what screening programs are right for you
  • Whether you are looking to prevent the development of disease, control one of your risk factors, or complement the treatment you are already getting from your medical doctor, a Naturopathic approach may be right for you

Take home points:

  • Consume a heart healthy diet
  • Participate in regular physical activity
  • Get screened to assess your level of heart risk
  • Quit smoking and moderate alcohol intake
  • Stress reduction techniques, including yoga, meditation, and laughter
  • If you are at mild, moderate to high risk consult your ND and MD to address modifiable risk factors and chose healthcare practitioners willing to collaborate on your care

Kim Whitaker, Naturopathic Doctor and MD Candidate

Kim welcomes new patients and is available for consultations at ONWC Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays starting this spring.


Naturopathic Treatment for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Randomized Pragmatic Trial, CCNM – Journal Club, Sept 30th, 2010, Dugald Seely, ND, MSc, Director; Research & Clinical Epidemiology, The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

Heart and Stroke Foundation: Statistics

Statistics Canada:

Canadian Diabetes Association

Mohamada, TN. Primary and Secondary Prevention of Coronary Artery Disease. Medscape.