Updated: Mar 30
By Dr. Shreya Batra, ND
Is there more to heart disease than just blood pressure and high cholesterol?
When people think cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, automatically the thought goes to blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes. But there are so many more risk factors that need to be discussed!
We are aware that there are some unmodifiable risk factors which pay a role:
Genetics/Family history – people with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk of having a cardiovascular risk event themselves.
Race – Hispanic, Indian/South Asian, and African backgrounds have the highest risk for heart disease
Age – the risk of heart disease increases with age
Sex – Men are at higher risk earlier in life (relative to women), and women’s risk increases after menopause
We are also aware of the modifiable risk factors which play a role:
Diet – the type of foods and nutrients that we put into our body
Lifestyle – smoking, alcohol, recreational drugs,..etc, all play a role in our increased risk of CVD
Exercise – a sedentary lifestyle increases chances of heart disease
Although the risk factors discussed above are commonly talked about and brought to people’s awareness, have you thought about the other, less-discussed, health conditions that increase cardiovascular risk factors?
Clinically, both an under active or overactive thyroid can contribute to cardiovascular risk. A thyroid imbalance can result in blood pressure imbalances, increased risk of atherosclerosis, and cholesterol imbalances. You can read about the effects of the thyroid on cardiovascular system in one of my previous blog posts here.
Pregnancy with Hypertension (high blood pressure) or History of Gestational Diabetes:
Studies show a correlation between cardiovascular risk later in life with a pregnancy that was at high risk with hypertension, gestational diabetes and/or pre-eclampsia. However, studies also show that this risk can be reduced with the appropriate intervention with diet and lifestyle.
Sleep apnea increases the risk of a cardiovascular event significantly. Studies show that obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of heart failure by 140%, the risk of stroke by 60%, and the risk of coronary heart disease by 30%. It is important to note that being overweight and/or being diagnosed with metabolic disease contributes to the prevalence of sleep apnea and also cardiovascular disease.
New and upcoming research supports the fact that the healthy gut bacteria contribute to a healthy heart. The bacteria found in our gut help manage our hormones, our mood, energy, digestive system and even our heart health! A healthy gut helps promote an anti-inflammatory state in the body, reducing plaque build-up, reduced cholesterol and lowered blood pressure. Abnormal digestive health causes havoc in the body, and is a contributing factor to your heart health.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is often referred to as a reproductive syndrome, however, there is certainly a metabolic component for many females. Often, there is a component of insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes, atherosclerosis, and other cardiovascular risks. Females diagnosed with PCOS are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease due to increased prevalence of high blood pressure, inflammation, and metabolic imbalances.
Often, the conversation about cardiovascular disease ends just at high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. It is important to note that the heart is one of the most important organs in our body and all other disease states impact our cardiovascular disease risk and should be assessed with your primary care health provider.
If you are experiencing any concerns with your heart health or any of the conditions discussed above, please reach out and let’s book a 15-minute meet-and-greet here
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