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Heart disease affects everyone – it may not affect you, but it may affect your spouse, a parent, your friend, a co-worker. In the United States, heart disease is the number one cause of death accounting for 25% of deaths. In Canada, it is the number two cause of death, accounting for 21% of deaths. February is Heart and Stroke Awareness month and in this article I will mention the primary factors behind heart disease as well as some helpful herbs that are good for heart health.

Risk factors for heart disease

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Stress
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Persistent inflammation
  • Diabetes
  • Age
  • Male gender
  • Family history of heart disease

The most common form of heart disease: CAD

In the most common form of heart disease, coronary artery disease (CAD), there is a buildup of waxy-plaque material along the arteries feeding the heart. When this plaque blocks the arteries or when it ruptures, you can develop symptoms of heart disease: fatigue, pain and dizziness.

Herbs that may help your heart

Several herbs have properties that can reduce or address some of the above risk factors which I have described below. Of course, individual results may vary but it is worthwhile to explore these options with your primary care practitioner.

Garlic

A 2016 study appearing in the Journal of Nutrition conducted by researchers from the Louisiana State University in New Orleans concluded that garlic reduces the risks associated with heart disease by lowering cholesterol, inhibiting platelet binding and lowering blood pressure. They also mention evidence that components within garlic have heart protective properties. Garlic has been used for hundreds of years and has been well researched and provides a diet-based approach to improving heart health. I often recommend mincing 1-2 cloves daily taken with olive oil daily.

Flaxseed

This is one of the healthiest seeds on the planet. Flaxseed is high in fiber, omega-3 essential fats and has other beneficial compounds. One such compound is called secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG) and flaxseed is the richest known food source for SDG. A study appearing in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design summarized the benefits of SDG and stated that it possesses antioxidant, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, hypolipidemic, anti-inflammatory and antiatherogenic properties. Several small human studies have shown the ability of flaxseed to reduce mild high blood pressure. When taking flaxseed, it’s important to mix it with your food or to take it with adequate amounts of fluids since it can constipate you – I often suggest to consume 1-3 teaspoons mixed in 1-2 glasses of water each morning.

Turmeric

This orangey-yellow spice is common in South Asian cooking and is getting more and more popular. Hundreds of research studies have now been conducted in people for a variety of problems. In one study, appearing in an 2015 issue of the research journal Clinical Nutrition, the researchers sought to find if turmeric extract could reduce inflammation and free radical damage in people with ‘metabolic syndrome’ (this is a disorder affecting many aspects of health including dysfunctional blood sugar, cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc.). After eight weeks, the group that received the turmeric extract showed significant improvements in free radical damage and significant reduction in levels of inflammation (it specifically reduced a risk factor for heart disease called C-reactive protein). This herb can be mixed with your cooking or taken as an oral supplement.

Dr. Rahim Habib ND
About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or www.FamilyNaturopath.ca.